The Instagram account Black People Eats (@blackpeopleeats) doesn't look like most other food-focused feeds. Its photographs aren’t edited or meticulously framed (some are even a little blurry), and there’s a whole lot of brown, in the form of gravies, breads, and fried everything. But it most notably stands out for its mission: visit and review black-owned restaurants, bars, and food startups in and around Chicago.
Behind Black People Eats is Jeremy E. Joyce, who began posting reviews last December. The Chicago native launched Black People Eats to counter what he sees as a lack of coverage of black-owned businesses by local media and popular food bloggers.
"I noticed that our restaurants fly under the radar,” says Joyce. “It was rare that I would see primarily black-owned food and beverage companies being promoted. I wanted to create a channel to help fill that gap so the entire world can see this black culture and some of the great food products that we make.”
He’s not alone. In 2016, the website Black Chicago Eats began compiling a directory of black-owned businesses before launching a “Black Chicago Eats” month; in February, the blog Black Food & Beverage launched to profile the black restaurateurs, chefs, sommeliers, and other individuals working the city’s culinary scene. Black People Eats is more food-focused; each review centers on a few dishes from one location and how they taste. Joyce also records Instagram live videos so you can watch his unedited reactions to bites unfold in real time. These are informal, entertaining, and refreshingly candid. (Note that Joyce isn’t a critic. His wish is to spread word of excellent eats, so he only talks about places he likes and every post is glowing. But he does his research.)
Salmon Croquettes for the first was so enjoyable because @flamminrestaurant made sure that these Croquettes was made with love. They serve breakfast all day so make sure you stop at @flamminrestaurant and get you some!!!! #flammin #review #croquette #salmon #eggs #grits #blackowned #75th #foodie #foodgasm #breakfast #seafood #saturday #brunch #ohyes #videooftheday #checkpleasepics @checkpleasepics @chicagosbesttv
Among the eateries Black People Eats has featured are Ms. Biscuit, a 44-year-old soul food diner in Washington Park; Ja' Grill, a Jamaican spot in Hyde Park; and Surf’s Up South Shore, which prepares its wings and fried shrimp with Hennessy. At times, Joyce also ventures beyond city limits, scoping out joints like Hidden Manna Cafe in Matteson and Thom’s Turkey & Bar-B-Cue in South Holland.
These picks are often budget-friendly, no-frills establishments. And their locations, unsurprisingly, also tend to reflect the city’s racial segregation. Within Chicago, Joyce largely roams the South Side (though he has reviewed places like Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square and Batter & Berries in Lincoln Park), where he’ll meet business owners before tasting their menus. Some of the dishes he’s tried in Bronzeville alone include the seafood boil at Two Fish Crab Shack, grilled turkey tips at a Just Turkey, and jerk shrimp Alfredo at Tastee Cafe. One of his favorite dishes is the fried chicken wings entrée at Peach’s Restaurant on 47th Street; he’s dined there so often that the Southern breakfast spot deemed him “Customer of the Month” in February.
The review on the Hennessy @hennessy Friend Shrimp and Lobster was at hit from @surfsup_southshore …… I mean the sweet our on flavor from their signature sauce was so good. Packed with sweetness , you need to come try these shrimp and lobster. I don't drink so for all of you who do not indulge in liquor, the liquor decimates as it cooks so you do not have to worry because you will not taste the liquor. You can either get the shrimp grilled or fried. They also serve henessey wings( review to come soon) as well so make sure you guys come out and come visit @surfsup_southshore because they are riding their own wave. Get your surfs board ready and ride this wave!!!!! #hennessy #shrimp #lobster #fried #seafood #seafoodsaturday #blackowned #deliciousfood #blackpeopleeats #surfsup #foodie #yummy
To date, Black People Eats has just over 1,500 followers. But among this relatively small pool, the account is considered a trustworthy source for where to eat in Chicago while supporting the black community. “People will tell me they’ve checked out a place I reviewed,” says Joyce. “I’ve received messages from people from Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Jersey who went to these places. The responses have been pretty amazing.”
But he’s quick to emphasize that this account isn’t about establishing himself as a gourmand. In the end, he sees his work as one way to bring more money to the areas he visits, so people can invest in these communities and help them grow.
“This is not just about me and food reviews,” Joyce says. “This is about helping to empower the black community. We need the encouragement. African-American kids can see black-owned businesses and think, ‘I do have a chance. I am able to thrive in my community.’”