Come 4 p.m. Sunday, Chicagoans can feast on some Mississippi Delta cuisine without embarking down the Mississippi River.
As Chicago reported in April, The Delta (1745 W. North Ave., Wicker Park) will serve up the region's "unapologetic country cooking," including "red hot" tamales and grilled whole catfish, along with craft cocktails.
It’s the brainchild of Eldridge Williams, a veteran Chicago restaurant manager (Girl & the Goat, The Promontory, Bangers & Lace) with roots in Memphis. Williams has been developing the concept for several years and brought it to life with the help of two men named Adam: chef/partner Adam Wendt and beverage director partner Adam Kamin.
The former Monarch space now resembles a refined antebellum dining room with about 40 seats and 30 more on the back patio. Kamin’s drink program includes a rotating roster of eight craft beers on tap, plus some cheaper brews in bottles and cans, a vintage whiskey list, and a small selection of wine and Champagne. The other Adam, meanwhile, is developing a compact menu that draws on classic Delta dishes.
The Mississippi Delta is known primarily for two foods—hot tamales and catfish—and both carry with them an interesting history lesson on the region. Hot tamales were born from an overlap of two cultures. During the Civil War, Mexican migrants came to work the fields of Mississippi so that the local men could go off to fight. Their cuisine later became popular with black laborers in the area, who created their own take on the tamale by subbing in grits or corn meal for masa and simmering them in hot chilies. Wendt’s version will consist of corn milled in the Delta, stuffed with house-made beef brisket.
“True Mississippian catfish—called Mississippi Blues—can only be found pond-raised,” Wendt told us this spring. He found a special dealer that ships them up here. “They’re so light and flaky you can just grill them up with herbs and butter,” he added.