Majani is Making Hearts Smile in South Shore
I always get pumped up when a new restaurant opens up in areas that need them most.
The ability to leave your home and walk to a restaurant where you can sit and be served is a commodity in some American neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it’s rare to find a sit-down restaurant where you can get fresh, organic, vegetarian dishes in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.
Of course, I had to personally pay Majani a visit and have an exclusive chat with owners Chef Tsadakeeyah and Chef Nasya Emmanuel. This husband and wife team put their all into converting a former fried food establishment into a robust space with fresh, all-natural cuisine. I appreciate that. South Shore appreciates that.
I’m happy because this is super advantageous to a neighborhood filled with fast food void of true nourishment. I had to come by and show some love, chat with the owners and well… eat!
How would you describe your style of food?
Chef Tsadakeeyah: Vegan cuisine with an emphasis on vegetables. We use a lot of flavors from the African diaspora. You’ll find classic Ethiopian spices, we will Roast Cauliflower in them or use it as a spice rub for our Vegan ribs. We feature comfort foods like our Jerk Tofu and Macaroni and Cheese.
What kind of ingredients do you like to work with the most?
Chef Tsadakeeyah: In terms of herbs, I love working with thyme and rosemary. We have to be flexible because a farm may have a ton of micro greens and the next week will be arugula.
Why is it important for this community to have access to more vegetarian options?
Chef Nasya: Our community has been underserved for many years and this neighborhood is a food desert. We want to teach our community how to eat healthily and getting them to understand the concept of eating well without breaking the bank.
Chef Tsadakeeyah: South Shore is a unique community, it is very diverse in terms of income levels. We have 12 part-time employees. That’s $100,000 that will have an opportunity to stay in the community. Almost everyone we’ve hired is from the community.
Talk to me about the growth from catering to owning a restaurant?
Chef Nasya: We catered from home while we worked on this space for 2 years. We wanting to have a space that felt inviting.
Chef Tsadakeeyah: We took it apart and put it back together. All these tables were handmade, I did all the tuckpointing myself. This is a true labor of love.
How has the community received Majani?
Chef Nasya: The response from the community has been fantastic! Here at Majani, they can be comfortable and not feel rushed. This is a true neighborhood spot. The people appreciate the food, the ambiance and what it took to develop the space.
How do you get meat eaters to try your healthier options?
Chef Tsadakeeyah: There are a couple options that people feel they need to try, like our Black Eye Pea Tacos. The intriguing part is how to turn black eye peas into tacos.
We’ve had some die-hard carnivores come through here that were blown away at the flavors. We’ve had a lot of practice. I’ve been a vegan for 36years and my wife for 10 years, plus we have done a lot of catering.
We understand what it takes to please palates that are not vegan. You won’t miss the texture and you won’t miss the flavors of the meat.
Chef Nasya: It’s also filling. Some people may think that because its vegetarian you won’t get full.
One of my favorite features of the interior is the chalkboards.
One reads, “Majani provides vegetarian cuisine to health-conscious patrons in Chicagoland utilizing the freshest ingredients from local gardens and celebrating the communities that grow them.”
Another reads, “By dining with us, you are supporting the following farms: Eden Place, Sweet Pea Farm, Windy City Greens, Black Oak South Merrill.”
Majani makes my heart smile. My hope is that an abundance of restaurants begins to sprout up in underserved areas. Stop by, have a bite, and say hi!
7161 S. Exchange, Chicago, IL.