After Pandemic Slows Business For Food Truck, Whadda Jerk Switches Gears To Open Restaurant

UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A Chicago foodstuff truck popular for Jamaican jerk chicken is putting down roots on Division Avenue. Whadda Jerk will open up its first brick-and-mortar restaurant this spring at 2015 W. Division St., on the Wicker Park-Ukrainian Village border. Whadda Jerk will substitute Clever Rabbit, which closed for […]

UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A Chicago foodstuff truck popular for Jamaican jerk chicken is putting down roots on Division Avenue.

Whadda Jerk will open up its first brick-and-mortar restaurant this spring at 2015 W. Division St., on the Wicker Park-Ukrainian Village border.

Whadda Jerk will substitute Clever Rabbit, which closed for the duration of the pandemic, Eater described. Chef and proprietor Thomas Brewer has lived in Ukrainian Village for eight several years. He launched his food truck in 2017 with the prolonged-expression desire of opening a community restaurant.

“I had to pivot to endure,” Brewer mentioned. “The pandemic allowed me to aim on growing.” 

Credit history: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Thomas Brewer is the operator of Whadda Jerk food truck. He will open his initial brick-and-mortar cafe at the Ukrainian Village-Wicker Park border.

Brewer grew up in Auburn Gresham he did not start out cooking until finally he was 30, whilst he was functioning for a beverage business. But the moment he begun barbecuing, he was hooked, he explained.

Brewer acquired the artwork of jerk by viewing YouTube movies. He flew to Jamaica for a analysis vacation.

“I genuinely get pleasure from the technique of it,” he reported. “Everyone can throw a thing on a grill. Jerk will take approach.”

He launched his food items truck in 2017. Just before the coronavirus pandemic, Whadda Jerk’s principal clientele bundled weekday lunchers in The Loop, corporate catering and late evening bar-goers. Summer months street festivals were being lucrative, also.

https://www.youtube.com/enjoy?v=Prx1D9Ocdas

With the enable of Brewer’s 21-calendar year-aged son, now a freshman at Howard College in Washington, D.C., Brewer would usually work 18-hour times on the truck.

He’d wake up at 3 a.m. and move the truck Downtown. Then he’d arrive house and nap until eventually 8 a.m., when he’d go again to the truck to commence cooking for the lunch change.

Lunch crowds dissipated about 2 p.m., at which level Brewer and his son would get started getting ready for dinnertime catering clients. By 9 p.m., they’d be prepared to feed bar goers in River North — usually operating until 6 a.m.

Some evenings they’d snooze in the truck’s front seats and wake up for a different occasion at 10 a.m.

When the stay at residence get went into effect in late March 2020, Brewer lost 70-80 p.c of his profits, he stated.

Brewer experienced constantly required to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but because of the calls for of the food truck and catering company, he never ever observed the time. The pandemic gave him an opportunity to sluggish down and finally put collectively a company system, he claimed.

“Within the very last yr, all this undesirable things happened,” he reported. “But it gave me time to sit back and strategize how I was heading to open up a cafe.”

In advance of setting up store on Division Street, Brewer signed a lease inside a cloud kitchen area — a delivery-focused shared kitchen room in which restauranteurs can operate with third-bash apps these types of as Uber Eats and Grubhub to get ready and swiftly provide foodstuff.

The organization product didn’t handle him well, Brewer reported. On his busiest days, he could possibly comprehensive a dozen or so orders. Meanwhile, he claimed, the kitchens’ chain tenants would supply hundreds of meals a day.

“Those areas are designed for folks like that,” he claimed. “Not for compact businesses. … By the time you get your funds, Grubhub is creating more than you.” 

Linked: Cloud Kitchens Gain Uber Eats, Grubhub When Local Dining places Suffer, Critics Say — And There is A New Thrust To Control Them

The Clever Rabbit place is great for his vision of a sit-down cafe, Brewer said. The garage doorways will open for an indoor-outdoor eating experience, he mentioned.

Within Whadda Jerk shoppers will see vibrant colorful lights, as nicely as cutout images of Brewer’s 3 young children. A mural depicting a Chicago streetscape attributes Whadda Jerk as perfectly as other unbiased organizations owned by Brewer’s family and close friends.

Credit history: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
A mural inside of Whadda Jerk depicts Chicago businesses owned by Thomas Brewer’s pals and spouse and children.

Whadda Jerk will serve common jerk hen sandwiches. Brisket and jerk chicken mac ‘n’ cheese will grace the menu, as very well as tortilla bowls filled with jerk hen. The bar will provide a assortment of island-encouraged beverages, such as daiquiris, pina coladas and a frozen Hennessy concoction.

At comprehensive capacity, Whadda Jerk will inevitably seat 93 inside of, although the patio will seat 20.

Brewer encouraged other aspiring entrepenuaers to choose time to follow their passions.

“Do whichever it takes to accomplish your goals,” he explained. “I never have a good deal of funds at all. Almost everything is in the enterprise. Go for it. Acquire that leap.”

Brewer just lately opened a foodstuff stand within Dr. Murphy’s Food Corridor in the Healthcare District and is launching a meals truck in Dallas, Texas.

For updates, adhere to Whadda Jerk on Fb and Instagram. Brewer is employing for all cafe positions and hopes to use at least 14 people. Those people fascinated in making use of can email [email protected]

Credit history: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Whadda Jerk will carry Jamaican-design and style recipes and frozen cocktails to the Wicker Park-Ukrainian Village border.
Credit history: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Neon signs and swings are in the back again area of. Whadda Jerk.
Credit history: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
A crossword-themed mural within Whadda Jerk.
Credit: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Whadda Jerk will convey Jamaican-model recipes and frozen cocktails to the Wicker Park-Ukrainian Village border.

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Barbara J. Miriam

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