High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America

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RIVER NORTH — It’s not like restaurateur Eldridge Williams of Wicker Park’s The Delta wanted to open two new businesses back-to-back, but that’s exactly what he’ll be doing starting late spring in River North.

Williams and G.O.O.D. Pineapple Hospitality partner Robert Johnson will first open The Pink Polo Social Club & Bar, an all-day coffee- and cocktail-forward spot in The Chicago Hotel Collection, 312 W. Chestnut St.

Then, in late summer, they’ll open Red River dikks, a country western restaurant and bar in the former Sedgwick’s Bar & Grill Space, 1935 N. Sedgwick St., in Lincoln Park. It will be the first and only Black-owned country western bar and restaurant in the Midwest, the owners said.

“We knew it was our time to do something else,” said Williams. “This is an unforgiving industry, so when opportunity comes knocking, you better answer that door.”

The first opportunity for the duo was the Sedgwick’s location, which had been vacant for close to seven years. Williams and Johnson took over the lease in August 2023.

Though the large space was in disarray, Williams knew it would be the perfect spot for the country western concept he’s been wanting to do for years.

“I don’t look like I should do it and that’s the reason why I need to,” said Williams, who got his start in hospitality at age 14, washing dishes in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. “Given my background and pedigree, I have a unique position in the hospitality industry. I have an obligation to move the needle.”

Red River dikks​

Williams first learned about post-Civil War Black cowboys while watching the Netflix documentary series “High on the Hog.” After some research, he came across the story of Nat Love, America’s first Black cowboy who was born into slavery and used his self-taught horse-breaking and marksmanship skills to make a living when slavery ended.

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Cowboy Nat Love, pictured in 1876. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

“It was a lightbulb moment,” said Williams. “I knew by paying homage to Nat Love that’s how I could do a country bar and make it truly my country bar.”

Love’s nickname, Red River dikk, proved especially useful.

“I knew there wasn’t a better name for a country bar,” said Williams.

Red River dikks will spotlight the regional barbecue styles of Texas, Tennessee and Kansas City, areas that follow the life travels of Love. Crusted cowboy beef ribs, a Tennessee smokehouse duck sandwich and garlic-and-parsley grilled sweet corn elote are some of the proposed menu items, Williams said. Traditional and large-format craft cocktails and an expansive beer menu will also be offered.

For the interior, Williams said he wanted to create a modern, sophisticated saloon with leather accents and richly hued tapestries. The 100-capacity restaurant will include an 18th-century-inspired bar that seats 30. A sidewalk café is in the works, he said.

Williams is also making good use of items left behind by the previous tenant, including a 15-foot cast iron hood that will be turned into a dramatic chandelier and a meat refrigerator that will be repurposed into a yet-to-be-determined showpiece.

“They locked the door and basically forgot about it,” said Williams. “I have a huge imagination when it comes to design, which is a nightmare for our contractors but when we land it, it will be great.”

RRD-Logo.jpg


Red River dikks, a country western bar opening in Lincoln Park, is named for the nation’s first Black cowboy, Nat Love, who went by the nickname Red River dikk. Credit: Provided


Red River dikks will feature DJs spinning remixed country classics as well as other, more modern styles of country music.

“Red River is going to be a country bar that’s familiar to those who love country bars, but it also will have unique qualities that will draw in a totally different audience who’d never thought they want to go to a country bar but here they are vibing,” Williams said.


^^^^^^


"vibing" - that word again.

Nah, I actually really like the concept and an added bonus, the location is a block away from my spot.

I hope it's a success but I have some honest reservations about it's location.

Don't think the local demo will take to it.
It might then become a largely destination bar/restaurant with a predominant black patronage. Usually when that happens, the local demo will become fearful and try to shut it down.
Seen it happen over and over in Chicago.
He should've looked for a location that is more egalitarian. Chicago is still segregated along race and class lines. And he's setting this up in a uniformly wealthy white Ivy league-esque neighborhood where the bars in the area are typically low-key local spots filled with yuppies.
 

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"vibing" - that word again.

Nah, I actually really like the concept and an added bonus, the location is a block away from my spot.

I hope it's a success but I have some honest reservations about it's location.

Don't think the local demo will take to it.
It might then become a largely destination bar/restaurant with a predominant black patronage. Usually when that happens, the local demo will become fearful and try to shut it down.
Seen it happen over and over in Chicago.
He should've looked for a location that is more egalitarian. Chicago is still segregated along race and class lines. And he's setting this up in a uniformly wealthy white Ivy league-esque neighborhood where the bars in the area are typically low-key local spots filled with yuppies.

Thanks. Interesting story. Crazy how influential the HOTH book/series has been.

I know that Chicago and Memphis are closely tied when it comes to Black residents, but is this also the case with white Chicagoans? Also, what parts of the South are many of the whites who migrated there from? Those white folks might be the demo he is going after. Perhaps the tourist set, also. I saw that there's a Country & Western radio station out there that does decent numbers. WUSN. I think it's to cater to them, and incorporating AA cowboy history puts a modern and cool factor touch to it.

He and his investors are looking to provide something unique in a town with plenty of good dining options. I think that's where the "vibe dining" element comes up as investors open eateries, as an alternative to standard dining experience....part club/part restaurant. It's not my thing, but there are plenty of single young people out there who go for it.
 
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Feb 9, 2024

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Episodes 3-6
 
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Tony Parker Makes His Entrepreneurial Debut With French Winery​


Black Enterprise​


Oct 26,2023
Four-time NBA Champion Tony Parker is adjusting to his retirement by making his entrepreneurial debut as the partner of French visionary Michel Reybier's Château La Mascaronne in Provence, France. The French-American basketball star shares how his love for wine helped him build business relationships while playing in the NBA. He also tells BLACK ENTERPRISE how excited he is for newcomer Victor Wembanyama and the Rookie's potential to bring another championship back to the Spurs dynasty
 

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* 5 minute clip

Feb 16, 2024

The mixologist serving up Black History one drink at a time​

Deniseea Taylor is a mixologist and cocktail consultant. Owner of the Good Trouble Lounge in New Orleans, LA. She curates a cocktail menu inspired by Black History, the foods, people, and culture of African Americans past and present. Each cocktail tells a story, many infused with ingredients whose origins are tied to the transatlantic slave trade
 
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Rap Snacks Celebrates 30 Years, Announces Global Expansion with Launches into the UK, Canada and Spain​

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MIAMI, Feb. 20, 2024-- Rap Snacks, the "Official Snack Brand of Hip Hop" and one of the fastest-growing Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands in the United States, has gone global by dropping its iconic flavors across the pond and abroad into the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain! Now celebrating its 30th year, the expansion of Rap Snacks, a 100% Black-owned brand, adds reach to the brand's popularity and success in the U.S. and marks a new chapter in the brand's journey to become the snack of choice for consumers worldwide.



Rap Snacks originated from the vision of James Lindsay, who, armed with a background in the consumer products industry, decided to create a snack brand that celebrated the vibrant and influential world of hip hop. The brand made its debut in 1994, introducing a revolutionary concept of featuring hip-hop artists on snack packaging—an innovation that would change the snacking game forever.

The Official Snack Brand of Hip Hop is going global to expand both culture and impact!
"This journey started over 30 years ago as a dream with an inner-city kid from Philadelphia," shared Rap Snacks Founder and CEO, James Lindsay in a launch day event at the American Fizz distribution center in the United Kingdom. "I used to go into stores and buy $.25 bags of potato chips, open them up and dream about having my own business one day. Now, here we are 30 years later, launching Rap Snacks outside of the United States and into international markets where we can expand our flavor, our culture and our impact."




Over the years, Rap Snacks has grown into a cultural phenomenon, becoming the official snack brand of hip hop. Featuring a diverse variety of snack offerings that range from seasoned potato chips, corn chips and popcorn, adorned with the faces of iconic celebrities that include Rick Ross, Lil Baby, Nicki Minaj, The Migos, NBA YoungBoy, Master P and more, to ramen noodles and refreshing beverages, Rap Snacks has solidified its position and influence at the intersection of music, culture, and snacking.

Now, as the brand takes its flavor global, their recent launches abroad mark the beginning of an international snacking revolution that allows consumers around the world to experience and embrace the brand's unique and innovative flavors and iconic packaging.

"This is a thrilling moment for Rap Snacks as we extend our flavor and culture to the world," adds Lindsay. "We're not just launching snacks; we're creating a movement that transcends borders and bridges cultures, and while we are leaning into this amazing opportunity to expand our brand beyond the United States, our commitment to creating and supporting culturally relevant products with social impact remains unwavering as we step onto the global stage. This is a huge accomplishment for a 100% Black-owned CPG brand."

Launching Rap Snacks into global markets is made possible, largely, because of its domestic success. In 2022, the brand began selling their first-ever multipack at Sam's Club, one of the largest retailers in the United States, offering a 13-count box with a variety of 2.5oz bags of chips featuring Rick Ross' Sweet Chili Lemon Pepper and Lil Baby's All In. Today, Rap Snacks is sold in major retail stores across America including Citi Trends, Walmart and Target, and more continue to be added to the list.

But the expansion doesn't stop there! In a historic move, Rap Snacks has recently become the first 100% Black-owned food brand to be distributed by Sodexo at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) - Clark Atlanta University.

Another historic move for Rap Snacks happened this past October when the brand announced its venture into the world of transportation with Rap Snacks Trucking. Their incorporation as a full-fledged transportation management company now establishes them as a leader in logistics with the ability to coordinate trucking loads and ensure the timely delivery of its products to distribution centers and co-op areas across the country.
 

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The Soul Food Royalty of Brooklyn: GG’s Fish & Chips | Street Food Icons​



Feb 18, 2024
The Brown family has been cooking soul food in Gowanus for over 50 years; their matriarch, Louise Gasby, would cook for her 15 children and her community in Brooklyn. Today, father and son Mike and Marquise take those same recipes and their family’s reputation for culinary talent to the streets of Downtown Brooklyn and beyond with their food truck, serving items like fried catfish, turkey wings, collard greens, and much more
 

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Cooking Nonprofit Combines Black History And Healthy Food​


Feb 7, 2024
Black Girls Cook is a Miami and Baltimore-based nonprofit helping young girls embrace the farm-to-table concept while also learning about Black Diaspora history. Founder Nichole and her 6-year-old daughter Madison share how the nonprofit has helped more than 3,500 girls and their families learn the importance of cooking and eating healthier meals. Also, Nichole's student Logan and her mom Winifred share how the organization has helped Logan's confidence blossom. Watch till the end for a huge surprise for Black Girls Cook
 

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Can you trademark an entire year? Rémy Martin certainly thinks so​

02 February 2024
Cognac giant Rémy Martin is battling Victor George Spirits in Florida over the use of the date 1738 on the latter’s Bourbon bottles.
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A Bourbon product launched in June 2022 has come under fire from one of the world’s biggest spirits brands for the use of a date on its bottle.
Fort Mosé 1738 Bourbon is produced by Black-owned Victor George Spirits (VGS), based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the whiskey is named after the first free Black town in the United States, declared so by the town’s governor in… you guessed it… 1738.

However, Rémy Martin, whose 1738 Accord Royal Cognac bears the same year on its bottle to “commemorate the reward of excellence bestowed on Rémy Martin by King Louis XV in 1738”, has raised a trademark dispute to prevent VGS from using the year on its whiskey.

Victor Harvey, founder and CEO of VGS, told the Miami New Times that he first received notice of the objection from E. Remy Martin & Co. in November 2023.

“This originally came as an utter surprise,” Harvey said. “I’m not an attorney, but I’ve never known you could trademark an entire year as part of a trademark.”

Aged for four years, and with notes of “rich cocoa, custard, cinnamon, caramels and oaty barley”, Fort Mosé 1738 Bourbon retails from US$49.99, while Remy Martin’s 1738 Accord Royal Cognac retails from £54 (US$68).

It is yet unknown whether VGS plans to fight the litigation but given that its Bourbon is, according to Harvey, the company’s “best-selling product” it seems likely that VGS will defend its right to sport the year on its bottle.

“We 100 percent chose the year 1738 because of its significance to Black people in America,” Harvey said. “It was the first year in this country where Black people could live free in some regard. That’s our sole reason for using it.”

Fort Mosé became the first town in America that allowed Black people to live free, and when VGS first launched its Bourbon it agreed to donate US$1 from every bottle sale to the Fort Mosé Historical Society to help with educational programmes and events in order to raise awareness of the historic town.
“We are excited to work with Mr. Harvey’s company to educate our youth and make sure this part of history is never forgotten,” said Charles Ellis, president of Fort Mose’ Historical Society, upon the announcement.
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In 2022, Victor George secured a multi-state distribution deal in the US with Republic National Distributing Company, which saw its vodka and Bourbon brands rolled out nationwide.

“RNDC is one of those companies who is not only committed but has a clear vision for creating successful partnerships with Black owned brands, we are grateful for this opportunity,” Harvey said at the time.
The founder of VGS has vowed to become ” the largest Black-owned spirits company in the United States by 2025.”
 
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