The first time I embarrassed myself during my time at City Pages (certainly not the last), it involved the building at 2944 Lyndale Ave. S.
I was a freshly minted Minneapolitan and first-time food editor hungry for a scoop when the long-vacant space on the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue appeared to be coming back to life as a Taco John’s.
Very quickly, less stupid people than myself started pointing out flaws in the story. Why would Taco John’s, a fast-food chain with more than 380 restaurants, announce its presence in Lyn-Lake with just a handful of yellow flyers? Why were those flyers posted on the outside of the window, where anyone could tear them down—and, more to the point, where anyone could have put them up?
Lyn-Lake was not getting a Taco John’s, I confirmed after reaching out to TJ’s HQ, and within my first two weeks at CP, I publish my first mea culpa. (Certainly not my last.)
All that is to say, I learned from my mistake—we take a much more skeptical approach to signs in storefront windows here at Racket—but every time I’ve walked past that empty storefront over the last five years, I’ve felt a little cauldron of anger and embarrassment bubble up in my stomach. Also sadness: Why are we stuck with an empty building when we could be eating late-night Potato Olés?
Well folks, the years of anguish are coming to a close. Southwest Voices reported yesterday that after many long years, a Black-owned hoagy and popcorn shop called Chicago’s Very Own is opening at that Lyn-Lake space. When it makes its debut next week, it’ll be the first restaurant to occupy the address since Milio’s closed in 2015.
Chicago’s Very Own comes from Richard Spencer Sr. and his family, who are modeling the shop after Windy City favorites like Taurus Flavors. The menu looks killer, and it’s big: They’ve got hot and cold hoagy options from Shrimp Po’boys to Steak Supremes to a Chicken Italiano, along with vegetarian Beyond Steak options. (It feels illegal to spell hoagie “hoagy,” as a born-and-bred Pennsylvanian, but apparently that’s how they do it in Chicago.)
There are chicken tenders and breaded chicken sandwiches on the menu as well, along with a handful of Chicago-style hot dogs starting at just five bucks. And then there’s the popcorn and cookie shop, with grab-and-go options and gallon-plus tins available for takeaway.
Chicago’s Very Own will host a soft opening on June 15, according to their website, with a grand opening to follow on June 17, per Southwest Voices.
And as proof that my journalistic savvy and Twin Cities instincts have heightened considerably since that 2017 Taco John’s fuck up, I offer this: In early October, I wrote that Third Space Cafe, which had opened just a few doors down from Chicago’s Very Own’s soon-to-be home, made me feel “hopeful for the neighborhood.” It seemed like a harbinger of better times, that this kind of community-focused coffee shop would pop up in Lyn-Lake.
A few weeks later, Wrecktangle Pizza announced it was moving into one of the two vacant corner buildings (703 W. Lake St., previously Prieto, and Hasty Tasty, and Falafel King). It’s now up and running with a massive bar, smoked meats, and, of course, those little rectangular pizzas everybody loves. Now, Chicago’s Very Own is completing the quadrumvirate.
Take that, Lyn-Lake pranksters.
Chicago’s Very Own
2944 Lyndale Ave. S.
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.