Chicago chef cooks up mouth-watering Southern cuisine influenced by great-grandmother

For eight years now, locals from the Lincoln Square community know when they want good Southern cuisine, they head to a hot spot called Luella’s Southern Kitchen.

Think gumbo, shrimp and grits and so many other stick-to-your-ribs down home comfort foods.

Walk into Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Ravenswood and you have stepped back into the childhood of Chef Darnell Reed. The food he's cooking up was influenced by his great-grandmother.

"Her name was Luella, but we called her Bey," Reed said.

The menu reads from Luella’s staples, such as shrimp and grits, fried chicken and biscuits, and mac and cheese - all the mouth-watering Southern cuisine you can imagine.


The restaurant has been in business for eight years and within its first year of opening, it was already receiving recognition from prestigious restaurant organizations like James Beard and Michelin. The pressure was on.

"I know I was representing more than just myself. I know I'm representing Black people, my family and also representing the chefs who put their time into me," Reed said.

And represent he does. It's not just about the food. From the Motown music you hear playing on the record player to the artwork on the walls.

"A lot of the music you hear is what I grew up with," Reed said.

Art from renowned Black artist Ernie Barnes made famous from a show he used to watch with Luella called Good Times.

"It is definitely the most popular of them all, Marvin Gaye's 'Sugar Shack'," Reed said.

Everything in the cozy restaurant is strategically thoughtful and planned. When it all blends together, it creates an ambiance that screams comfort and keeps customers coming back for more.

"I just hope that I'm creating similar memories, even though it's not at home. I hope that you know people will remember us the same way I'm remembering Luella," Reed said.