North Lawndale's Soule restaurant serving up more than just soul food

In honor of Black History Month, FOX 32 is profiling several Black-owned restaurants that are doing more than just feeding people – they are giving back and making a name for themselves.

Sylvia Perez ventured to the West Side to introduce us to a Southern Creole restaurant serving more than just soul food.

The words "it was all a dream" lead off Notorious B.I.G.'s song Juicy, and they are part of the inspiration for this restaurant called Soule.

It's the first fine dining restaurant of its kind located in North Lawndale in more than 50 years.

Soule restaurant was Bridgette Flagg's dream and dreaming big is something she wants others in her community to do as well.

She's not a trained chef. She started out as a hairdresser but learned to cook in the kitchen with her mom and specifically her late grandmother, Bea, a native of Mississippi who went on to become the head cook for Chicago Public Schools.


"I started remembering the things she would do in the kitchen, and I remember the smells. I remember her playing Bobby Womack all the time. I set the scene and started cooking and people loved it and they're like you should open up a restaurant," Flagg said.

And eventually that's what she did. In 2017, she opened the first Soule in West Town on Chicago Avenue and it quickly became a hit with its Creole-infused soul food.

But Flagg decided to dream even bigger. She wanted to open a second restaurant in the area she grew up in on the West Side — North Lawndale — a neighborhood that has struggled to survive and where businesses tend to leave rather than open.

"I was like, I'm coming back home. I feel like my people, they deserve it. They deserve luxury and this is what I tried to bring them," Flagg said.

She built the second Soule from the ground up, with construction partially funded by grants from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. It was home to an abandoned church that was falling apart.

The menu includes fried catfish, shrimp and salmon over mashed potatoes and garlic cream sauce, and fried green tomatoes. She calls it soul food truly for the soul. She built it and the people are coming, from well-known celebrities to neighborhood locals, even people from all over who have never been to Lawndale before.

"It wasn't until I was talking to my pastor last year he was like, do you realize you bought this old church, you inherited the land and churches feeding the souls?" Flagg said. "Now it all makes sense, Soule, your feeding the soul, so it's a fancy name I came up with for soul."

The food is just the beginning. Flagg hires cooks and servers from the area, even young men who many might consider unemployable.

"We hire young men that's been incarcerated. I do believe giving them a second chance of life is necessary," Flagg said.

And she never lets her employees or her customers ever forget — it's never too big to dream.

From the words on the back of the servers’ shirts to the sign that strikes you when you walk into the front door, it reads "believe in yourself."

"I feel like when you come into the door, you need to read that. It needs to be reminded to believe in yourself because look where it got me," Flagg said.

Flagg will be joining the Good Day Chicago team Thursday morning to talk a little more about how her restaurant is making a difference.