WICKER PARK — The Delta will reopen Tuesday with a new chef, more soul food and an enclosed patio.
The Delta, 1745 W. North Ave., has faced struggles this summer: Between the pandemic, protests and a temporary closure, it’s been “humbling,” said owner Eldridge Williams.
“Navigating through a pandemic is hard enough,” Williams said. “When you have a business in limbo, it makes it even more difficult.”
But when the restaurant reopens, it’ll have new menu items and an enclosed patio that can seat up to 30 customers with social distancing. Up to 20 customers can sit inside.
The Delta is one one of only a handful of Black-owned businesses in Wicker Park. Others nearby include Helendora Samuels Picture Framing, The Gallery Cafe and Ina Mae Tavern.
Williams, of Hyde Park, said he recognizes the “magnitude” of being one of the neighborhood’s few Black business owners.
“Those who, like me, understand the ups and downs of being a Black restaurateur, especially on the North Side — it comes with a little extra something,” he said. “I’m extremely proud to be able to call Wicker Park the home of my business. I’m not there by accident.”
Williams said he prides himself on having a “diverse” clientele.
“White people, they love it. They’re comfortable,” he said. “It works. It feels like it’s for everybody. That’s how it should be. I just happen be Black. … People, regardless of the color of their skin, should be able to do what I do.”
A Memphis native, Williams opened The Delta in 2017 after spending 15 years working in Chicago’s service industry. The food and interior design showcase the Mississippi Delta region, he said.
“If you go there, it’s not a well-populated area,” he said. “There’s a lot of poverty. In the midst of all that, there’s a lot of beauty, especially in the culinary scene.”
Known for its spicy Red Hot Tamales and soul food staples, The Delta is reopening with an expanded menu from newly appointed chef Levi Kensey. Beef brisket egg rolls, smoked pork belly ends and a Southern Cobb salad are among the new offerings.
The restaurant initially stayed open during the coronavirus shutdown but closed in May after Williams filed a lawsuit against investor Robert Johnson, accusing him of stealing more than $150,000 in emergency coronavirus relief aid — including a $145,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan, Eater reported.
The two have since reconciled over what was a “miscommunication,” Williams told Block Club.
“Our working relationship now is stronger than it’s ever been,” he said. “I’m glad we were able to rectify our issue.”
In addition to reopening The Delta, Williams recently opened Lil Delta, a restaurant in Dr. Murphys Food Hall inside the former Cook County Hospital in the Medical District.
The Delta’s new hours of operation will be 4 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Saturday. The restaurant plans to eventually reopen for lunch and brunch.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.