BURNSIDE — Fans of the sitcom “Martin” will love a restaurant opening this weekend on the Southeast Side.
Nipsey’s, a nod to the fictional neighborhood bar and grill Martin Lawrence and his friends called home, will celebrate its grand opening Friday morning. It has taken over the building formerly occupied by Leona’s Restaurant, 9156 S. Stony Island Ave.
Teddy Gilmore, who operated the now-closed DrinkHaus in Greektown, is behind the venture.
Executive chef Greg Smith told Block Club he’s excited to bring good food and ’90s nostalgia to a neighborhood where casual sit-down restaurants are few and far between.
“You want to have that place where everybody goes to, no matter what’s happening,” said Smith, a Chicago-area native. “Nipsey’s is that place.”
The restaurant will offer American regional cuisine with a focus on Southern fare, with appetizers like fried green tomatoes and entrees like Southern fried catfish.
For the vegans and vegetarians, there’s kale Caesar salad and collard and black-eyed pea soup. Customers in need of a sugar fix can get bread pudding and a peach cobbler made with salted caramel and topped with vanilla ice cream. The price of an average entree is $14.
“Everything is made in-house, from biscuits to dessert,” said Smith, a 10-year industry veteran who previously worked at Frontier Chicago and the Art Institute’s Terzo Piano.
Nipsey’s inherited Leona’s pizza ovens, meaning specialty pizzas are on the menu, as well. Its lineup will include the Stoney Pizza, a pie topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, caramelized onion, mozzarella cheese, chili flakes and tomato sauce.
With the state shutting down indoor dining for the foreseeable future, Nipsey’s menu is “grab and go,” with delivery available on Grubhub and UberEats. Smith hopes to expand the menu to include brunch in the next few weeks.
While opening in the middle of a pandemic can be stressful, Smith is “cautiously optimistic” about Nipsey’s big debut, noting the eatery has the full support of its neighbors, including Ald. Michelle Smith (8th).
“This area needs a place like this. We want people to come here and feel like they’re family, where Big Mama just came down with a plate and everybody’s enjoying each other’s company,” Smith said.
Nipsey’s is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.
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