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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Jerk It Iz Brings Authentic Jamaican Cuisine To Chatham, With Late Hours For Second-Shift Workers

Chicago native Keisha Walton and Montego Bay transplant Calvin McPherson hope to wow South Siders with favorites like jerk oxtails, chicken and shrimp — and a special sauce not found elsewhere.

Jerk It Iz, a new restaurant specializing in Jamaican cuisine, is opening in Chatham Thursday.
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CHATHAM — Keisha Walton and her partner, Calvin McPherson, started selling cocktails and dinners out of their home after the coronavirus pandemic sidelined their service industry jobs.

Five months later, Walton and McPherson are preparing for the grand opening of Jerk It Iz, 8239 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which will offer authentic Jamaican cuisine.

Walton and McPherson — who hails from Montego Bay — hope to wow South Siders with favorites like jerk oxtails, chicken and shrimp. Everything on the menu is under $15.

“What sets us apart from other jerk restaurants is Calvin’s sauce, which he makes from scratch. Some sauces can be too vinegary or too liquid-y, but his is a perfect balance,” said Walton, a Chicago native and Chicago Vocational School alumna. “And the fact that he makes the food with love. You can tell. It’s just awesome.”

The menu will offer American fare, too, with comfort dishes like fried chicken, burgers and fries. Though service is limited to takeout-only, Walton hopes to offer delivery soon and indoor dining once restrictions are lifted.

And why “Jerk It Iz”?

“We spent hours trying to come up with a name, and everything else sounded corny. Jerk It Iz is cute, and people will remember it,” said Walton, who has spent the past 20 years tending the bars of several South Side watering holes, including City Life Restaurant and Lounge, where she currently works.

Opening a restaurant with late-night hours was important to the couple, who, like a lot of their customers, work the second shift. With COVID-19 forcing most restaurant to keep shorter schedules these days, grabbing a quick after-work bite can be difficult.

Walton hopes staying open longer will mean more people coming through the door.

To celebrate Thursday’s 11 a.m.-1 p.m. grand opening, Jerk It Iz is raffling off a free meal and a free side dish with the purchase of a main item.

Jerk It Iz is open 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday.

“To be able to do this in the middle of a pandemic? I’m in disbelief. This is nothing but God,” Walton said.

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