LAKEVIEW — A Lakeview couple is expanding people’s perceptions of the city — and their palates — in a popular podcast that explores Chicago one neighborhood restaurant at a time.
Jordan-born cook Sara Faddah and comedian Dario Durham, co-hosts of “77 Flavors of Chicago,” started the weekly podcast on a whim early in the pandemic. Durham had bought audio equipment for his other Chicago-centric podcast, B Posi+ive Radio, and was showing off its quality to Faddah when the idea struck them.
“It was a beautiful accident,” Durham said. “She put the headphones on and said we should do a podcast together, and within 15 minutes from that moment, we had the podcast idea, name and everything else down.”
Every “77 Flavors” episode features one of the city’s 77 community areas. The podcast follows the two as they visit a neighborhood restaurant, share history and fun facts about the area and dig into a local dish.
Since the podcast’s launch, Durham and Faddah have interviewed business owners and guests like local “Chopped” champion Cory Morris; Chris Witaske, creator of “Chicago Party Aunt;” and historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas. They’ve visited restaurants across the city like Taqueria Mi Barrio Tepito in Chicago Lawn, Nookies Too in Lincoln Park and Slurp Slurp Noodles in Chinatown.
For Durham, a comedian and lifelong Chicagoan, the podcast brings him closer to the city he loves.
Durham grew up between Chicago Lawn and the Auburn Gresham/Englewood area, but he never realized the areas were so rich with history until he revisited them for the podcast.
“I actually never knew that Chicago Lawn was its own town before it was annexed to the city,” Durham said. “You don’t think about how a community area or neighborhood has its own backstory. Learning this stuff is cool because we have so much pride in our neighborhoods but don’t think about how they came from nothing.”
Faddah, who learned to cook from her grandmother at a young age, said the podcast is fun for her because she knew little about the city when they started it.
“I never thought to look up buildings’ names or the stories behind the plaques on the roads,” Faddah said. “I’ve lived and worked in the city, but never saw it through this lens until we did the podcast.”
Faddah, who runs a cooking channel on YouTube called TamarHindi, said she was inspired to explore Chicago through food because cooking is integral to her culture.
“Arabic culture is really centered around food. We gather around food, and it’s our love language, so it was natural for me to explore Chicago through its food to learn more about it,” Faddah said.
Beyond exploring unfamiliar parts of the city, the podcast has offered Durham and Faddah opportunities to dispel negative stereotypes about Chicago.
“Chicago has this stigma of being such a scary city, so to be able to tell these wonderful stories about beginnings and the wonderful things that each community area has to offer is important for an outsider looking in,” Durham said.
For example, in the episode where Durham and Faddah visit Taqueria Mi Barrio Tepito, 2645 W. 63rd St., the couple learns how the restaurant is countering some people’s impression the neighborhood is unsafe.
“When the owner got that location, he took down all the bulletproof glass and metal doors so when you walk in, it’s just open. You can even see into the kitchen,” Faddah said. “He did that intentionally because he wanted to show people have nothing to be scared of.”
The podcast also sheds light on restaurants on the city’s South and West sides, which are often overlooked by popular food or travel bloggers, Faddah said.
“It’s very common for people to go eat on the North Side or in the Loop or River North … so part of this is shedding light on certain areas where people don’t venture out” as often, Faddah said.
So far, the podcast has taken Durham and Faddah to 28 community areas, and they plan to reach the 77th in November.
“We’ll make something big out of it, but that’s not the ending point,” Durham said.
From there, the podcast might take the couple to other cities to learn about their history and food or to local sports stadiums to find out who has the best game food, the duo said.
“Doing this has taught me that Chicago is the greatest city in the world, so to keep telling these stories fulfills a childhood dream for me,” Durham said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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