GREATER GRAND CROSSING — A Black-woman-owned business with a twisted menu will soon make its way to the 75th Street corridor with help from a city grant.
Twisted Eggroll, which infuses the deep-fried dish with cheesesteaks, buffalo chicken and apple cheesecake, will open at 657 E. 75th St., owner Nikkita Randle said.
Randle was one of 60 people to receive a Community Development Grant, a program created under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan to fund businesses as they recover from the pandemic.
Randle will use her $784,238 grant to build the first Twisted Eggroll location, she said. Total costs for the business are “looking over a million,” Randle said. The restaurant will have a large commercial kitchen “with a ton of walk-in freezer space” where she can produce the eggrolls for immediate sale or in frozen to-go bags, Randle said.
Eventually, Randle will rent out the commercial kitchen, allowing other owners to start or grow their businesses on the South Side, she said.
If all goes as planned, Greater Grand Crossing neighbors will be able to buy eggrolls there “before the end of 2023,” Randle said.
“This is something different, something new,” Randle said. “In our neighborhoods, we’re quick to have the same fast food options, but I hope [Twisted Eggroll] makes people step out of the norm. I’ve created a menu where people can be like, ‘I just got a taste for this today.’ Everything will excite your palate.”
Randle’s eggroll business didn’t start until January 2015, but she’s always loved cooking, she said. At 5 years old, she was “making pancakes from scratch on the step stool,” Randle said.
Eight years ago, while on a date, Randle’s boyfriend convinced her to try a cheesesteak eggroll, Randle said. The eggroll was good, but her boyfriend told her she could make it better, she said.
“I made the eggrolls for lunch, and they were yummy,” Randle said. “After that, he asked me to make cheesecake eggrolls. He didn’t even like cheesecake.”
The cheesecake eggrolls were a hit, Randle said. At a gathering with sorority sisters, she decided to make an apple cheesecake eggroll, rolled with a graham cracker crust and stuffed with cinnamon apple and lemon zest.
After a first taste, they described it as “a piece of heaven in their mouth,” Randle said.
Randle established Twisted Eggroll in 2015. By 2016, she decided to quit her full-time corporate job and make the eggroll business a priority, she said.
Twisted Eggroll was created in honor of her father, who died from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, known as ALS, in 2010, Randle said.
“I felt like this was a way to honor him with things that we loved, which was eating, helping people and creating generational wealth,” Randle said. “I poured everything into this vision.”
When Randle launched Twisted Eggroll, opening a “physical location” was always part of the dream, “but what it’s looked like has changed over time,” she said.
First, Randle wanted a food truck, but after looking at the laws in Chicago, she decided it wasn’t financially viable, Randle said.
A store was the next best thing, Randle said. But before she could open a store, she needed to establish a following instead of “blindly hoping people would come,” Randle said.
Randle started serving her eggrolls at pop-up and corporate catering events, Randle said. The eggrolls that started it all — the cheesesteak and apple cheesecake — were still on the menu. She soon added chicken fajita, mushroom and southwestern eggrolls to the “twisted” selection, she said.
Twisted Eggroll was slowly making a name for itself, Randle said. But in 2020, when the pandemic hit, Randle had to shut her business down for 18 months. She used that time to strategize for the future, she said.
“I looked at trends and what was doing well, and everyone was still shopping at the grocery store and shopping online,” Randle said. “I always had the vision to eventually get on stores’ shelves, but it’s costly to transition into consumer packaged goods.”
Randle used funding from the Small Business Association to rebrand her business and get the packaging necessary to transition to selling in stores, she said.
Customers can now find Twisted Eggroll’s signature bright packaging at Foxtrot, Dom’s Kitchen & Market and Green Grocer Chicago, Randle said. New additions, like the buffalo chicken eggroll, are fan favorites, she said.
“My concept is more so that the eggroll is the main course, and you can accompany it with something else if you like,” Randle said. “ That’s why I thought of things we like to eat, like the cheesesteak and chicken fajitas. This is the meal. Lead with this.”
At the Twisted Eggroll storefront on 75th Street, neighbors can grab a frozen bag of eggrolls to go or order eggrolls hot for an easy dinner, Randle said. She’ll also sell beverages and side dishes, like salads, french fries and baked macaroni and cheese, she said.
Less than a five-minute walk away, neighbors can dine and drink at another Community Development Grant awardee’s business: Park Manor 75. Owners Charlette Stanton and Jacare Thomas, friends of Randle, received $250,000 from the city to open their wine and charcuterie bar.
Together, the businesses will work to “make sure our communities get built back up,” Randle said.
In Randle’s seven-year journey as a business owner, she has experienced “every emotion you could possibly think of,” she said. More than anything, it’s been “rewarding,” she said.
“I knew that when I did something entrepreneur-wise, I wanted to bring it back to the South Side,” Randle said. “That’s what I know most, and it’s near and dear to my heart. But my hope for the future is that [Twisted Eggroll] is nationwide. From there, I want to roll out my sauces that are made from scratch. I want us to be a household name, one freezer at a time.”
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