Skip to content

‘We’re In A Perfect Location’

SOUTH SHORE — South Shore residents will soon be able to enjoy Soul Veg City’s beloved mac and cheese and hot pot pies in their own neighborhood.

Soul Veg City, 203 E. 75th St., is one of 26 projects receiving funding through the Chicago Recovery Plan Community Development Grant, an initiative to help businesses emerge from the pandemic. Co-owner Lori Seay said she and her brother, Arel Israel, will use their $207,540 to launch a Soul Veg City grab-and-go eatery at 1536 E. 75th St.

The South Shore location will be where fans can grab frozen vegan meals for family dinners or a panini and bowl of soup for lunch breaks. The funding will help the siblings rehab the building, which they acquired from the Cook County Land Bank Authority.

Seay said she is thrilled to bring their spin on vegan food to the South Shore.

“We’re in a perfect location,” Seay said. “The traffic is good, the diversity is there and we’re excited because we know we offer a great product. It’ll be available for a whole new area, demographic and community.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Lori Seay poses for a photo in front of the selfie wall at Soul Veg City, 203 E. 75th St., in Chatham on July 15, 2021.

Seay’s parents opened Soul Veg City, formerly Soul Vegetarian East, in 1981 with a goal to bring healthier food options to the South Side.

The second-generation family business has continued that mission with recipes inspired by Seay’s mother and a spin on classic soul food dishes. Zesty cauliflower wings, candied yams and stir fry are some of the restaurant’s stalwarts.

Seay said South Shore residents should expect the same great food — but rather than serving it hot, meals will be prepackaged and refrigerated to feed families of two to six at home.

The menu will be limited at the South Shore location, but neighbors can still stop in for a panini, bowl of soup, or vegan milkshake to enjoy in-house, Seay said.

“You’ll have the greens, the barbecue, mac and cheese and broccoli already made in a refrigerated section so you can go home and pop it in the oven,” Seay said. “We’ll also have our meat substitutes ready and frozen. Our ice cream will be prepackaged, too.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Candied yams wait to be served in the hot food bar at Soul Veg City, 203 E. 75th St., in Chatham on July 15, 2021.

Running a small business has been rough for the siblings at times, Seay said.

The restaurant struggled financially as the two worked to pay taxes on time and keep the business afloat.

But Seay said the hardships taught her that “when you run a business correctly, it puts you in a position for growth.”

Soul City Veg received a $250,000 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant in 2017 to buy and overhaul its original 75th Street location. This newest city funding is the latest triumph, Seay said.

“Once you get your business in order, it stays in order,” Seay said. “That’s what we did, which makes you eligible for some projects and for people to believe in you, invest in you and give you opportunities to grow. That’s always my advice to any entrepreneur: Do your homework and do your due diligence upfront because it only prepares you for the future.”

As Soul Veg City expands, Seay said she hopes to create a lasting legacy for her children and grandchildren. She also hopes to inspire others to persevere through their struggles.

“I want to be able to share my story and my journey so that someone else may benefit from what I’ve learned on this path,” Seay said.

And for faithful customers, Seay said she’s excited to see them somewhere new soon.

“Thank you to our customers for being so loyal,” Seay said. “Thank you to our employees for trusting and believing in us and weathering all the storms.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The dining area at Soul Veg City, 203 E. 75th St., in Chatham on July 15, 2021.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every tell me we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every tell me we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”:

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every tell me we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every tell me we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.