By Erica Faye Watson @ericafayewatson
The great thing about living in a city as culturally diverse as Chicago, is that when beautiful people from around the world move here, they bring their culture with them. Most importantly— their food. Italian, Polish, Jewish, Asian and Latino immigrants have made the Chicago food scene dynamic. Continuing with that tradition, 2 Chicago based entrepreneurs with African roots have set out to make their mark on our city. Eleven Eleven Wine Bar in the West Loop and Goree Cuisine in Kenwood are sure to change the culinary landscape in Chicago and give us food for thought and the soul!
Eleven Eleven Wine Bar brings High Style to Chicago Ahmed Braimah sets the wine Bar high!
Every now and then, a new elevated dining experience presents itself in a unique and daring way that reminds us why Chicago is the Mecca of fine cuisine. Although we celebrate the food, the truth is those rare culinary gems do not create themselves. There is always a mastermind behind the scenes, a caped crusader in the shadows who’s genius, creativity and hard work allow us to taste the delights and reach new levels.
In the West Loop there exists such a place. It’s called Eleven Eleven. A high-style wine bar with an upscale aesthetic and relaxed global sensibilities. Who is the super hero behind the scenes you ask? His name is Ahmed Braimah, a marketing and branding guru who is one of Chicago’s most influential entrepreneurs. Ahmed is a Chicago-native, the product of Ghanaian immigrants and I spoke with him about how Eleven Eleven is becoming everyone’s favorite number.
Ahmed Braimah, Owner Eleven Eleven
@1111chicago (IG) | https://elevenelevenchicago.com
What is the concept behind ElevenEleven?
To deliver a fun, thoughtful food experience in a dynamic yet comfortable setting. Warm, neighborhood hospitality + an eclectic, funky playlist paints this picture.
While food + beverages are the foundation of what we do, our goal is to leave a lasting impression on each guest who walks in our doors.
The space is beautiful. Tell me a little bit about what went into the design aesthetic of the restaurant.
Our space is cultivated by creative individuals that draw inspiration from the local music, art, and fashion scenes to engage all of your senses at once.
Your food and wine pairings are some of the best that I’ve experienced in Chicago. What was the process you used to design the menu and how do you think it will continue to evolve?
We chose younger varietals from unfamiliar or esoteric regions, that pair well with our cuisine and have the versatility to appeal to both casual and formal wine connoisseurs.
I noticed that lately you all have been doing more special events. Can you tell me about some of the unique experiences that you will be offering in 2020 and beyond?
This year we will be partnering with our fellow vendors to enhance our guest’s experience.
Chicago is a city full of culinary experiences but there is something uniquely beautiful about Eleven Eleven. What is it that sets you apart?
While I realize there are other venues are guest can choose from, I believe that our bar is EASILY one of the most beautiful in the city. Once the guests walk in and sees the vaulted ceiling and skylights… just gorgeous! Not to mention we have one of the more aggressive Happy Hours to go along with the elevated casual atmosphere.
What is your personal favorite food and wine pairing?
Our Spaghetti Squash with the 2014 Maison Foucher Lebrun Chinon Cabernet Franc.
What’s next for you and Eleven Eleven?
Connecting more with the patrons who live and work close bye and have not yet discovered us.
Adama Ba, Owner Goree Cuisine
@GoreeCuisine (IG) | https://www.goreecuisine.com
Born and raised on Goree Island in Senegal, West Africa, Adama Ba moved to the United States in 2002 with dreams of working in the fashion design industry. Years later, who would have ever guessed that he would own one of the most successful African restaurants in Chicago.
Situated in the Kenwood/Bronzeville area, Goree Cuisine is everything that a true foodie would want from a fine dining experience. Influenced by French, North African and Portuguese cuisine, Senegalese cooking is a beautiful expression of the magic that happens when cultures merge. Hands down, once you get a taste of Goree Cuisine, you will know what pure joy feels like. I sat down to speak with Adama about his secret to success and how it feels to give Chicagoans a taste of the motherland.
How would you describe Senegalese food?
Senegalese food is cooked with love. It feeds the soul. It is African soul food. When people eat Goree Cuisine I want them to feel Senegal and taste the flavor, love and culture of my home. We make everything fresh because we want our customers to know they are special, and everything is prepared especially for them.
You are a well respected fashion designer, what made you decide to open a restaurant?
We have a family owned restaurant on Goree Island in Senegal, and preparing amazing food as always been a staple in our family back home. I always knew I wanted to open something, and when the opportunity presented itself I jumped on it.
Many people in Chicago are not as familiar with West African food as they are with other worldly cuisine. What has the response been like?
Everyone loves it. People come from all over the city come to dine here. The residents of Hyde Park and Bronzeville were so happy to have a new dining option for lunch and dinner. I am also so happy that my place brings the community together. The community here has been so kind to me.
What is YOUR favorite dish?
I have so many favorites. But I must say, our Dibi Lamb and Red Snapper are the best in the city. Maybe even the world!
What makes Goree different?
Our food is Fresh! It is cooked to order with our secret Senegalese seasonings. Eating at Goree Cuisine is like having home
cooking. Nothing is rushed, we take our time to give our guests a unique dining experience. Also, customer service is #1.
What about the drinks?
When people come, they go crazy for our Senegalese Coffee as well as our Ginger Root, Bissap and our very unique Senegalese Mint Tea.
What’s next for you at Goree Cuisine?
We want multiple locations and for every Chicagoan to come and get a taste!