Feed Your Soul With Chicago-Style Soul Food
Chekell’s SoulFood Palace offers Chicago-style eats on Water Street
When Chekell and Antoine Hill moved to Eau Claire from Chicago’s South Side in 2017, they quickly realized there was one important piece of home that was missing: soul food.
That’s when Chekell Hill rolled her sleeves up and went to work on Chekell’s SoulFood Palace, a new pop-up restaurant operating out of The Nucleus on Water Street.
“I wanted to give this community something they didn’t have,” Chekell Hill said. “I’ve seen that there was a high demand for soul food.”
Chekell’s serves up delicious Chicago-style eats like their fish and chicken combo – which features catfish fillets, chicken wings, french fries, sauce, and a soft drink; Italian beef sandwiches dipped with cheese and hot peppers; Big Beef sandwiches – complete with gyro meat, corn beef, roast beef, cheese, mayo, mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled onions; homemade baked macaroni and cheese, and their hot nachos.
I wanted to give this community something they didn’t have. I’ve seen that there was a high demand for soul food.
CHEKELL'S SOULFOUD PALACE
“Finding the gems in Eau Claire has been a pretty fun adventure,” said Brooke Newmaster, who connected Chekell Hill to Kent Buell – Food and Beverage Director at Pablo Properties, who allowed the Hills to use The Nucleus’ kitchen for their new business. “And I think that you will see the diversity of Eau Claire reflected in those restaurants and businesses as the community grows bigger and bigger. The more than we can support these new businesses and ventures, the more that (we) are showing (our) support for a growing community of diverse people and have a welcoming space for people who might not have grown up in Eau Claire.”
Though the restaurant currently operates through pick-up and delivery options only, customers can get a taste of Chicago culture not only through the food, but through the restaurant’s boppin’ tunes: Beyoncé, The Weeknd, Lil Baby, DaBaby, and throwbacks like Bobby “Blue” Bland, Berry White, and Hall and Oates. “It’s fun,” she said. “We get to work, we turn the music on, we cook, we interact with customers, we laugh, we talk. It’s like home when we’re there.”
Adjusting to a new sense of “home” wasn’t easy. The couple’s 10-year-old daughter Carolina Hill remembers playing outside in Chicago and having to duck behind cars to dodge gunshots. Now, the family can share their love of Chicago culture, sports (as they’re Bears fans), and food, while enjoying their new home and beautiful (safe!) backyard.
And offering new opportunities is at the core of this restaurant’s work. Chekell Hill has plans to start a food truck with her brand in the next month or so and hopes to secure a permanent brick-and-mortar location in the future, where she can help employ those who need a job. And Hill hopes to help the homeless in the community by working with the Community Table in Eau Claire. Hill said she regularly purchases a lottery ticket in the hopes she may someday win a million dollars, and if she does she plans to build a place for the homeless to provide a home – and good food – to those in need.
“That’s what makes her so special,” said husband Antoine Hill. “Through all of this, she was just thinking of how to create something. … As long as she’s happy, it all just seems to play out in the perfect time, perfect spot. I’m here for any help, any assistance, that she needs, but Chekell is truly a business woman.”
Chekell’s plans to create more vegan options in the future to create a more prolific vegan scene in the Chippewa Valley. To keep up-to-date with Chekell’s SoulFood Palace (and try some Chicago eats!), check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/chekellsoulfood.
“Keep in mind that this is maybe food that you haven’t tried before,” Antoine Hill said, “but who’s to say something new isn’t something great?”