Surrounded by community and elected leaders and dozens of fans of her renowned cooking, Chef Dominque Leach and the Pullman community celebrated the opening of her newest Lexington Betty Smokehouse in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood.
Coming to Pullman in 2020, Dominque Leach was one of a few entrepreneurs in the One-Eleven Food Hall, created by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI) to bring great cooking to the Far South Side in a setting that nurtured entrepreneurs. Not only did Lexington Betty Smokehouse survive the pandemic, but Chef Leach also helped feed front-line workers and those in need throughout the community with the same good cheer with which she greets her customers.
As the pandemic wound down, Chef Leach was ready to expand and now occupies the entire space where three ventures once stood. And Saturday’s celebration gave the community a taste of the full-service menu being offered at 111th and Doty, including barbecue brisket, macaroni and cheese, and many other favorite barbecue meats and savory sides created from the family recipes of Dominque’s grandmother.
Formally welcoming her to Pullman was 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale – who talked of Dominique’s success as one more tribute to Pullman’s resilience. “From the moment Dominique Leach set foot in Pullman two years ago, I was convinced our futures were intertwined. Just as the people of Pullman believed that this once 180-acre set could once again be filled with factories, stores, and restaurants, so too could Chef Leach conceive of moving from a food cart to the finest barbecue restaurant on the South Side – if not in Chicago. A woman who gives to the communities she serves, we could not be prouder to have her here.”
David Doig, President of CNI stressed that Lexington Betty Smokehouse and its neighbor Culver’s, which opened in the Fall of 2021 fulfill a long-time yearning of Pullman residents. “When CNI came to Pullman, as part of US Bank, we quickly learned that while people wanted healthy foods, quality jobs, plentiful recreation, and good housing and the creation of a Pullman National Monument – they also wanted a place they could sit down with friends and family for a pleasant dinner or lunch. And now they can in two new restaurants,
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, as the granddaughter of Pullman Porters and a former history teacher, said that Dominique Leach and the entire Pullman tale of renewal provided lessons from which the entire city, or nation, could learn. “Less than 20 years ago, this land – and even the Pullman Works were written off by pundits and politicians as ‘expendable’– a drag on the city. Yet Alderman Beale, the incredible Pullman community working with CNI, created a vision for the future and with tenacity and the aid and support of U.S. Bank turned that vision into reality.”
“Here we are today,” continued Preckwinkle, “with those 180 acres of vacant and abandoned land transformed into stores, production facilities, and restaurants, providing nearly 2,000 jobs and healthy food choices for all. Vision, tenacity, and leadership – with financial partners who have faith is a winning formula for all communities. I want to thank Pullman for showing the way.”
Also speaking were State of IL Rep. Nick Smith of Lexington Betty Smokehouse; Myles Brady Davis, Equality Illinois; Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor, Economic & Neighborhood Development.
The new Lexington Betty Smokehouse location is yet another step in the renewal of the historic Pullman and Roseland community which last fall celebrated the grand opening of the National Monument’s new Visitor Center, Pullman Artspace Lofts, and a Culver’s. The monument site is expected to attract more than 300,000 visitors a year. These and other developments from $500 million of investments over the last several years have created nearly 2,000 jobs and led pundits to calling Pullman a “model for neighborhood revitalization.”