First-time James Beard Award nominee Chef Brian Jupiter was raised in New Orleans and learned how to cook from the women in his family. To pay homage, he named his corner store and tavern “Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods,” after his great-grandmother.
Jupiter has been in Chicago since October 2003.
After culinary school, he knew he wanted to move to Chicago, New York or some place along the West Coast. He came to Chicago to visit and decided to make the move.
“I really like the city,” he said. “It was an opportunity for me to be a chef at a pretty young age.”
In 2010, Jupiter, or “Chef Jup” as he is affectionately called, became a part of Frontier. He described the restaurant, which is located at 1072 N. Milwaukee Avenue in the West Town neighborhood, as being “a very meat-centric concept, mainly focused on whole animal service.”
Jupiter said the concept at Frontier didn’t start out as it is now.
“We wanted to open up a sports bar and unique foods concept that evolved into the whole animal thing, and it’s good,” he said.
Jupiter is now the executive chef of Pioneer Tavern Group, which owns Frontier, Lotties, and Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods.
Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods opened in June 2018 as an ode to New Orleans. He said he was actually trying to open the restaurant on the South Side, but eventually landed in Wicker Park. Ina Mae is located on 1415 N. Wood in the Wicker Park, West Town community area.
“The food is what you would find in New Orleans. We want to be as authentic as possible,” Chef Jup said. “We’ve accomplished that from the décor to the food.”
Ina Mae’s menu consists of fried chicken, which comes with “a drop” buttermilk biscuit, and a variety of po’ boys, including alligator sausage, shrimp, catfish, roast beef with debris gravy, New Orleans hot sausage and the Peacemaker po’ boy, which features fried oysters and shrimp. Other New Orleans staples include shrimp creole, dirty rice, and Gumbo Ya-Ya with shrimp, andouille sausage, crab, crawfish, chicken, okra, rice and potato salad. There also is a seafood boil, fried seafood and of course, beignets.
On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, there is live musical entertainment.
In March, it was announced that Jupiter was a nominee for the James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes award.
“It’s crazy. It was unexpected,” he said. “It’s one of those things you think about. It almost seems out of reach.”
Jupiter said the nomination also made him want to step back and be better. Jupiter knows the power of pouring into others, and he knows some people who he could see doing some big things in the future.
“I have a lot of raw African-American cooks who are up and coming,” he said. “My sous chef at Ina Mae – he’s very talented – Marvin McDaniel…he’s somebody who would run the place for me once we try to expand.”
For more information about Ina Mae, visit www.inamaetavern.com or call 773-360-8320.