A Cereal bar? Swings as seating? Statues of Iron Man, Deadpool, and Batman? Eclectic decor. Chill vibe. Entertainment by way of one of the most talented bands in Chicago, Park N Ride with a digital aquarium as their backdrop. Beautifully plated and delicious culinary delights. Where is this place?
On Sunday, February 28, 2021 (the last day of Black History Month), Mark and Shae Walker celebrated the grand opening of Oooh Wee It Is restaurant in the Chatham neighborhood. Located at 33 East 83rd Street, their restaurant sits in the building formerly known as Mather’s Place. It is a 5,000 square-feet dining establishment with more than enough room to service hungry diners – safely. In fact, upon arrival, all guests must have their temperature taken and are required to go through a unique sanitization process. With all the hustle and bustle happening on their special day, co-owner Mark, took some time to chat with the Defender and even strike a quick pose with his wife for us too.
Why is it so important that you open Oooh Wee It Is on the south side of Chicago?
Chatham is home. I am grateful for the opportunity to do business right here in the neighborhood where I grew up, got my hair cut, and my son attended school. I absolutely love this community, the residents, especially our seniors, or as I like to call them, our seasoned citizens.
The soft opening was last week (2/21/21). How was the reception?
The reception was crazy! We know that we have a lot of learning and growing to do but we’re excited about the positive response we’ve received from everyone so far.
What are/will be some of your offerings at Oooh Wee It Is?
Mather’s was a place for our seniors to hang out; it was their safe haven for almost 20 years. We will be offering an early morning breakfast special for our seniors as well as other activities. We also plan to host brunches, have live bands/performances, and an outdoor patio.
What is your overall vision?
We are so excited to bring a bold, new dining experience to Chatham. We want to be known as the dining destination for this community, for our city, and beyond.
What words of encouragement would you like to share for up-and-coming Black restaurateurs?
Stop trying to give people the norm. Be different. Be bold.
After enjoying a wonderfully tasteful and fulfilling meal, the Defender caught up with a group of boss women who were celebrating a milestone for their not-for-profit organization, Purple Hose & Healing Foundation. They shared with us why they believe Oooh Wee It Is restaurant is such a big deal for the Black community in 2021.
Robbie H: Over the years, our dollars have been taken out of the community because there’s nothing here. Now Oooh Wee is here and people are excited – see the long line outside. Hopefully, other business owners will follow their lead.
Lovie G: Our Black community has been through so much turmoil and negativity for a long time. It’s amazing to see that we’re finally getting a chance to have something good like this in our community.
Genya H: I truly believe that Black people have superpowers. This [Oooh Wee It is} is just electric to me. I am so excited that they’re here and I encourage everyone to come out and support them.
Umeki R: I feel like this is our time as Black people. Our people need to see that ownership, having a legacy, and something to pass down – this is us.
Emika C: I am excited for Mark and Shae as they embark on this new journey. We must support Black-owned businesses that do business in our communities.
Keena J: We stress the importance of the Black dollar and supporting Black businesses. We complain about not having nice places to dine in our neighborhood and having to travel all the way downtown. Well, now we have a very nice place to dine and spend our Black dollars right here on the southside called Oooh Wee It Is, and there it is.
Mark and Shae Walker are committed to investing and doing business in the Black community. They have another Oooh Wee It Is location at 2208 E State Street, Burnham, IL. Visit their website for hours of operation, menus, and more information – https://ooohweeitis.org/. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram, @ooohweeitis.
Contributor, Kim Durden is a food writer and owner of Divine Dine Food Tours and DivinE320, an online marketplace featuring themed and custom gift boxes. She also has a lifestyle blog called Simply Divine.