You can’t get more local than that!
This past September, Erica McGhee opened up her first restaurant on Taylor Street in the Little Italy neighborhood: Brunch N Burgers. The unusual pairing is a result of Erica’s passion for both brunch and an expression of her mad burger skills. “Some people call me the ‘The Burger Queen’,” she said.
Once the menu gets into your head, it’s not easy to think of anything else. The burgers are ‘smashed patties’ and come in pairs. Brunch includes menu items like shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles.
ABOVE: Chef Erica McGhee in front of her restaurant Brunch N Burgers.
While Erica has had a long career working in the culinary industry, holding positions at Jack Binion’s fine dining steakhouse at Horseshoe Casino and working her way up from cook to chef over her 16-year employment with Hilton, she always wanted to open her own place. She is also a graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago where she completed the Le Cordon Bleu accredited program.
She says her passion for cooking started when she would watch her grandmother, mother and aunts cooking. “I’ve picked up some great tips and techniques from them all,” says Erica.
As she was opening up her restaurant, Erica was approached by long-time Growing Solutions Farm volunteer “Farmer” John Franzese. John has lived in the Little Italy neighborhood nearly his whole life and seems to know just about everything going on in the neighborhood. John is also a volunteer at the Chicago Hope Academy and helps set up job observations for students. Erica met John through the Chicago Hope Academy and he suggested she consider using produce from Growing Solutions Farm, which is just blocks away from her restaurant.
Once Erica visited the farm and met with lead grower Tucker Kelly, she was sold. Erica uses greens and herbs from the farm for her signature dishes, and the farm will be growing additional crops for her next season.
“It’s great getting produce from Growing Solutions because it’s just three blocks away, and Tucker or his assistant Evan deliver the produce to the restaurant,” Erica says. “Best of all, I know I am helping to support the work and mission of Urban Autism Solutions, which is one I applaud.”