By Kristin Boza
Ain’t She Sweet Cafe has a strong set of devotees at their Bronzeville location, which has been operating for 10 years. Ayisha Strotter, a Beverly/Morgan Park native and resident, and her mother, Margo Strotter, own the cafe together and recently opened their second location at 9920 S. Western Ave. Ayisha knew her neighborhood would respond well to the delectable dishes they serve up at the new cafe.
“We decided to open a second location a few years ago,” Ayisha Strotter said. “A lot of our customers at our Bronzeville location live further south, so we wanted to bring our cafe a little closer to them. We were blown away by the space at 99th and Western. It was originally outfitted for retail, so we had to put in a lot of work to get the plumbing, electrical and ventilation work that is necessary for a restaurant. Although it was a very trying experience, it’s all worth it to see the reaction of people who are really excited about the new food options in the neighborhood.”
Customers won’t find any burgers, pizza or chicken at Ain’t She Sweet; in fact, the café does not use any beef or pork products and nothing is fried. “Everything is either grilled or baked, and always made fresh to order,” Strotter said. “We offer wraps, paninis, salads and our customer favorite: jerk chicken.” The Ain’t She Sweet interpretation of jerk chicken is has a mayonnaise base, retaining the heat and flavor of a traditional jerk sauce, but creamy.
Strotter’s menu reflects her customers’ tastes. “It wasn’t our intention originally to expand our jerk chicken selections, but a lot of people love our jerk chicken wrap so we expanded our menu to include a jerk chicken bowl, made with coconut rice with coconut milk, cilantro, black beans, romaine lettuce, cheese, mango salsa and a jerk chicken breast,” she said. “It’s become our most popular item in Beverly.”
Although the new Ain’t She Sweet has only been open for a month, the cafe is already busy. “The word definitely got around!,” Strotter said. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People in Beverly who had never been to our Bronzeville location have already come back several times. It makes it all worth it.”
Diners can choose to eat in at the cafe, or order their food to go. A call-in ordering option is also available, and Strotter is looking into online ordering and delivery service. Lunch specials run Mon. through Fri., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include a half sandwich with soup or salad. The café also offers discounts for professional groups: police and fireman discounts are daily, but they also get an extra $2 off on Tuesdays; teachers enjoy a discount on Mondays, city workers on Wednesdays and health care workers on Thursdays.
Strotter attended Kellogg Elementary School and Morgan Park Academy, and she’s excited to work in the neighborhood where she grew up. “I was nurtured by the community and people, whether they know who I am or not, come in and welcome us, letting us know they’re supporting us. I’ve always felt the ‘community feel’ here, but it’s especially felt now,” she said.
Ain’t She Sweet is open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are closed Sundays. Call 773-840-3309 to place an order for pick-up.