By Kristin Boza
Afro Joe’s, 1818 W. 99th St., has become a neighborhood go-to for unique specialty coffee drinks and savory breakfast and lunch sandwiches. Since it moved Beverly/Morgan Park earlier this year, the shop has become a staple for work-from-homers, commuters, and neighbors enjoying glorious lazy Sundays.
Kendall and Aisha Griffin started the shop in Auburn Gresham in 2020, when Kendall became frustrated with finding the perfect specialty cup of coffee in his neighborhood. They moved to 99th Street after their lease was not renewed at their flagship location.
“We were planning on moving to Beverly as a second location to take over the café space in City Grange [the former residents of 1818 W. 99th St.]. Unfortunately, as we were finalizing our plans, City Grange was unable to stay and they offered us the option of taking over the whole space,” Aisha said. “The offer came at the perfect time and the rest is history.”
The cafe is committed to doing more than just fueling the neighborhood.
“The philosophy of our café is to bring community together. We host a lot of events to provide information that is not typically available in our communities, as well as events to bring people together,” Aisha said. “We always host events based on our four charters: Maternal Health, Children’s Literacy, Supporting Living Artists, and Building Community.”
Aisha said the community response has been overwhelming, “in the best way possible” and that the café has become an extension of their home.
“To have so many new people to host and engage with is just a dream come true,” she said. “The thing we like best about owning a business in Beverly is the family aspect. We have four kids, so being able to have events and have other people participate and meet their families has been a true joy.”
Coffee, tea, specialty drinks — like a variety of sweet potato drinks for fall — cheesecakes, and of course hearty breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads are on deck daily.
Kendall’s favorite meal is the Auburn Gres-Ham Panini paired with a Blueberry Lemonade, or just a shot of espresso with a sweet potato Afro Puff. Aisha loves the Salmon BLT (a special coming back this autumn), the Iced Caramel Apple Cider or Salted Caramel Chocolate Milk and a cinnamon roll or lemon cheesecake. Other customer favorites include the Bronzeville Breakfast Sandwich, Southside Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Victoria Lemonade, and Cold Brew.
The shop is decorated with local art for sale. Aisha says they ask local artists to submit their work, and those that are chosen fit with their overall mission. “Our Artist in Residency Program is for one month where our space is the artist’s space. We host a ‘Wine Down with the Artist’ where the artist gets to explain their vision and inspiration and all of their work is always for sale,” she said.
The couple has definitely added a comfortable, warm, family vibe to a block already steeped with that feeling.
“We love building community and being active in that process. You can find both Kendall and I in the coffee shop on any given day. The food we serve is truly a labor of love and the entire menu was cultivated by me and my own personal recipes. We love meeting new people,” Aisha said.
October is Afro Joe’s anniversary month and they will host a small business pop-up in their courtyard. They also will host their usual First Friday’s Open Mic Night, Saturday Soul Sessions, and Sunday Tabernacle House Music, along with a Teacher Appreciation Day and a birthing class.
Follow them on social media @AfroJoes to stay up-to-date on all the events and good food and drink.