PULLMAN — Lexington Betty Smokehouse is taking over One Eleven Food Hall in Pullman.
The change benefits the barbecue restaurant – which owner and chef Dominique Leach had wanted to expand – and the food hall, which saw its two other occupants leave during the pandemic. The counter food hall, 756 E. 111th St., is being transformed into a full-size restaurant for Lexington Betty’s.
Leach said she needed more space so restaurant staff could pay more attention to catering, which has been “the backbone of the business, especially during the pandemic.”
Leach said her business, which she runs with the help of his wife, Tanisha, has stayed afloat during the pandemic by tending to hospitals and hosting events and food drives to remind people that they are still there.
The food hall was originally designed as an incubation space for black restaurant owners to have a place to grow.
But the other two occupants of the food hall left about six months ago. The nonprofit Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which operates the food hall, reached out to Leach at the time to see if she wanted to take over the space entirely, President David Doig said.
“Our first commitment is to the [businesses] who are there because we have already worked with them; we invested in them,” Doig said. “So the first step was to really think about: does any of our existing businesses want to grow? … Dominique happened to be in that position, and so it made sense for us to work with her. on this expansion.
Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives offered Leach a $35,000 grant to renovate the restaurant, she said. With an additional $15,000, she was able to hire a design team to reinvent the spot.
Doig said One Eleven Food Hall was a learning experience, one the nonprofit’s leaders will take with them to future endeavours.
“I think [One Eleven Food Hall] was definitely a very strong concept, but retail is also changing,” Doig said. “We had to adapt…with the pandemic.”
Leach is renovating Pullman’s space so it’s better suited for sit-down dining and plans to hire more staff.
Pullman is an ideal neighborhood for Lexington Betty’s, Leach said. She hopes more people will come to the restaurant as COVID-19 cases decline.
“At the end of the day, I want to connect with the community because the food hall has gone through a lot of changes over the past two years,” Leach said. “I just want to come in and mark the community and the revitalization of the area, to be part of Pullman’s history, a very rich history there.”
Leach is also getting more national attention. She appeared on Food Network’s “Chopped” show in 2021 and will be a judge on Food Network Canada’s “Fire Masters” show beginning April 17. She thinks it will be good publicity for the expanded restaurant once it opens.
“My followers, in particular, have seen the evolution of the company and the evolution of chef Dominique,” Leach said. “These things excite the community, when they can see the evolution of a business and the evolution of an entrepreneur, and I anticipate a lot of support from that.”
Leach is planning a grand reopening and ribbon cutting on April 30. She wants to host Easter and Mother’s Day brunches and wants to partner with whiskey companies for tasting events, she said. There will also be viewing parties for Leach’s show once the restaurant opens.
“The community has never seen anything like this,” Leach said. “The concept is well thought out. We devote a lot of love, attention and time to it. We bring something special to the neighborhood and are happy to be part of the revitalization here. We plan to be here and improve the area for years to come.
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