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Caribbean Chow in Calumet Heights Draws Fans From Afar

By Wendell Hutson | February 6, 2013 8:50am | Updated on February 6, 2013 5:27pm
 At Campbell's Caribbean Cuisine in Calumet Heights, jerk chicken dinners are often requested by customers, according to Dee Campbell, who founded the restaurant in 2008.
At Campbell's Caribbean Cuisine in Calumet Heights, jerk chicken dinners are often requested by customers, according to Dee Campbell, who founded the restaurant in 2008.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

CALUMET HEIGHTS — If Hortense Campbell has her way, her family-owned Caribbean restaurant would relocate in the coming years to a more visible location to increase its exposure.

Campbell's Caribbean Cuisine, 1225 E. 87th St., is owned by Dee Campbell and her two daughters, Hortense and Mary Campbell. Dee opened the restaurant, which now employs five, in 2008, nearly 10 years after she moved to Chicago from Jamaica.

"People tell me I am crazy for leaving tropical weather for snow. But hey, this the land of opportunity," Dee said. "There are good days and there are bad days but overall we do okay."

But Hortense admits business could be better if it had more viability and was not sandwiched in between two other businesses.

"We just renewed our lease for three years but when it expires we are looking to move the business to a better location that could attract more business," added Hortense. "The area is nice so we will stay in (the Chatham area) but in a different location more conducive for retail."

When the restaurant opened six years ago there were not many Caribbean restaurants in Calumet Heights "but now there seems to be one popping up every year," said Hortense.

Regardless where the restaurant moves, Adrienne Smith, a Chatham resident for 30 years, plans to follow them.

"I love their food and wherever they go, I will go,"  Smith said. "I come here all the time to get a jerk chicken dinner. I am not into fried foods that much so that's why I like coming here."

Construction worker Gary Louis lives in south suburban Crestwood but drives to Campbell's every day for dinner.

"This food is off the chain. I like the food," Louis said as he waited on his jerk chicken dinner. "I am a regular here. I don't care how far I have to drive to get here. This food is the bomb."

But jerk chicken is not the only thing sold.

Other menu items include jerk catfish; shrimp and barbecue; curry goat; oxtails; seafood jumbo; cabbage; plantains and cow foot. Also available are desserts, soups, salads and catering too. Prices range from $6.50 for lunch to $16 for dinners.

There is seating available for 30, free parking and all major credit cards are accepted. Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

All food is made fresh and no canned products are used, according to Hortense.

Until Campbell's can relocate to a more viable location, Hortense said it would rely on its stream of regular customers and word of mouth referrals.

That's how Teresa Moore, a 40-year old healthcare professional, heard about Campbell's.

"This is my first time here. One of my co-workers talks about this place all the time so I decided to try it out," said Moore, who drove 30 minutes from her home in the Austin community on the West Side, to pickup a jerk chicken dinner. "If the food turns out to taste bad, then I won't be back."

That wasn't the case. Moore couldn't wait to go back home to eat so she tasted her food before leaving.

"Oh yeah, I'll be back!" added Moore.

And Cortez Smith, 31, was also a first-timer at Campbell's.

"I am here with my friend who said the food here is terrific and she was right," Smith said as he tried to finish his jerk chicken dinner. "I guess I will be taking the rest for lunch tomorrow because I am stuffed."

Full and happy is how Mary said they like for their customers to leave.

"Nothing like eating good food until you cannot eat anymore but craving for more when you get home," Mary said.