Lior’s Cafe (Photo credit: Eddy “Precise” Lamarre)
When it comes to fine dining, the South Side of Chicago has been neglected. In most cases, you have fried chicken spots, a few fish spots, and a burger place. Lior’s Cafe is changing this. The Haitian restaurant located in the Fernwood/Roseland community of Chicago is delivering an elevated dining experience while providing culture and employment to the community. Rolling Out spoke with the owner, Jean Claude Aurel, about his inspiration behind creating the restaurant, the richness of Haitian culture, and why it is important to the community.
Tell us what inspired Lior’s Cafe?The meaning of Lior is “God’s gift of Light to me.” My God-daughter’s name is Lior, and I was inspired to start a business in her name where some of the proceeds will go towards her future.
What motivated you to open a Haitian restaurant in Chicago?I always felt the need to create opportunities for others to succeed, and being from the South Side, I believe that there is a place in this world for everyone and a job for everyone. Lior’s is one of those businesses that allows me to give back to the community. It allows me to show the city and the South Side the rich culture of Haitian food while creating jobs in the neighborhood. Haitian food is everywhere in cities like Boston, Miami, and New York. Chicago and the South Side needed this restaurant.
What makes Lior’s Cafe unique compared to other restaurants in the area? Are there any special features or dishes that set it apart?
Lior’s is an elevated dining restaurant where you receive great service and great food while dining in a wonderful ambiance. It is traditional Haitian with a few specially-made dishes with a Haitian flair. The goat pot pie is one of our favorites, along with the red snapper, legumes, griot (pork), cabrit (goat), oxtails, and corn soufflé.
Griot (pork shoulder), red beans and rice and macaroni and cheese (Photo credit: Eddy “Precise” Lamarre)
How does Lior’s Cafe contribute to the cultural diversity and richness of the South Side of Chicago?
The whole building is sort of a museum that is dedicated to Haiti’s past and promising future. There are two hand-painted murals on the outside and one on the inside painted by a local artist, Rahmaan Statik. We have hand-painted pictures from the island and a running presentation on the liberation and independence of the Haitian people. The first figure on the outside mural is the founder of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable.
How do you incorporate Haitian culture and traditions into the dining experience at your restaurant?
We incorporate the music, the art, the flavors, and the service. Our chefs are trained in Haitian cuisine, our art is from Haiti and depicts the country of Haiti. Once you enter the space, you will feel like you are on the island because the scents and music will transport you there.
How do you envision the future of Lior’s Cafe?
We hope that Lior’s sparks more business development on the South Side, specifically the Halsted corridor. There’s no reason why residents of these areas have to leave their neighborhoods to shop and eat. Dollars should be circulating in the area along with jobs that are worthwhile, which can also lead to better-paying jobs and skills development.
Source: Rolling Out