’77 Flavors’ podcast takes couple to every neighborhood to dine out and explore Chicago history

LAKEVIEW – A Lakeview couple expand perceptions of the city’s people – and their palates – in a popular podcast that explores Chicago one neighborhood restaurant at a time.

Jordanian cook Sara Faddah and comedian Dario Durham, co-hosts of “77 Flavors of Chicago,” kicked off the weekly podcast on a whim at the start of the pandemic. Durham had purchased audio material for his other Chicago-centric podcast, B Posi + ive Radio, and was showing its quality to Faddah when the idea hit them.

“It was a nice accident,” said Durham. “She put on the headphones and said we should do a podcast together, and within 15 minutes we had the idea for the podcast, the name and everything.”

Each episode of “77 Flavors” features one of the city’s 77 community neighborhoods. The podcast follows the two as they visit a neighborhood restaurant, share history and fun facts about the area, and delve into a local dish.

Since the podcast launched, Durham and Faddah have interviewed business owners and guests like local “Chopped” champion Cory Morris; Chris Witaske, creator of “Chicago Party Aunt”; and historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas. They visited restaurants across town like Taqueria Mi Barrio Tepito in Chicago Lawn, Nookies Too in Lincoln Park, and Slurp Slurp Noodles in Chinatown.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden / Block Club Chicago
Afro Joe’s in Auburn Gresham, one of the restaurants featured in an episode of “77 Flavors of Chicago”.

For Durham, a lifelong actor and Chicago resident, the podcast brings him closer to the city he loves.

Durham grew up between Chicago Lawn and the Auburn Gresham / Englewood area, but he never realized the areas were so rich in history until he revisited them for the podcast.

“In fact, I never knew Chicago Lawn was its own city until it was annexed to the city,” Durham said. “You don’t think about how a community area or a neighborhood has its own history. Learning this stuff is cool because we are so proud of our neighborhoods, but don’t think about how they came out of nothing.

Faddah, who learned to cook from her grandmother at a young age, said the podcast was fun for her as she knew little about the city when they started it.

“I never thought to look up the names of the buildings or the stories behind the plaques on the roads,” Faddah said. “I lived and worked in the city, but never saw it through that lens until we did the podcast.”

Faddah, who runs a YouTube cooking channel called TamarHindi, said she was inspired to explore Chicago through food because cooking is an integral part of her culture.

“Arab culture is really food-centric. We come together around food, and it’s our language of love, so it was natural for me to explore Chicago through its food to find out more, ”said Faddah.

Beyond exploring unfamiliar areas of the city, the podcast has offered Durham and Faddah opportunities to dispel negative stereotypes about Chicago.

“Chicago has this stigma of being such a scary city, so being able to tell these wonderful stories about the beginnings and the wonderful things that every community area has to offer is important for an outsider watching,” said Durham.

For example, in the episode where Durham and Faddah visit Taqueria Mi Barrio Tepito, 2645 W. 63rd St., the couple learn how the restaurant counteracts some people’s perception that the neighborhood is unsafe.

“When the owner got this location he took all the bulletproof glass and metal doors apart, so when you walk in they just open. You can even see it in the kitchen, ”Faddah said. “He did it intentionally because he wanted to show that people have nothing to fear.”

The podcast also highlights restaurants on the city’s south and west sides, which are often overlooked by popular food or travel bloggers, Faddah said.

“It’s very common for people to eat on the north side or in the north loop or river… so part of that highlights some areas that people don’t go to,” Faddah said.

So far, the podcast has taken Durham and Faddah to 28 community areas, and they plan to reach the 77th in November.

“We’ll do something big with it, but that’s not the end of the day,” Durham said.

From there, the podcast could take the couple to other cities to learn more about their history and food, or to local sports stadiums to find out who has the best game food, the duo said.

“Doing this taught me that Chicago is the biggest city in the world, so continuing to tell these stories makes a childhood dream come true for me,” said Durham.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America body member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across town for Block Club Chicago.

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