Tuesday, July 24, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Tiyana Townsend outside of Versatile Soul Food, a new restaurant in Maywood. | VFP
Versatile Soul Food, 11 N. 5th Ave. in Maywood, may announce its specialty cuisine in its name, but don’t pigeonhole the establishment.
“I do six blends of culture,” said owner Tiyana Townsend, 33, of Chicago. “I cook everything from Chinese, Italian and Indian to Jamaican, Mexican and American.”
Townsend said that she held a soft opening on July 10 and that a grand opening is a few days away, but the new establishment is already generating interest. During a roughly 20-minute interview on July 23, at least three passersby peeked through the windows, some asking if the restaurant was open.
Once the doors open officially, there will be plenty of momentum. This may be Townsend’s first restaurant, but her background in catering pastries has allowed her to generate a well-developed clientele and network of restaurant owners, she said.
Versatile Soul Food restaurant will feature food from six cuisines. | VFP
Cooking, she said, is in her blood.
“My parents are from the south, so I enjoy cooking everything from scratch,” she said. “We just enjoy that. Soul food is my specialty, but eventually I ventured off into different cuisines.”
Each cuisine, she said, has its own day. Tuesday, for instance, is Chinese. But even within cuisines, there’s fusion. While Townsend will serve dishes like orange chicken, shrimp friend rice and egg foo young, she’ll add a twist … the egg rolls are jerked. One popular dish is jerk tacos, she said.
Townsend said that she was drawn to Maywood after a search for locations in Chicago proved futile.
“In the city there were a lot of business going into foreclosure and every time I’d try to open, I’d have a difficult time,” she said. “A friend eventually referred me to Maywood and it’s worked out for me.”
The interior of Versatile Soul Food in Maywood, which will host its grand opening this week. | VFP
Townsend said it took around seven months to get the space up to par. The location once housed Kathy’s Kitchen before that establishment moved to 17th Ave.
“It’s been kind of rough, but eventually everything smoothed out,” Townsend said. “There were some obstacles that I didn’t plan for, so I had to fight through those, but everything has been coming together.”
The restaurant’s interior is relaxed and natural, with faux wood tables and chairs complementing faux wood vinyl floors — a setting that seems ideal for live music or open mic sessions.
Tiyana Townsend inside of Versatile Soul Food restaurant in Maywood. | VFP
Flags from the countries represented in Versatile’s diverse array of cuisines line a wall near the entrance. Prices for items range from $3.99 to $13.99, Townsend said.
The young business owner said that she’s still working on a website for the restaurant and developing its Facebook page. The restaurant’s grand opening is set for July 27. VFP
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