Mural Scouting, Chicago Community Outreach, and More with Alexis Simmons

Alexis Simmons gives us a rundown of must-try black-owned restaurants on the South Side, mural scouting with friends, and ways to give back to the Chicago community through volunteer work and philanthropy in this week’s Seek Like a Local.

Explore Chicago Like Alexis Simmons

Alexis Simmons is a West Chicago Suburbans native who started her Instagram blog just two years. When she’s not working as a Commercial Underwriter or running her successful IG page, she enjoys reading a good book, walks, traveling, spending time with my son, and tending to my potted plants.

Be sure to catch up with the bubbly food lover and communicate advocate as she tastes her way through the city, suburbs, and around the world at @Lexi_thefoodie.

What are some of your favorite things to do around Chicago?

My favorite thing to do in Chicago is window shop. I’m an independent broad with my own money but I love walking down all of the wonderful neighborhoods this great city has to offer. Looking for new boutiques, small shops, and coffee. Wicker Park, River North, and am sure so many other areas have great shops. For instance, Nomad in River North on Franklin Street is a woman-owned boutique that specializes in unique gifts, they have amazing coffee, and just so much to offer. I walked past them and saw their breathtaking mural on my way to a friend’s house.

Outside of Nomad River North // Image via Facebook

I also love discovering new murals. There are so many incredible artists, and painters out there. I’ve stopped in my tracks, to take photos of something I’ve seen as I’m walking by. That’s the beauty of exploring. Chicago has some of the greatest graffiti and street art I have ever seen. If you ever need to check out new murals, my friends on Instagram ashandtinthecity host a mural Monday weekly! Outdoor festivals, live music, I love it all and now that I’m fully vaccinated I can confidently say that I will be in these streets for summa time chi. Yassss hunty!

Where are some of your favorite places to shop in Chicago?

I love how this next question goes hand in hand with my prior answer. The Silver Room is my favorite store located in Hyde Park. Before the pandemic, I was told that they hosted block parties, there were DJs in the street. I walked past the store with my mom last summer, we did a ‘black-owned foodie’ tour. Stopped in Hyde Park and I saw a very funny sign that had to do with the Jada Pinkett Smith scandal (no comment), and I was intrigued. I walked in and saw sunglasses, pins, and a ton of great books. I grew up in a predominately white school system and some of the books they had, I’ve never heard of. I highly recommend that shop if you haven’t seen them or stopped by yet. I picked up Cicely Tyson’s autobiography and Life After Death by Sister Souljah. I’m determined to read both this summer, The Coldest Winter Ever is Sister Souljah’s first book.

Outside of being a book nerd, I consider myself a crazy plant lady. I’ve got to give a shoutout to the homies at Plant Shop Chicago, which is minority-owned. That shop is amazing, they carry the best cactus. Those are my favorite plants and now that I have a bigger place, I’ve got an excuse to buy more plants.

From fine arts to Music—who are you supporting right now?

I LOVE music, I’ve been listening to so many great musicians during the pandemic. When I commute downtown I’ve got my headphones in, playlist, book, or podcast ready and mug in hand. I try to keep up with new music I pay for SiriusXM monthly and I like a lot of alternatives. AltNation, SiriusXMU, and Jamz are some of my favorite stations. I recommend Chicago-born rapper Noname as an artist to watch. I would consider her underground hip hop, I heard her single recently Rainforest it brings up so many pertinent issues and her flow is incredible. When I’m not listening to SiriusXM, I set up Spotify. My favorite artist right now is Qveen Herby. She is utter gold, every song she comes out with is straight fire.

I’m pretty crazy about art too. I discovered a painter a couple on Instagram, an artist named Pinklomein. I am a huge fan of color, her work is incredible I bought four prints from her that I cannot wait to display in my new apartment. She creates paintings, prints, affirmation cards and so much more. Her focus is women’s empowerment and positive affirmations. Her Instagram feed will leave you breathless. She sells out quickly so be sure to check out her website. Melissa Koby is another fantastic illustrator. I discovered her on Instagram as well. I purchased two of her pieces from Etsy and love what she does with color. I also love that she doesn’t include faces in her pieces. The arts are so important!

Give us a rundown of your favorite Chicago food spots.

My favorite Chicago food, as touristy as this may sound, is a good Chicago dog and fries. Not all one places are the same! We all love Portillo’s, Devil Dawgs is on my list, and my son and I love Scooby’s. One drunken night after leaving Time (an old nightclub) my group got hot dogs at 3:00 am somewhere— it was most definitely a night to remember.

As a foodie, the list is endless, I’m also not from Chicago so there are so many restaurants I’ve been dying to try. My favorite Soul Food, IYKYK(if you know you know) restaurant is Cleo’s on Cottage (#SupportBlackOwned). Best yams, mac, and cheese I’ve ever had. Hit ‘em up! My favorite go-to for brunch, good vibes, and a cocktail is Beatnik (both locations the Loop & West Town), they are never a bad time. The DJ’s spin great hits, the cocktails are innovative, and the hummus is out of this world. Not to mention the location in the loop Beatnik on the River has amazing views of you guessed it, the Chicago river! It’s cool to have your meal and see the boats, and water taxis go by.

Brunch and dinner assortment for Dozzy’s Grill // Image via Instagram

My last favorite restaurant is Dozzy’s Grill. It’s a West African restaurant that opened up during the pandemic last fall by this amazing guy (Dozzy) in the South Loop. The jollof rice is crack, check them out and tell him Lexi sent you.

What community organizations in Chicago do you support and why?

Philanthropy and community outreach is in my blood. I was a dancer, girl scout, and my mother was involved in many different organizations as well. She worked corporate essentially her entire adult career. I love Chicago Cares, they do so much and I have volunteered with their organization quite a few times. They recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. I volunteered for them as well last spring for a PPE drive. I was elated to see them in Downers Grove. 

Students in front of the official My Block, My Hood, My City van // Image via Facebook

My Block, My Hood, My City that’s another great company founded by Jahmal Cole. He is a man of wonders. Every time I see his posts I get chills. Check out their socials, and give some time to volunteering! I always want to try to make it but have had schedule conflicts. I intend to do a better job throughout the remainder of the year. Another great organization is The Greater Chicago Food DepositoryI had the pleasure of volunteering at their annual food drive last spring. I was impressed by how organized the event was, given the circumstances. I helped pack and distribute food, I even directed traffic. Can you imagine me in a highlighter vest trying to tell people where to go?

Seek Like A Local, and discover things to do, places to dine, and more of what the city of Chicago has to offer this week. Check out previous guides from influential Chicago locals here.

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