If you’re looking for a healthy and unique dining experience on the south side of Chicago, look no further than Majani, a fairly recent addition to the South Shore neighborhood. The combination of the relaxing, colorful atmosphere, amazing food, and friendly staff guarantees you will be coming back for more. Best part of it all, it’s vegan! Now before you turn away, don’t let it scare you! Keep reading, this awesome find is well worth it.
This vegan gem is nestled on a corner at 7167 S. Exchange Ave. Windows lining the entire front of the restaurant ensures the natural light to fill and lighten the space up, giving you a good seat no matter where you sit inside within the small yet comfy space. Before even stepping up to the counter or finding your seat, you get a feel for the flavor and life of this spot by the vibrant, patterned interior accents inspired by the African-diaspora and rustic exposed brick, long wooden tables and custom ceiling woodwork. Those long tables were built by hand, by the owner himself! Just goes to show how much work and love went into this small but mighty restaurant.
We started our lunch experience with a choice of beverages – freshly squeezed raw fruit and vegetable juices, a spiced ginger lemonade and a hibiscus-infused Sorrel, a sweet Jamaican drink. The bright, yellow lemonade was light refreshment with a strong bite of fresh ginger. The Sorrel was a vibrant maroon concoction of fresh mixed berries with a lighter carrot and beet aftertaste. You know that it’s fresh when you can see raspberry seeds at the bottom of the glass.
Next, we enjoyed some perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside black-eyed pea fritters paired with a flawless plum habanero sauce that offered a unique combination of tart plum, sweet black-eyed peas and minced vegetables, and spicy habanero all at the same time.
The main dishes consisted of a black-eyed pea burger and a falafel burger. Both burger patties were fried to an ideal crispness while each maintaining a different yet tasteful combination of spices and flavors. The falafel burger had a Mediterranean vibe with the creamy tahini sauce and cucumbers that keep it light and bring in a fresh taste to compliment the fried chickpeas. The black-eyed pea burger has a black bean texture that just falls apart as you eat it and the BBQ sauce on this masterpiece has a tangy, orange flavor. These burgers come in healthy sizes so make sure to come hungry!
For sides, we ordered roasted sweet potatoes, corn bread, and beans & rice. Sweet potato cubes are roasted and served with plum habanero and BBQ dipping sauces. Rice and beans had some middle eastern inspired flavors with a distinct cumin influence. Untraditional Majani cornbread comes as fritter patties that crumbles to reveal the minced veggies mixed inside.
The best part was dessert! We actually ended up taking two pieces of cake home to share the delectable goodness. The chocolate cupcakes were rich, moist and so very chocolatey topped with the thick, luscious frosting, the best part. Carrot cake came in a very close second with its delightful cream cheese flavored frosting and beautifully-balanced spiced and textured batter. In third place by a hair were the cookies. The oatmeal cookies were chewy and dense with a very forward brown sugar taste while the chocolate cookies had a more cakey texture, that was a bit more floury and not overly sweet. All of these were a perfect way to end a meal without hurting your sweet tooth.
As if this whole culinary experience was not great enough, midway through our delectation with the treats, a friendly man approached us asking how our food was then followed up with introducing himself as the owner, Chef Nasya. He was able to tell us more about starting Majani. Chef Nasya and Tsadakeeyah are a husband-wife team who started a catering business out of their own home that eventually evolved into Majani. They were looking to fill a healthy, cuisine niche in South Shore. Nasya and Tsadakeeyah believe people shouldn’t have to travel to the north side for 100% vegan assured food. Furthermore, they believe in this mission so strongly that they only support local urban farms, which is proudly displayed next to their hand-written menu boards hanging over the counter. These business practices have worked so well for the duo that they are growing rapidly and are looking to expand to more local farms.
Being meat lovers ourselves, we highly recommend Majani because it does vegan like no other vegan spot. The menu itself is an explosion of flavors and offers a plethora of options that are healthy and fresh. You can see all the love put into this place from the food to the employees to the space itself. Majani really is one of the best hidden gems of South Shore.