Outside the Box owner Tameka Jones stands ready for customer orders at her soul food kitchen in Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood.

Soul Food Takeout Restaurant Grows from Bespoke Catering Enterprise

Published December 4, 2021

Business Name: Outside the Box Carryout Restaurant
Products: Home-cooked soul food for takeout and catering, including meal kits and vegan options
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thurs.-Sun.
Address: 1734 W. 35th St., Chicago
Phone: (773) 475-6533
Online: OTBCarryout.com

Get weekly home-cooked meal kits, holiday dinners and soul food carryout at this new McKinley Park neighborhood business.

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Businesswoman Tameka Jones opened Outside the Box Carryout Restaurant on the corner of 35th Street and Hermitage Avenue on June 14, 2021. The restaurant is an extension of Jones’ catering business by the same name, and it serves modern takes on traditional soul food dishes like beef short ribs, fried green tomatoes, Cajun pasta and mac ‘n’ cheese.

Doing It Yourself

“Cooking was a hidden talent that I guess I had in me," Jones said. When she started Outside the Box catering in 2018, Jones didn’t have any experience as a trained chef.  However, she did have years of hospitality experience as an event planner, even though catering was always a challenge.

Whether she was booking a food truck for a wedding or planning a catered business meeting, Jones said she could never find a caterer to fulfill the vision she had for her clients’ events. So she decided to take matters into her own hands and do the catering herself.

"I did learn how to cook when I took hospitality management classes in high school," Jones said. "My other recipes are things my grandma made, or things I tried at other restaurants, enjoyed and then figured out how to make on my own."

COVID-19 Pivot

When the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on in-person events, Jones began offering the most popular items on her catering menu as home delivery meals. The large menu at Outside the Box Carryout Restaurant is just a fraction of what Jones offers her catering clients.

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The demand for both individual and family-sized portions of her home-cooked meals increased, so Jones decided to take the next step by opening a restaurant that serves her most-requested dishes, including her creative vegan meals.

“If I'm doing a wedding or corporate event, there's always somebody in the group that needs to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet," Jones said. "So instead of telling them, ‘Oh, you can just have salad,' I wanted to have something else to offer."

Vegan Soul Food

"I did my first vegan lasagna for a wedding — I didn’t even know vegan cheese existed before that," Jones said. "I try my best to make sure the flavor is the same, so the veggies are cooked with the same seasonings I use when I make my three-meat lasagna.

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"I use the same process with my vegan meatloaf,” she said.

In the McKinley Park neighborhood, with its fair share of American and Mexican restaurants, a soul food eatery stands out in the restaurant marketplace.

To try traditional dishes like garlic lamb chops and shrimp & grits — or innovative options like salmon croquettes and vegan honey barbecue meatloaf — swing by Outside the Box Carryout Restaurant from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays at 1734 W. 35th St., Chicago.

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Business Grows Here - Space - Resources - Community