It's no secret that Chicago is plagued with violence, corruption, and other various predetermined lifestyles assumed to be synonymous to the black community. Murders, rivalries between the south and west sides, and gang affiliation all run rampant in its streets—and in national news—making outsiders wonder if we have to dodge crime at our doorstep everyday. And though these areas are disenfranchised and often disregarded for overall political improvement, these territories remain rich in culture and actively seek the betterment for their quality of life.
But even with the daily exertion of Chicago living, whether sensationalized or factual, the hustle is no match for Bridgette Flagg, owner and head chef of Soulé, a Creole-infused soul food restaurant in the up-and-coming area of West Chicago.
She dials back her busy day to shift her brazen focus to me as we discuss her mission of bringing Chicago together, through food. Standing at 5-foot-nothing and wearing a huge smile, her bright attitude and chief-like presence instantly commands the room. I take a moment to sit back and witness what she's built at this stage of her career as a sea of patrons swarm her to ask for a photo. She happily obliges, takes photos with every person who asks, and thanks them for their business.
When heading towards my table, she immediately checks on my entree and asks her staff to bring out servings of cornbread and yams for me to try.
Heck yeah, girl, bring it.
Named as the top soul food restaurant in Illinois by TravelNoire, Soulé has, in such a quick time, become a staple for food hunters seeking ironically what is difficult to find in Chicago: good soul food. Locals, travelers, influencers, and celebrities alike, all position it as one of the Windy City's most regarded locations for home cooked, slap-yo-mama cuisine. On Soulé's menu, entrees inspired by the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans and the West Side of Chicago are infused into every single dish.
No tricks. No gimmicks. All quality.
"We are your home away from home. It's not just about entrees, sides, drinks, and desserts… it's about the feelings around the food too." she says.
The walls house local scenic art of black artists. There's music playing from all corners of the restaurant, and the friendly customized couch-seating embodies the unique vibe of the dining experience she describes. "We are one of the only creole-infused soul food boutique restaurants in the world," Bridgette laughs. "That's what Google taught us."
As a black, female business owner entering a culturally saturated space, standing apart is essential to success regardless of experience level. And although her success comes with the glitz and glamour of having long lines and serving various celebrities, we wouldn't be doing our readers justice without stating the obvious: it's not always unicorns and rainbows. "Being a restaurateur was not—and still isn't—an easy journey. I thought I was 'on my way' because I had around $50,000 saved. [But then] I read that the average restaurant startup took about $150,000. In my mind, I thought I could fill the gaps by tapping into people who could do the work. Of course, I was wrong," she recalls with a forced smile.
"I had no business plan. All I had was my love for cooking and my faith. It took me about a year and a half for everything that could have gone wrong, to go wrong."
Before it all, Bridgette initially attended Jackson State, later dropped out to attend Paul Mitchell and became a hairstylist. Informally trained on how to cook by her late grandmother and mother, Bridgette remembers watching both women bring friends and family together through the powers of the kitchen.
Her eventual transition to food came when she began teaching herself to polish every single food item she had known. "It all started with string beans," she says with a laugh. "I taught myself how to perfect string beans. And then it moved to the next food item and [I] perfected that and then the next food until that was perfected as well. And that's how I learned."
Courtesy of Bridgette Flagg
But she doesn't credit her talents to being informally trained alone. She pulls inspiration from her late grandmother and mother, who taught her the importance of being positive, chasing her dreams, and never burning bridges. This all ultimately cultivates to her brand message, which speaks for itself: "I want to bring back family. It's missing in our community."
Her "I'm Rooting for Everybody Black" shirt places an unspoken emphasis on exactly what she means and just how much she supports the uprising of the community. "I work with an organization who trains the formerly incarcerated. They go through a 10-week program and when they're finished, they receive their sanitation license. These young men are dedicated hard-workers and we make them feel at home."
I take a quick moment to marvel at how dope this is and she continues, "I don't remind them of their mistakes. Soulé's brand is all about the family and community."
And boy, does Chicago need both.
"People who are from here always talk 'westside' vs. 'southside' but [we] bring all sides together and prove that there are a lot of love within our city. And the city is looking for collaboration, unity and someone or something, from—and for—the Culture to root for."
When asked how she managed to escape Chicago's war on black youth, she explains with beaming pride, "Chicago pushed me to not become a product of my environment. I saw a lot of [crime, violence, drugs, and poverty] growing up. I wanted more for myself and I knew that my environment wasn't my final destination. I just wanted to do great things for, and in, my city."
"Chicago made me who I am, I am Chicago. And I wanted to make sure that whatever it is that I did, it was a reflection of its beauty."
Shrimp and grits by SouléCourtesy of Bridgette Flagg/Soulé
I admire the affection Bridgette has for her business, which she displays in every detail while working the upbeat dining room. I can't help but to compare the scene to a conductor leading an orchestra. Her passion can be explained simply: "When I think of food, I think of happiness. Like, have you ever had some food that made you dance? That's my goal. I want to hit your soul when you eat my food."
And Bridgette has become a Mr. Miyagi master at just that.
With few black-owned businesses in Chicago receiving as much acclaim as Soulé, Bridgette has managed to escape the stigma of owning "just a soul food restaurant"—a major drawback restaurants of this genre are often associated with—and she's surpassed expectations by clinching to key differentiators and refining her niche. And although Soulé and various black-owned establishments have just as many diverse customers and are just as reputable, they are often left out of the prevalent conversations of fine dining.
Despite this, in their two short years, Soulé has continually attracted celebrities, has ranked as one of the best in the industry, been mentioned as lyrics in songs, and a plethora of other accolades that deem them ready to take on the giants, whether critically recognized or not. Bridgette dismisses this as minimal by focusing on what keeps her going.
"I have so many customers that come into Soulé and tell me how proud they are of me. These are complete strangers. These interactions keep me humble. Dismiss the naysayers and prove them wrong. I am. We all can."
She excuses herself for a moment to man the kitchen. I continue my entree, chat with the staff, and jam to some blaring Jodeci. I take in the Bieber look-alike next to me, enjoying the hell out of his lamb chops and the ladies across the room having a night out and enjoying a bottle of wine.
Bridgette returns and laughs at the atmosphere as if it's just another day. "With the tables being really close together, at times our guests chat with guests at the neighboring tables. Some days it feels like a family get together. One day, there was a table that paid for another table, and then, another table paid for another table. There was a pay it forward domino effect happening in the restaurant and it was cool to experience. Mary J. Blige's 'Sweet Thing' played out of our speakers, and the entire restaurant started to sing like a choir. It was hilarious. It felt like a family get together at Grandma's house."
We both laugh as a complimentary plate of New Orleans-style bbq shrimp arrives. "Enjoy." she says with a mega-watt smile.
Defeated, reluctant, and completely full, I dig right in.
For more of Soulé, follow them on Instagram.
Featured image by Shaun Andru
Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The Libra woman and Aries man are the divine feminine and divine masculine, coming together as one. The love compatibility between these two is one for the books. These two are opposite signs, however, their differences tend to complement each other well. This is a dynamic relationship where they know how to have a lot of fun together, but also aren’t afraid to deal with the more serious stuff that comes with a relationship.
The Libra woman is looking for her equal in love, someone who is willing to put in the same effort she is, and the Aries man sees Libra as someone he is willing to do that with.
The Love Compatibility Of A Libra Woman And An Aries Man
What attracts a Libra woman and an Aries man to each other?
There is a magnet of attraction pulling these two together, and things tend to move pretty fast in this relationship. The Libra woman is always open to love and her charming nature rarely has any challenges here. The Aries man fights for his independence and doesn’t sacrifice that unless he is completely enamored with someone.
Once the Aries man catches the eye of the Libra woman, he is typically the one to make the first move and this instantly wins the approval of Libra.
These two feel like they have known each other forever when they meet, and this spark between them doesn’t die down easily.
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What is the relationship like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The relationship between the Libra woman and the Aries man is one of balance and excitement. The Aries man tends to take on the more dominant role in this relationship and the Libra woman tends to be the more receptive one. Aries is ruled by masculine Mars, and Libra is ruled by feminine Venus. They understand they are coming from two completely different worlds, yet they also instinctively feel this underlying connection to each other and like they could be something each other needs in their lives.
The Libra woman can rely on the Aries man, and the Aries man never has to ask for the love that Libra already knows he needs.
This is a couple that is often reading each other’s minds and wanting to do a lot of the same things. However, not everything is rainbow in this relationship as well, and there are some major differences they have to overcome to make things work. One argument can lead to an explosion between these two, and addressing things when they come up rather than sweeping them under the rug, will be needed to make this relationship long-term.
What is the sex like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The sex between a Libra woman and an Aries man is adventurous. These are two cardinal signs with plenty of energy and stamina to keep things exciting in the bedroom. There tends to be a good give and take in this relationship, and their yin and yang energy benefits them when it comes to their sex life.
There is electricity felt between the two of them in this area of their life, and their power of attraction to each other is strong. These are two people who will want to do a lot of things together, including exploring sexually together.
The Aries man will have to be careful with being overly aggressive, however, as the soft Libra woman may not like this energy- it will completely depend on the two individuals at hand. The Libra woman wants to ease into things, the Aries man wants to get going right away. Learning about each other's bodies, and energy, and reading each other’s cues will help with this.
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What makes a relationship between a Libra woman and an Aries man work?
These two genuinely like each other, and that basis is a key factor for success in any relationship. The Aries man is straight to the point, direct, and inspired. The Libra woman admires these characteristics in others, as she is often herself finding her balance in this type of energy as well. Neither sign is overly emotional in a way that turns them off, and they both require a lot of the same things in a committed relationship. They want honesty, fun, good communication, passion, and to be moving towards a common goal together.
The Libra woman and Aries man don’t have a problem being real with each other and this is something they really value within the relationship. They are both very charming, and there is plenty of flirtation and attraction to keep this relationship going. Aries being the protector they are, Libra finds a sense of safety and ease in this energy, and like they have found their match. Overall, this is a well-balanced relationship and one where they don’t have a problem when it comes to compatibility or chemistry in the relationship.
What may cause a Libra woman and an Aries man to break up?
Libra is the lover, Aries is the fighter, and this energy may be tiring for the both of them after time. The Libra woman can be passive to a fault, and the Aries man who is not evolved, may take advantage of that. She will need to be careful with putting Aries’ needs above her own, creating resentment later down the road. The Aries man loves a challenge, and the Libra woman would be up for that game for a little bit, but if she is not being met in the middle, she will begin to look for other places. These two can have a difficult time keeping the peace in the relationship, and there could be a lot of arguments and disagreements here if they both aren’t willing to put their egos or self-pleasing attitudes to the side.
The Libra woman and Aries man are both more sensitive than they appear or come off as. They are also not necessarily the type to dive deep into their emotions and express them to others, even in their relationships. However, this energy can keep the relationship to a surface level than what is needed to progress and grow the relationship, and a sense of openness is required for this couple to work. Libra needs romance, she wants to be wowed. Aries needs to remember this and to always consider her love language.
Overall, this is a successful pairing. They will have their fair share of challenges in the relationship, but nothing they can’t overcome if they are willing to. The trouble will come in when it comes to the longevity of the relationship, keeping Aries excited and Libra in love. However, all in all, there is more power, attraction, and love to keep this relationship together rather than apart. No relationship is perfect, but this one is a little more blessed than most.
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