When Chef Lizz Wright and Monica Haslip opened Carver 47 in the Little Black Pearl in 2017, their goals were to offer a beautiful and accessible food experience to the Bronzeville community, along with honoring namesake Dr. George Washington Carver’s legacy of generosity, kindness and curiosity. Although they were forced to close for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they reopened right before the holidays, delivering 350 donated meals to seniors and families in need in Bronzeville.

“There weren’t many places in the community that focused on the overall food and nutrition needs of the community,” Haslip says. “Because Carver 47 provides meals, a cafe menu and a market, there are a variety of ways for people to have their needs met. You can be a meat lover or a vegan and find something that you really love in the same place.” Haslip is the visionary designer and founder of Little Black Pearl, a cultural arts and education center next door, and she tapped Wright to lead the Carver 47 project.

Reopening during the pandemic has been challenging because of the constantly changing city guidelines for restaurants. During the holidays, they introduced a dinner box series including dishes such as Mediterranean grain bowls, Brazilian-style whitefish stew with coconut milk and spinach, a marinated mushroom medley and wine-braised beef short ribs for delivery and takeout. Although Chicago regulations currently allow for indoor dining at 25% capacity, Carver 47 is sticking to being a pick up and delivery market and cafe for now, focusing on elevating the home table.

Carver 47's "Gratitude Box" includes a grain, 2 starches, greens and a featured protein or delicious alternative. Photo by LaBeeba and Armand.

“Reopening during a pandemic has been a heightened experience of both risk and trust,” Wright says. “We knew that it was time to take chances and adjust our offerings. I have felt blessed to be a part of what it means to share nourishment, beauty and hope during this period. Traffic was slow but each exchange mattered more. We learned more and learned faster. It’s been a surreal ride.”  

Wright has always had a passion for taking care of people, whether through music or food. She graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute in 2009 in New York City and her nourishing menu at Carver 47 is inspired by her Southern upbringing in Georgia, cooking with ingredients from her family garden, and decades of experience touring Europe as a professional musician.

“Food and music have always been intertwined for me,” Wright says. “I’m just glad I have a place to celebrate them both. Designing a homestyle culinary experience for my neighbors brings me joy and a sense of tangible purpose at a time when I need to remember the sacred rhythm of physical work and music.”

“I have felt blessed to be a part of what it means to share nourishment, beauty and hope during this period,” said Chef Lizz Wright, who is pictured here. Photo by Tony Smith.

Growing up, Wright’s family produced most of their own food on two acres of land and she learned to garden from her father and grandfather, Big Daddy.

“Big Daddy speaks of plants like most people speak of their children,” she says. “He knows them. His collard greens look like thigh-high palm trees. I still can’t figure out how he makes them grow like that!”

Much of the produce for Wright’s fresh-pressed juices, superfood smoothies and hearty sandwiches and bowls at Carver 47 are grown locally, including the microgreens that garnish the avocado toast. Wright says she is especially proud of the subtle layers of flavor in her line of juices and smoothies. The Redemption smoothie is a favorite, blending a medley of berries with acai powder and almond milk. She even makes her own compost for the restaurant’s garden from coffee grounds, fruit pulp and food waste from the cafe. If you’re keen to try gardening yourself, Wright recommends getting a few pots and some potting soil in early April, since it takes the soil a while to thaw in Chicagoland.

The Belgian Waffle at Carver 47. Photo by LaBeeba and Armand.
The Redemption smoothie is a favorite, blending a medley of berries with acai powder and almond milk. Photo by LaBeeba and Armand.

“In the meantime, I would encourage composting, saving coffee and tea grounds, as well as egg shells and organic food waste,” she says. “There are small compost bins that you can even use in the kitchen. It’s great to start the garden with a small amount to mix into the potting soil when you start your plants or seeds and you can top off the top soil with a sprinkle of it every two to three weeks throughout the growing season.” 

Wright has grown parsley, tomatoes, sage, mint, lavender, thyme, lemongrass, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, strawberries, peppers, several varieties of sunflowers, cucumbers, salad greens and eggplants between the cafe’s raised beds and her home patio in Chicago

“The city has taught me that successful gardening is more about understanding your climate and preparing the soil than having a lot of real estate,” she says. “Growing food is such an empowering and reassuring experience. It’s an opportunity to have a  direct dialog with the earth.”

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.