Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
Debbie Schell of Belize's local consular agency, out in Des Plaines, says the area's Belizean population is estimated at 10,000 to 12,000, which might not sound like much until you consider that Belize itself has just about 330,000 people.The former British colony, situated on the northeast coast of Central America between Mexico and Honduras, has only been a country since 1981, and even now has an ongoing territorial dispute with neighboring Guatemala. But its presence here is visible: Evanston is sister to Belize City, and Chicago even has a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of the Amerindian-African Garifuna, Marquette Park's Garifuna Flava. It probably doesn't hurt that the official language of Belize is English.
That aside, the country is ethnically and culturally diverse, incorporating elements of both Latin America and the Caribbean, which means there are African and colonial European influences in addition to the indigenous strands. Belizean food reflects this: there are familiar Caribbean standards like conch fritters and kingfish, and there are tamales. There are meat pies and fried snacks like fish-stuffed panades, served with a vinegary relish. And there's down-home cooking like stew chicken.
That's what we were there for. "Happy Sunday," another customer greeted Perez as she ushered her two kids into a booth, and it being around noon or so, we tucked in to plates of aromatic chicken and stew beef ("pot roast" in these parts) served in gravy with a scoop of piquant potato salad and a mound of red beans and rice parenthesized by a plaintain. Collards, served in a bowl brimming with pot liquor, were the most flavorful I've had in Chicago—Perez says his secret is to cook them with smoked turkey. Caribbean-American Bakery, a fixture on Howard, is just a few blocks down the street, but everything at Redz, from the corn bread to the coconut pudding, is made in-house. So hallelujah.
Redz Belizean Restaurant, 7605 N. Paulina, 773-973-3919, redzbze.com
Kate Schmidt writes about what's on the restaurant scene every Friday.