If Black Chicago has a favorite local chicken spot, it’s probably Harold’s Chicken Bag, which has been serving the city since the 1950’s. Harold’s famous chicken, with its sweet and spicy sauce, is a delightful memory of a home, family gathering. A dark experience is for them. In an ever-changing city with a history that runs deep in many directions, Harold’s chicken has remained a staple in black communities.
The art of ordering and eating Harold’s chicken can only be passed on from one person to another, to whom they choose to share this delicious food. You must first know your order Reaching the cashier.
“If you’re not here, you have to learn how to do it. You’ve done it,” says Larry Legend, a local Harold chicken expert, a comedian who wrote about his favorite Harold locations. Chicago Magazine in 2019.
The cashier doesn’t have time to think about your order. Customers need to be clear and specific, fast and to the point. Don’t forget the light sauce. The most popular chicken joints in Chicago have a light sauce, but the recipe for each is almost unknown. The light sauce is both sweet and tangy, and some say it’s a combination of barbecue sauce, hot sauce and ketchup. Each light sauce found in the city is different, with its own chicken to go with, according to legend, a supplement of herbs and spices used to beat the chicken. You can get it on the side, but most Chicagoans order it on chicken.
“Even if they fry the chicken perfectly, you will always tell them to fry it hard, and you have to put the sauce in the chicken. The chicken itself is not a draw. But the sauce with the combination of chicken is made in heaven, “said the legend.
Harold Pierce started his business with just $ 800 and a single fryer. Today, Pierce and his juicy, crispy fried chicken are served with its signature light sauce at Chicago Institutions – as needed by local black community columns, churches and corner stores. Pierce died in 1988, but sold the business to family and friends who carried on the legacy, including his second wife, Villa, who died in 2003, and later his son JR and daughter Kristen, who eventually became CEO. Harold’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Like many black Chicagoers of his era, Pierce moved to Chicago in search of the best life and opportunities available at Jim Crow South. He moved from Alabama to Chicago’s Black Belt during the Great Migration.
Pierce first worked as a driver, and eventually ran a restaurant called H&H with his first wife, Hilda. He saved enough money to start his own business at 33: a bag of chickens.
Pierce’s story is of particular importance to black Chicagoans, says Ariane Nettles, a veteran Chicago journalist who has been tracking the impact and history of black Chicagoans on pop culture in his forthcoming research. Book, We are culture. He is also a lecturer at Northwestern University’s Middle School of Journalism.
“Creating something new in this place full of family stories and opportunities for black entrepreneurship is the story of Black Chicago,” says Nettles. “Everything about Harold is black and everything about Harold is really Chicago. For someone with that unique identity, it’s like the best of both worlds.”
Pierce’s first location opened at 1235 E. 47th Street. At the height of its expansion in 2006, Harold’s Chicken Shake flourished in 60-plus franchises, with locations ranging from Chicago to Atlanta; The company’s website today lists about 40 operating lists.
For Jason GoffHarold, the host of NBC Sports Chicago’s pre- and post-game Bulls coverage, reminds him of a visit to his grandmother’s house. Although her grandmother no longer lives in the house she visited as a child, she can clearly remember with her family the famous fried chicken-eating places and sounds.
“When I went to my grandmother’s house, I used to walk to Harold’s house in 87th and Dan Ryan,” says Goff. “This was my first real attack on American comfort food … everyone got their soul food recipes, didn’t they?” [foods] As I got older, I became more and more conscious. But what I had was not just the Black Experience, but a small part of the Chicago Black Experience: I took my donkey to Harold at 87th and learned how to order. … There was an art to it, and I felt connected through food in a way I had never felt before. “
For the South Siders, Harold’s chicken and the accompanying light sauce are sacred, and when rapper Walle seemed to have broken his favorite fried chicken featuring Rick Ross and Chicago R&B singer Jeremy in his 2011 single “That Way”, Chicagoans called it quits. Let me hear By booming him at an event at the Alhambra Palace.
“I think that’s why we love [Harold’s] Too many, ”says the legend.“ It was just something in our neighborhood. You know, Chicago is a city that loves to champion the things we’ve invented or brought to our culture, and I think that’s a really great thing. It has to do with people’s lives. And it brings back memories of going to clubs, or house parties or juke parties, or long after school days. You can think of Harold thinking of the smell of chutney. “
When outsiders think of Chicago cuisine, they think of deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and Chicago-style hot dogs. But for the Black South Ciders, Harold is at that level, and maybe even higher.
“Everyone wants to come here and talk about deep dish pizza and Italian beef. Well, we eat it often. But we eat square-cut pizza and we eat Harold’s chicken, sometimes several times a week.” J. WestbrookLocal brewer known as Black Bear Barron on social media.
Westbrook paid tribute to Pierce and other Black Chicago greats when Sam Ross created his popular Haymarket collaboration beer with Harold’s ’83 Honey Alley. “I would argue that Harold Pierce is equally relevant to Chicago’s interests. [first Black mayor] Harold Washington and [White Sox Hall of Famer] Harold Bains. And in the history of fast food, he is as relevant as Ray Croke and Dave Thomas.
Westbrook is not alone in that feeling. Letter to the Editor, published in 1985 Chicago DefenderA reader recalls the Dick Gregory-led Independence March in 1969 that ended in Harold’s chicken bag at 64th and Cottage Grove, and wrote that Pierce was “the third Harold in Chicago to be at the top with Harold Bains and Harold Washington. ‘Harold! Harold!’
In an interview in 1985 Defender Pierce said, “Yes, we are bad neighbors, but they say the poor will always be with you … so I will be with the poor.” And stay with them they did.
The signature of some of the original Harold’s chicken shake places is a photo of its late founder. In the image, Pierce is smiling at the business he created all those years ago, which has turned into a culture, a community. Harold represents the Black Chicago experience – it needs to move, it needs to be rediscovered, it needs to be scraped and saved and ultimately it needs to be created. Harold Black is not only a symbol of the Chicagoans, but a piece of them. That is why in every one of their stories there is that feeling and that memory. Because it’s part of their lives.