Gumbo at Three Chefs

When I was at Brown Sugar Bakery, the subject of this piece, I asked owner Stephanie Hart, and anyone else standing in her shop at the time, for suggestions of other places to eat in the area. One suggestion I immediately received was a place called Three Chefs, located on Halsted near 81st Street. “You’ve got to try the gumbo,” I was told. “But be sure and go early—they sell out.”

So I went there two days ago, confident that I was on my way to an exciting discovery. When I got home, I checked to see if colleague and soul-food maven Mike Sula had ever written about the place, but instead found “Try the gumbo, says Michael Nagrant.” So RedEye got there first, but whatever, you’re going to want to know about it. It’s a really fine bowl of gumbo, a cut above for a diner-y place for sure, as you can tell just from the properly chopped green onions on top.

And from a single bite you can tell that there’s classical kitchen training behind it. Chef-owner Wallace Effort—in actuality, there’s only one chef, not three—worked at Spiaggia and for a food-service company before going out on his own. The roux was made the right way, and the shrimp and slices of chicken sausage—which were more flavorful than you might expect—weren’t overcooked in the big pot before it got to me. Most impressive was that there were real crawfish tails in it. Crawfish tails should be in gumbo, but they usually aren’t in a place like Chicago, where they’re not found at the corner grocery and are probably a little pricier than frozen Asian shrimp. Everything about this very nice bowl bespoke unusual care for the $5.99 price tag.

The other thing that impressed me about the place: there I was at noon on a Tuesday, on a pretty nowhere strip toward the end of the road in Chicago, the only other restaurant close by a 24-hour hot dog joint that looked like it was ready for Mad Max to show up for a polish and fries, that stand so obscure that Yelp has no knowledge of its existence—and meanwhile, Three Chefs was packed. I started to head for a table and was given a quick “uh-uh” nod by one of the waitresses, and wound up sitting at a counter under a TV playing The Chew. A lot of times I check out new or oddball places that are a bit forlorn for lack of clientele, but this place’s superior food has clearly found an audience in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.

Three Chefs, 8125 S. Halsted, (773) 483-8111