CHARLESTON -- Current Eastern Illinois University student James Jackson said he was left wanting in terms of the food offered in the city.
Hailing from a Chicago suburb -- Plainfield -- Jackson said he soon missed the Chicago-style foods he grew up with when he came down for college at EIU. Whether it was the Chicago deep dish pizzas or that homestyle fried chicken his mom, April Anderson, made for him, it was something missing in the city for him.
"I just noticed that there wasn't anything from Chicago that was here," he said.
So, the former EIU football player sought to do it on his own. After a couple years of trial and error in a food truck, Jackson and Anderson brought the Chicago flavor to Charleston with the introduction of Taste Chicago Style Chicken that opened in August in the Family Video building at 909 Lincoln Ave.
Jackson grew up around Chicago-style chicken, which he said is distinguished by the tangy mild sauce slathered on top, and he sought to bring that Charleston.
When he arrived at Eastern a few years ago as a transfer involving himself on the Panther team as defensive lineman, Jackson said he found himself eating fast food four to five times a week.
"I moved here and I lost like 15 pounds just because wasn't eating," he said. "I kept eating McDonald's and McHugh's. Everything started tasting the same."
Jackson then started to make and bring his mom's chicken down to eat himself and later sell to his football friends, who sometimes called him "the chicken man." Soon after, he expanded to a food truck that he would bring to parties and other events.
Jackson did not consider himself a cook, but said he knew what good fried chicken tasted like and he comes from a family of business owners so it was in his blood to take on a similar line of work.
"I have no culinary experience whatsoever," Jackson said. "I just know how to cook chicken."
Jackson said he later found he could not run a food truck, but still saw an interest in this kind of food in Charleston. So, he moved his chicken-flavored idea into the space once occupied by Marco's Pizza and brought along his mom, Anderson, to help him run the restaurant.
Anderson joked that she is there to make sure he is doing it right.
People can order white and dark chicken meat with Chicago-style mild, hot and barbecue sauce. They serve chicken wings, thighs, legs, liver and gizzards. They also serve chicken tenders, fried okra, fish and jumbo shrimp. Sides on offer include fries, cole slaw, pizza puffs, and mozzarella sticks.
Taste is open from 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.- 3 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday.
More information about the menu or the business can be found on their Facebook page or by calling 217-345-2500.
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