Mystery Diner in South Elgin: Dee’s Place a valley locale for Chicago soul food

We spotted a sign for Dee’s Place – Chicago Soul Food in South Elgin, and decided to check it out for an early dinner.

The restaurant, set near the north side of the Silver Glen Crossing plaza on Randall Road, has patio seating with heaters, but we headed indoors. The large space is divided into two dining areas, and we chose a window view in the big room not far from the kitchen with its smoker and a raised stage off the bar ready to resume live music down the road. For now, the schedule features karaoke.

The airy, high-ceilinged room has a welcoming vibe, with chic reclaimed wood accentuating elegant, framed photographs of Black legends in the music world over the decades. And the soundtrack playing was as rich as the food we were about to be served.

Our friendly server was filling us in on the menu offerings, when none other than Dee stopped by our table. Hearing we were newcomers, she introduced herself and some of the recommended dishes that her from-scratch kitchen is known for.

Topping the list, she described the fried chicken, noting it took top honors for the region when she offered it at a previous restaurant in Chicago.

I knew immediately I’d be ordering the chicken. With my dining companion in the mood for barbecue ribs, we opted for a dish called The Feast, bringing us both items along with six fried shrimp. The Feast included two sides and jalapeño cornbread.

In the end, we couldn’t decide on just two sides among a dozen choices, and added the candied yams to our order of greens and jambalaya rice.

The chicken, in its crisp, subtly seasoned batter, was incredibly juicy, and comes highly recommended.

My fellow diner substituted baby back for the regular half slab of beef ribs, and we both enjoyed the smoky, tender meat slathered in a tasty barbecue sauce.

People looking for a spicy kick to their food will find the jambalaya rice hits the spot.

The greens featured kale and collard greens flavored with chunks of smoked turkey.

More dessert than side dish were the candied yams, sweetened with brown sugar. Dee said the recipe is her husband’s, and didn’t divulge any of the secret ingredients I was trying to detect.

The corn bread was superlative. Don’t be thrown off by jalapeño in the name. It wasn’t spicy at all, and not overly sweet. It had a satisfyingly crunchy crust and didn’t crumble when buttered.

Because Dee had mentioned homemade peach cobbler with ice cream among the day’s desserts, we knew to pace ourselves and leave a little room for one of our favorite treats, meaning we also would secure some wonderful leftovers.

For our next visit, the chicken, cobbler and corn bread are singing my song.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.


WHAT: Dee’s Place

WHERE: 558 Randall Road, South Elgin

HOURS: 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 3 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday

INFORMATION: 630-883-8141,