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Taste of Chicago closing

 

NATCHEZ — After 21 years of serving slabs of original recipe barbecued ribs, homemade burgers and more, Taste of Chicago will close its doors Saturday.

Owner Paul Lewis said his mother, Rosa Lewis, cried two decades ago when he told her he was opening his own restaurant.

“She knew I was taking my life savings and putting it into a restaurant, and I didn’t have any experience, but I trusted in God and knew that I was doing what He wanted me to do,” Lewis said.

Lewis is a Natchez native. After graduating high school he said he moved to Chicago to attend Roosevelt University and stayed in the city for 17 years. He returned to Natchez in January 1997 and opened Taste of Chicago in August 1997.

Lewis said his favorite event during his time in Chicago was a food festival named Taste of Chicago that inspired the name of his restaurant.

However, he said his career as a sales representative for 7-Up was the impetus for opening the restaurant because it led him to meet so many people in the restaurant business.

His decision to close the restaurant, Lewis said, is partially due to the economy but mostly because he wants the freedom of not being tied to the business.

“The restaurant business takes up so much of your time, and it’s a lot of work,” Lewis said. “If I could keep it open and not be there it would be a different story, but I make most of my money by sacrificing my time and energy being there. I just really want to be close to my family and enjoy weekends. At 56 years old, I’ve missed out on a lot.”

Lewis said the restaurant holds many great memories, including the many people he met and the opportunities it gave him to do God’s work.

“I’ve fed so many people that were hungry and talked to drug addicts about getting off drugs. I guess God put me in that community for a reason,” Lewis said. “If you put God first you can do whatever you want to do in life.”

Lewis said his most special memory is when he gave a free meal to a man and woman who were in town to visit the woman’s mother.

“When they got back to South Carolina they sent a postcard and said the church gave them money to come to Mississippi to be with her mother, and they were so appreciative because they really didn’t have the money to buy the food,” Lewis said. “You don’t know how good that made me feel, because I was listening to God. When I got that postcard I was in tears.”

Lewis said he plans to remain in Natchez and that he is glad to have made so many friends in the Natchez community.

“It really has been a blessing,” he said. “I have really enjoyed being a part of the community for the past 21 years.”

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