Quick Chat: Chicago gourmand’s Lisa Santos from Southport Grocery

Lisa Santos is one of the Chicago’s few entrepreneurs that have changed careers after being smitten by Chicago’s food scene. Born and raised in Milwaukee; her first career was a Certified Public Accountant but the love and art of food managed steal her away from the world of finance. After making a decision to switch careers, Lisa studied at the Chicago Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu).  Lisa travels often for grocery ideas and food inspirations but she’s also a big fan of the outdoors, ‘Alfresco dinning in summer is my favorite!’ she shares. Despite being a successful entrepreneur, she’s continues to practice her passion for bringing people together through food, “I still like to cook and entertain despite all of my time at Southport Grocery”. 

Lisa Santos

Southport Grocery & Café is a boutique grocery with a café serving breakfast & lunch all day long. Their food is modern, simple and fun. The cafe promotes local farms and artisanal producers. This is a rare find in Chicago and popular amongst the farm-to-table loving foodies. The grocery and kitchen is a made-from-scratch kitchen, including preservations. Everyone at South Port grocery has a passion for good food and it shows, no wonder it’s one of Chicago’s popular cafe spots that everyone has tried at least once!

What gave you the idea to start a grocery & cafe?

I love food traditions and how they bring family and friends together; and with the grocery and café we can provide for those that like to cook and those that like to eat! I think the grocery & café concept works because we are able to teach people about food.  We do this by using grocery items in the café; and sell menu items in the grocery. People can then go back home and experiment in their own kitchens!

Who were you inspired by and do you have a favorite cuisine?
My grandmother inspired me…she was a great but simple cook and brought the family together through her food.   I don’t have a number one favorite cuisine….I love the European way of eating.  And my husband is Filipino…thank God I like Filipino food….they love to cook in abundance!

Having lived in Chicago for so long, do you have any tips for visitors?
Chicago is great because of the different personalities of each neighborhood.  When we are shopping, eating or drinking we love the independent local business.  Here are few of my faves:

  • Chilam Bilam  for Mexican
  • Oven Grinder for the bowl pizza
  • Oak Tree for a lunch break while shopping
  • Sunshine Café for Japanese home cooking
  • Stitch on Damen for the perfect gift
  • District on Ravenswood for midcentury modern antiques & collectibles

Talk to us about your travel style?
Yes we love to travel….I spend hour and hours searching for the perfect boutique hotel and great food… where the locals go.  In my phone I have lists by city of my favs and lists of places that I have read about and want to try!

What kind of products can we expect in your shop and what’s your favorite?
I love everything we carry…the beauty of being small.  Some of my top fav things now….Hotcakes Smoked Chocolate Chips, our Preserved Lemons and Bittermilk drink mixes.

If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss one of the city’s favorite: South Port Grocery.

Nancy is the founder and editor of The Chicago Chic. As an entrepreneur herself, she loves featuring local businesses, Chicago culture influencing the world, fashion and travel.

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