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Chicago-style eatery pops up in Duluth

Meals on Hills stacks its menu with seafood boils, steak burgers, catfish and elote (grilled Mexican-style street corn).

Woman smiles while standing at the front counter next to another woman
Kaprice Brown, left, smiles next to Da'Shiya Jackson behind the front counter of Meals on Hills inside Christ Temple Victory Center in Duluth on May 26. Brown manages Meals on Hills, a Chicago-style eatery.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Theresa Bibbs missed the tastes from home after moving to the Northland. That changed when she found Meals on Hills.

“Her food, like take us back to the house, take us back to Chicago,” Bibbs said.

That’s what Kaprice Brown was going for when she launched Meals on Hills, a Chicago-style eatery offering everything from seafood boils and steak burgers, to catfish and elote (grilled Mexican-style street corn).

Woman smiling behind front counter while customers and colleagues sit
Kaprice Brown, right, smiles from behind the counter of Meals on Hills on May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Meals on Hills is open from 12-6:45 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays at Christ Temple Victory Center, 330 North 59th St.

She’s never run an eatery or a business before, but she’s “just a good cook,” she said. “I can toot my own horn.”

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Soul food options were scarce in Duluth when Brown moved here in 2005. That drove her to fill the need, which is why her fare resonates with people, she said.

Woman lifts up cover of food container to look at food
Da'Shiya Jackson looks at her meal order at Meals on Hills in Duluth on May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Brown started operating Meals on Hills out of her kitchen in 2012. From there, she moved to grilling and selling candy at Portland Square Park, and various church basements after a stint in a food truck — from the latter came the business name. She’s been serving at the current location for three years.

Woman uses tongs to place French fries into a container
Maggie Chows uses tongs to place french fries into takeout containers for Meals on Hills at Christ Temple Victory Center in Duluth on May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

During a recent visit, music by New Edition and Whitney Houston played from a set of speakers on a nearby table. Brown, her kitchen helpers and wait staff mingled and visited in between orders.

A row of women rotated two infants among them, taking turns to bounce one on her knee or rub the back of another.

Food prepared by Meals on Hills
Kaprice Brown displays a takeout order she prepared for Meals on Hills on May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Zykena McCurtis dined on corn covered with Parmesan, cayenne and mayonnaise before her pizza puff arrived, hot from the kitchen.

Also a Duluth transplant, McCurtis said Brown’s food is similar to what she’d get in North Minneapolis, and access to this and the company “is a blessing.”

“This my family, though. I come here to support, and it just feels good to be here and help out,” McCurtis said.

Brown drives to Chicago every three months to stock up on specialty bottled drinks, candy and other frozen foods for her made-to-order meals.

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Woman scoops corn in a kitchen
Kaprice Brown scoops corn into a bowl at Christ Temple Victory Center while preparing a Meals on Hills order of elotes May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

She makes it a weekend trip, mixing family visits with work, and she spends $900-$2,000 on supplies.

A big help for her business is working with YES Duluth, a city program that provides employment and education support to eligible youth.

Brown said YES Duluth pays her workers, too, which is a huge help for them and her small business.

Meals on Hills is not Brown’s full-time job, but it’s a passion that thrives seemingly by word-of-mouth.

Two kids sitting at a table
Kenny Childs, 5, right, takes a break from coloring while SirRoyal 'Blu Clark, 4, looks on during a visit to Meals on Hills in Duluth on May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Meals on Hills does not have a website. Its online presence is primarily maintained on Brown’s personal Facebook page. From there, many spread the word. A recent post of Brown’s, with a photo of her menu, lauded nearly 30 shares and comments praising the food.

A sign for Meals on Hills
A sign for Meals on Hills in the front lawn of Christ Temple Victory Center in Duluth.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

While Brown said she updates her menu with customer suggestions, some like it just as it is.

“I think they get kind of mad at me because I order so much,” Patient Clark said with a chuckle. She sat to chat with the News Tribune while she waited for the others to order.

Clark tries to come every day they’re open. And she lauded Brown’s shrimp, chicken, wings and the corn in a cup, with her preference of added ground beef. “Can you make me one while I’m sitting here?” she asked Brown.

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Food is served to a customer
Patience Clark smiles while receiving her order of elotes from Meals on Hills at Christ Temple Victory Center in Duluth on May 26.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Food prepared by Meals on Hills
An order of Italian beef fries and french fries is ready to be served at Meals on Hills.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Outside of a Church
Meals on Hills, a Chicago-style eatery, is located inside Christ Temple Victory Center, 330 N. 59th Ave. W., Duluth. Customers and visitors can enter through the red door on the right.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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Over 100 minority-owned restaurants, retail shops, services and organizations are included.

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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