*(Via Yahoo News) – Duct tape covers a large crack in the premier booth at Hard Time Josephine’s Cooking, where waitresses call you “sweetie” and customers come for the steaming shrimp bisque and homemade peach cobbler that leaves a hint of cinnamon on the tongue.

Not long ago, such an eyesore at one of Chicago’s top soul food restaurants would have been unthinkable. Despite the name, times were good: Chicago was a bustling center of black America and people in the neighborhoods savored southern-style cooking.

But in the past 10 years as the city lost more than 17 percent of its black population, one soul food place after another has closed and the surviving few like Josephine’s are struggling. A tradition is dying in a place where southern cooking came north in the major social migration after World War II.

“People used to stand outside the door to get in,” recalled Josephine Wade, who has operated the restaurant in the Chatham neighborhood for more than two decades. “It’s nowhere near like that. Each year it’s very, very difficult to be in business.”

The decline is a symptom of the changing identity of a city where blacks have been the largest racial group for decades, making up more than one third of the population.

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