Today, women’s groups protest across the country as they observe International Women’s Day, and Chicago’s restaurant community is participating in a similar manner to last month’s day without immigrants. Some restaurants, including Eater 38’s Lula Cafe in Logan Square, are closed, while others host events to bring attention to issues including the gender-wage gap, the Trump administration’s threats to restrict health care for women, and to highlight contributions women make to the food industry that some perceive as overlooked.
After a banner year for Chicago restaurants — possibly the city’s best year of dining ever, wrote critic Phil Vettel — it’s time for our annual Dining Awards, which celebrate the best chefs, restaurants and bars in Chicago.
And we want to hear from you. For the second year in a row, we’re running a Readers’ Choice division of the awards. We’ve nominated a slew of restaurants spanning 15 categories, from best new restaurant to best brunch to best barbecue. Your job: Vote for your favorites using the form below. You can vote once a day through March 22.
You’ll see that the best new restaurant category has more nominees than the others; so many stellar restaurants opened in 2016, we decided to expand your voting options. Meanwhile, the hidden gem category may take some explaining: Nominated restaurants are either physically hidden (tucked inside of a larger building) or have another “hidden” factor. Baker Miller Morning Rush, for example, is little-known compared to the main outpost on Western, while Homestyle Taste, one of our favorite spots for potstickers, is often overlooked by diners heading to the much-hyped Ed’s Potsticker House down the block.
After voting closes on March 22, we’ll tabulate the winners and announce them April 3, in tandem with our 2017 Critics' Choice Awards. We had some close races last year, so remember: Every vote counts.
"Why a Chicago Chef's Restaurant is Named After a Silent Artist “She’s fascinating. She’s a spirit muse for me,” says Jason Hammel, the chef and owner of Lula Cafe in Chicago.
The chef behind one of Chicago's first farm-to-table restaurants—opened long before the term was used—is talking about Marisol Escobar, the sculptor from the '60s known for column-like carvings of people of all walks (the Kennedys, herself) and hours spent without uttering a single word.
“She was a women of few words, and I do want the food to speak for itself,” says Hammel."
Only fools open restaurants. Long hours, small margins, and demanding customers are just a few of the downsides that come with this line of work. And maintaining a stable romantic relationship, too? Good luck.
But finding love and running a top restaurant is possible, and we have proof. In the past year, three Chicago couples not only took the leap to open three of the city’s most ambitious new restaurants, but also have garnered more accolades than Michael Jordan has championship rings. Collectively, they've earned three stars from Michelin and 11 from The Chicago Tribune. In addition to their eclectic menus and initial success, these restaurants have two things in common: They're located in the city's edible epicenter, the West Loop, but even more important, they're owned and operated by married couples. Here's a look at the love behind Elske, Oriole, and Smyth, the great spots that represent the next generation of unpretentious fine dining.
Dan Costello's great-grandparents first served pizza in the Home Run Inn tavern in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood in 1947 in hopes of enticing patrons to drink more beer.
Today, the fourth-generation family-owned business is a frozen pizza empire, distributing in 30 states and bringing in about $80 million in annual sales. Lesser known is the restaurant side of the business, which represents about 30 percent of revenue, with nine restaurants in the Chicago area, including recent openings in Lakeview and Berwyn.
But Costello, president of restaurant operations for Home Run Inn and nephew of CEO Joe Perrino, knows the company needs to keep evolving to survive. Technology-driven delivery is the future, as Domino's Pizza has proved with its recent success. By the end of this year, all Home Run Inn restaurants will deliver, through third-party services.
And the Woodridge-based company may open smaller restaurants with a focus on carryout and delivery, perhaps expanding into out-of-state markets like Milwaukee or Indianapolis, in the next three to five years, said Costello, 45."
"Women protest workplace harassment in fast-food restaurants Aiesha Meadows stood right outside the Burger King where she used to work and demanded a halt to workplace harassment. She was one of the eight fast-food chain employees who filed sexual harassment complaints Wednesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as part of various events and demonstrations marking International Women’s Day. The group of men and women chanted: “We work, we sweat, so give us our respect” and “BK, BK, you’re no good. Treat your workers like you should.” They demanded the reinstatement of women they said were terminated for speaking up against the abuse; they also wanted all managers accused of sexual harassment removed."
"Original Rainbow Cone to open for season March 4 Oiginal Rainbow Cone will start this year's ice cream season March 4, according to the shop's Facebook page. The iconic Beverly ice cream shop closes each winter; for many Chicagoans, the reopening marks the unofficial march toward warmer weather.
"River North Bow Truss Reopens After Employee Walkout
The Bow Truss at 406 N. Wells St. reopened Monday, about two weeks after employees walked off the job due to bounced paychecks.
The popular restaurant in Wicker Park has taken over the shuttered Delish Diner next door, and now offers an expansive taco and tamale-based menu, plus beer, and ""baile,"" or dancing, a sign in the window says.
Handwritten signs on the taco hut that's been a staple for at least 14 years have big arrows pointed west, to 2018 W. Division St.
""Same great taste now next door"" and ""Don't worry we're next door,"" the signs say.
On Sunday, Owner Felipe Caro, who owned the closed Delish Diner as well as Picante, said that Picante had a soft opening about a week ago and so far, business has been good.
""We were packed on Saturday,"" Caro said.
Delish Diner closed about two years ago and had a liquor license, which means that at the new and larger Picante, patrons can order a beer — and have a seat. Picante's original location offered no indoor seats but had a very large patio popular in the summer."
In Wicker Park, the outpost is scheduled to open this summer, joining an AT&T wireless shop on the ground floor of a 36-unit luxury apartment building at 1819 W. Division St., according to its website.
In Bucktown, Yolk would be part of the Aldi's redevelopment project at 1767 N. Milwaukee Ave. near the 606's Bloomingdale Trail, the restaurant's owner said.
The eatery is known for its large brunch menu with different spins on eggs benedict and omelets, plus chicken and waffles and some lunch staples like burgers. Wicker Park resident and Yolk fan Chris Degnan spotted an address for the new outpost on Yolk's website under a ""coming soon"" section.
""My first visit to Yolk was in Streeterville nearly five years ago and I always dreamed of the day it would make it over our way!"" an enthusiastic Degnan said.
Degnan said the breakfast spot ""exemplifies the continued growth and attraction of Wicker Park."" Founded in 2006 by Taki Kastanis, Yolk has grown to 10 locations and claims to ""push the envelope with new and creative breakfasts, specialty juices and our own private label premium coffee,"" its website says.
" Three years after putting a moratorium on video gambling eateries, Wheeling village board members seem friendly toward a proposed Italian bistro and wine concept with space for gambling."
Vegan Market Coming Back To The Plant Chicago
BACK OF THE YARDS — A vegan market is returning to the neighborhood.
Longtime friends Erik Swanson and Tim Enarson, both 36, have teamed up to open Navigator Taproom on the ground floor of the ""L"" luxury apartment building at 2211 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Customers will be able to choose from 50 taps along a wall, including 40 beers and ciders and 10 wines. Using Pour My Beer technology, iPads will measure the ounces and tabulate the cost of each beer.
NORTH CENTER — It may be the Year of the Rooster, but if Lorraine Orbon has anything to say about it, 2017 will be the year of the hen, too.
Orbon, a former accountant turned chef, recently realized a lifelong dream when she opened the Tuscan Hen Market at 4019 N. Damen Ave.
Dave HeunJan 29, 2017 6:00 AM -
The ""Great Deli Sandwich Search"" got plenty of responses in the past two weeks, and in this unscientific research we're strictly going with the place that triggered the most comments.
Jan 27, 2017 10:34 AM -
Two Elk Grove High School students created a specialty pizza that will soon be featured on the menu of a Schaumburg restaurant.
Jan 27, 2017 10:04 AM -
Wheeling's vegan cafe Purple Sprout is starting a monthly supper club series with the first event at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29.
Jan 25, 2017 5:20 PM -
Schaumburg trustees have approved five new restaurants, including a Chuy's, Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken, PDQ Restaurant, Egg-O-India, and an as yet unnamed coffee-and-doughut shop.
Jan 24, 2017 5:25 PM -
Join Catholic Charities Lake County Senior Dining for food, fun, and fellowship at the Senior Valentine's Party on Tuesday, Feb. 14, noon to 2 p.m., at Maravela's Catering, 4 Washington St., Ingleside.
Jan 23, 2017 12:35 PM -
Meet Chicago Northwest will host the fourth annual Chicago Northwest Restaurant Week 2017 from Feb. 24--March 5.
Jan 25, 2017 12:53 PM -
Amazing buttermilk biscuits. Delicious skillets and international dishes. Friendly service. It all adds up to a winning combination at McHenry's new breakfast- and lunch-focused Cafe 31 North.
Police are investigating an armed robbery at a restaurant in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Employees said a robber armed with gun walked into Jamaican Island Jerk Chicken in the 5000-block of S. Halsted around 8 a.m. Tuesday as workers were getting their food trucks prepared for the day.
An employee who did not wish to be identified said the suspect appeared inside the restaurant and confronted him.
""At first this guy came in and asked if the restaurant was open. I said, 'no, it's not open.' Then he went outside and about five minutes time he came back and put a gun, point a gun at me and said, 'hey, get inside here.' And when I went inside, he says, 'go on the floor, lay on the floor or I'm going to kill you all.' I said, 'Man, I got a young daughter.' He said, 'Man, I got kids I got to feed, too,'"" the employee said.
That employee said the robber marched workers back to the kitchen before he managed to steal some money from a cash register. He then grabbed the owner's purse.
""He searched my purse, throwed everything on the floor, then took all three of us back and locked us in the bathroom,"" restaurant owner Coralee Huckaby said.
A nearby grocery store owner said he believes the suspect thought about robbing him because he was in his store just moments before targeting the restaurant.
""He said, 'I need to wait for the bus for a minute, it's cold outside.' I said, 'OK, go ahead.' But when he saw a lot of customers, he couldn't do nothing though. So he left for the restaurant instead,"" Awsan Ali said.
Security video shows the suspect left the restaurant then stole one of its food trucks to use as a getaway car. The food truck was found abandoned a few blocks away.
Huckaby said this is not the first time her restaurant has been robbed. She said two of her food trucks were robbed in the last year.
Police said no one is in custody.
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