Lacey Irby and her business partner Ryan Brosseau, a chef, were planning to open a restaurant when the pandemic hit. It slowed them down, but eventually, in early 2021, they opened Dear Margaret, a homely tribute to Mr. Brosseau in the Lakeview neighborhood, offering takeaway only, gradual patio dining, and finally, last June, the cozy dining room. It recently received a Bib Gourmand award from Michelin – a sign of quality and value – and reservations are scarce.
“For those of us who have stood still, it’s a testament to the willpower that is inherent to this town,” Ms Irby said.
Resilience is a point of pride in Chicago, which was nearly wiped out by the Great Fire of 1871. In 2020, the pandemic drove residents out of downtown Loop and their homes, and while many offices remain dark, locals are now returning to reopened clubs, theatres, restaurants and cultural attractions.
For those who make the art, the food, and the entertainment, introspection mixes with celebration.
“During the pandemic, artists couldn’t help but create and we’re seeing new, exciting shows,” said Katie Tuten, co-owner of the eclectic performance space Hideout, fresh off a weekend of back-to-back sold-out shows. “Plus, who wants to get out of the pandemic and not have a place to dance?”
Back on stage
Of course, at independent music clubs that are the backbone of the Chicago music scene, watching a performance, let alone dancing, was banned for at least a year. Thanks to $16 billion in federal Covid aid distributed to venues across the country, no local clubs have been closed permanently, according to the Chicago Independent Venue League, an industry group of nearly 50 venues.
Members of the competition represent the spectrum of Chicago-made music, from the Cape to Hyde Park, with everything from jazz concerts to soca dance parties; to Martyrs’ on the North Side, which welcomes emerging garage bands, art collectives such as the Mucca Pazza marching band, and free Sunday afternoon country shows.
“Each is an anchor for neighborhoods with restaurants and bars and experiences,” said Chris Bauman, a CIVL board member and the owner of two North Side venues, Avondale Music Hall and the Patio Theater, which see local clubs as economic engines and breeding grounds. for talent. “In Chicago, we do it out of love for art and music and creating and preserving this culture,” he added.
Theater is back, too, requiring masks at major companies, including the Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Chicago Shakespeare. Vaccination cards are also required for the latter two.
In Lincoln Park, Steppenwolf recently opened its new in-the-round Ensemble Theater, where the furthest seat is 20 feet from the stage, featuring Anton Chekov’s “Seagull” through June 12. An adaptation of Eve Ewing’s collection of poetry, “1919,” about the racially motivated murder of a young black swimmer in Lake Michigan in 1919, intended for young adults, will follow Oct. 4 to 29.
Harder hit were the hundreds of small theater companies, often occupying storefronts, which historically set the bar for originality. During February’s Theater Week, which promotes productions with discount tickets, the League of Chicago Theaters sponsorship alliance had about half the entries from small theaters compared to prepandemic festivals, but 80 percent of sales in 2019.
“The audience was eager to get out,” said Deb Clapp, the League’s executive director, noting the late spring return of several companies producing social justice-themed plays such as “Marie Antoinette and the Magical Negroes.” from Story Theater, which blends racing history and the French Revolution (June 30 to July 17).
Food and drink
Now that pandemic mandates have expired, restaurateurs are still struggling to hire enough staff, leading to more dark nights than before the pandemic.
A few high-profile favorites have not survived, including Blackbird, a sophisticated West Loop hotspot with tables just inches apart, as well as Spiaggia and Everest.
Still, a few unstoppable entrepreneurs took the plunge amid the pandemic, including chefs and husbands Genie Kwon and Timothy Flores, who opened Kasama in the Ukrainian village in the summer of 2020 as a takeout cafe, aiming to “make Filipino food mainstream.” . said Mrs. Kwon.
Last fall, the Philippine restaurant added a 13-course tasting menu at dinner — dishes include oyster and green mango and lamb belly with bagoong, a Philippine fish paste — available to just 40 guests per night ($215 per person) as a way to ensure income. and to guard against possible future capacity constraints. The restaurant recently earned a Michelin star and dinner there is one of the hardest reservations to score.
“For Filipinos, seeing rustic mother and son dishes served in a 13-course tasting menu is an eye opener,” said Mr. Flores.
The South Side’s new Bronzeville Winery has its own social mission: to catalyze the revival of Bronzeville, the historically black business and cultural district.
“I live in Bronzeville and I’m a foodie, but I’m always driving” to find good food, said Eric Williams, a co-owner who, as a retailer, helped kickstart the regeneration of the now-trendy Wicker Park neighborhood. to be brought to the north side. “We should have something in our own block.”
Before the pandemic, the Brewers Association, a national trade group, named the Chicago metro area tops for breweries, and beer fans will find taprooms scattered across the city and suburbs.
To support a start-up, head to a brewhouse with shared production facilities, including District Brew Yards in West Town, with the Mexican-accented Casa Humilde, where a hazy IPA can have pineapple notes, and the Pilot Project Brewing incubator in Logan Square, currently home to the Black-owned Funkytown Brewery.
In the beginning, museums were a place of comfort when little was open, where the vaccinated and masked were given a quiet reflection. There are a few more protocols, including presales at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Travel trends that will define 2022
Looking forward. As governments around the world ease coronavirus restrictions, the travel industry hopes this will be the year when travel comes roaring back. Here’s what to expect:
Although closed during the pandemic, the National Museum of Mexican Art remained a vital member of the largely Latino community in Pilsen, near South Side, and served as a vaccination center. The vibrant Mexican art exhibit has reopened and recently debuted “Frida Kahlo, Her Photos,” featuring images owned by the iconic painter that form what the museum calls a “photographic collage” of her life and times (up to and including August 7).
On the far south side, the Pullman National Monument added a new visitor center in the 1880s clock tower of the nation’s first planned industrial city, site of a factory that produced Pullman rail cars, as well as hundreds of nearby workers’ homes, leafy parks, and the shuttered hotel. Florence in Queen-Anne style. Exhibits examine a groundbreaking workers’ strike and black employment as Pullman porters.
“The same conversations and debates they had in the 1880s and 90s about what constitutes wages, unionization and worker safety are still so relevant today,” said Teri Gage, the memorial’s overseer.
Festivals are back
With many workers staying remote, the downtown Loop neighborhood is quieter than before, though nearby Navy Pier is poised to hold visitors longer with the opening last year of its first hotel, Sable at Navy Pier, a Curio Collection by Hilton , with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the skyline.
A full range of summer events are poised to renew interest in the city center, including the Chicago Blues Festival (June 9-12) and the Chicago Jazz Festival (September 1-4). Taste of Chicago takes a hybrid approach with a scaled-down food event in Grant Park (July 8-10) along with a series of pop-ups nearby in June.
There is at least one new festival on the calendar, Pizza City Fest (July 23 to 24). Founded by food journalist Steve Dolinsky, author of “The Ultimate Chicago Pizza Guide,” the event will bring 40 pizza makers to the Plumbers Union Hall in the West Loop to bake on site with additional discussions on topics such as the perfect dough and pizza at home. to make.
“I got tired of seeing people spread myths about Chicago pizza that weren’t true anymore,” said Mr. Dolinsky, while pinpointing ten pizza styles, including the famous deep dish, as evidence of the local appetite for experimentation. “Chicago is a city of innovation.”
Elaine Glusac writes the Frugal Traveler column. Follow her on Instagram @eglusac†