Many of Chicago’s restaurants are standing in solidarity with their workers for today’s immigrant strike by either closing or allowing excused absences with pay for participants. Last night, Rick Bayless announced four of his Chicago restaurants—Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco, and Fonda Frontera—would close on Thursday.
“We believe lasting change is achieved incrementally, and if you can’t participate, we encourage you make contributions to groups working to make lasting change,” Bayless wrote, adding that his West Loop restaurant Leña Brava and the attached brewpub, Cruz Blanca, would remain open on Thursday with 10 percent of sales donated to Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Much of the restaurant world has been on edge since Inauguration Day, as the industry depends on immigrants. There’s been talk of racially-motivated immigration raids in major cities, which have the potential of crippling businesses. Today’s labor action mostly involves Latinos, pushing back with protest after the federal government imposed travel restrictions against immigrants, even those who possessed Green Cards.
While Bayless elected to close most of his restaurants, other restaurateurs are staying open and encouraging workers to take the day off as protest. Fernando Mendoza, kitchen manager for eight years at Piece Pizza in Wicker Park, isn’t coming into work today along with the 25 or so members of the kitchen staff. While Mendoza was born and raised in Chicago, his immigration story comes from his Mexican parents. His mother came to America when she was 16.
“Immigration affects all people, especially in the food industry—from picking the crops to serving the food on the plate,” Mendoza said. “We’re the backbone.”
Restaurants with workers and food from across the world are participating in today’s strike. Kabul House in suburban Skokie represents Afghanistan. Eataly Chicago made a Facebook post, referencing the importance of being a company born from Italian immigrants. Acadia will be also be closed on Thursday in the South Loop, as Ryan McCaskey—who hails from Saigon—made an impassioned statement. He’s even using the Rebels logo from the Star Wars movies, a symbol of resistance, as his avatar.
In solidarity with the many immigrants who've come to America searching for a better life, and opportunity, Acadia will...Posted by Ryan McCaskey on 15hb Februari 2017
Anslemo Ramírez, an immigrant from Mexico who worked with Bayless, has closed Ixcateco Grill for the day in Albany Park. Another member Bayless alum, Ernesto Gonzalez of Logan Square taqueria L’Patron, also will observe the strike with his family.
Chains are also affected. Nando’s Peri Peri, which has roots in South Africa, has kept its Chicago locations open, but they said publicly that they support their workers’ participations, which sounds like they’ll pay their employees if they miss work to protest.
It’s important to Mendoza to show America, particularly those who support President Trump’s policies, how valuable immigrants are to the country. While supporters of stiffer laws point to the need to curtail undocumented immigrants, all immigrants feel the accusatory glares.
“My mother’s never committed a crime, she’s never stolen anything. She’s now a citizen and she’s not the immigrant that Trump portrays everybody to be,” Mendoza said.
Here are other restaurants that are participating in the strike and will be closed for the day. If any other restaurants need to be added, let us know in the comments. Other protests are occurring all across the U.S.
- 5 Rabinitos
- La Vaca Margarita Bar
- Cesars Killer Margaritas (Wrigleville and Lakeview locations)
- La Parada
- La Catedral Cafe
- Vista Hermosa Restaurant
- La Quinta de los Reyes
- Revolucion Mexican Streakhouse
- El Mariachi Restaurant
- El Mariachi Tequila Bar
- La Peña Restaurant
- Paco’s Tacos
- Taqueria al Mezquite
- Rapidito Colombian Gourmet Bites
- Birrieria De La Torre
- Salsa and Chips
- May Street Cafe
- El Nuevo Mexicano
- Cafe Tola (California) (10 percent of sales at Southport will be donated to the Cesar Chavez Foundation. )
- The Handlebar
- Tacos Tequilas
- Blind Faith Cafe
- Azul 18
- Razpachos Neveria
- Doña Torta
- Townhouse Restaurant and Wine Bar
- Quesadilla La Reina Del Sur
- Mariscos El Kora
- Yuzu (closed for lunch)
- Tierra Caliente
- Las Quecas
- Los Comales
- Cescas Margaritas Bar
- Spoken Cafe (closed Friday)
- Alaska Paleteria Y Neveria
- La Quinta de los Reyes
- La Lagartija Taqueria
- The Grillroom Chophouse
- The Berghoff Cafe
- Roja Gusano (all four locations)
- Johnny’s Grill (Logan Square)
- Mezcaleria Las Flores
- Bistro Campagne
- Escencia Urban Kitchen
- The Rookery