The headlines made in 2019 by Chicago’s restaurant industry crossed borders. Japanese restaurants dominated this year’s list of Michelin-starred restaurants. South Asian restaurants made a huge splash with several large openings. And Starbucks unveiled a fancy new flagship on Michigan Avenue. As Chicago embarks on a new decade, check out the most read stories of 2019, excluding dining guides, maps, and lists. If readers want to take a look back on 2018, check out the year before’s most read stories here.
Nick Kokonas knows how to grab attention, and President Donald Trump offered the co-owner of Alinea Group a chance to soak up more spotlights. When Trump in January ordered a fast food feast for the NCAA national champion Clemson University football team for their White House visit, Kokonas capitalized. He countered by tweeting an invitation to players to dine at Chicago’s priciest restaurant. Kokonas felt a championship deserves a Michelin-starred celebration instead of a combo meal. Sports fans across the country began Googling “Alinea” and Trump’s supporters defended the president. Alinea reveled in the publicity.
Starbucks opened its largest store in November on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile and superfans were ready. Opening day lines were more than 1,000-people deep on the sidewalks. The five-floor coffee wonderland serves booze, pizza, and has a unique curved escalator.
The woman who in February bailed out jailed R&B star R. Kelly, Valencia Love, owns a near south suburban restaurant called Love on the Blu. When the public discovered her identity, they began flooding the restaurant’s Yelp page with negative reviews questioning why she paid Kelly’s $100,000 bond. Kelly, a Chicagoan, has faced a myriad of sexual misconduct allegations through the years in different jurisdictions.
Despite Chicago being the home of several great coffee roasters, Starbucks is an international phenomenon. In September, when the Seattle company announced the opening date of its world’s-largest coffee shop, devotees took notice.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is Chicago’s largest restaurant company and one of the country’s most respected. In November, the company quietly parted ways with one of its biggest names, Doug Psaltis. The chef was in charge of Lettuce’s RPM restaurants, including RPM Seafood, the restaurant opening in January along the Chicago River. While Lettuce didn’t divulge the reason behind the move, sources close to the company said it was due to a physical confrontation between Psaltis and a worker at RPM Steak.
New York’s Katz’s Deli has a special place in American pop culture history, and fans of pastrami were excited when Katz’s announced a delivery-only four-day pop-up in August. The company used Publican Quality Meats in Fulton Markets as its base of operations. The pop-up drew intense demand, and supplies only lasted a day.
This one’s been rumored for years, but in May concert promoter Peter Shapiro finally confirmed his plans to open a concert venue in West Loop. The spot will be called Garcia’s, and will serve food and drink. The Dead’s always held a soft spot for Chicago, so jam band fans were ecstatic. Work hasn’t started, but Shapiro was hoping to open in early 2020.
Chicagoans know Kumiko, powered by Julia Momose’s inventive cocktails, and a menu from Mariya Russell (the first black woman to lead the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant). A Time magazine mention shined a national spotlight on the Japanese-inspired bar and restaurant.
9) and 10) A food and drink guide to the world’s-largest Starbucks and The world’s-largest Starbucks is open
For better or worse, this is the list’s fourth and fifth mention involving Starbucks. Check out the break down of the coffee shop’s five floors. Starbucks worked hard to bring in local talent, including drinks from the aforementioned Momose and other local bartenders and chocolate from Uzma Sharif. Read about barrel-aged coffee, pizza, and more.
Will 2020 mean more pop-ups? Replay, an arcade bar in Lincoln Park, has pretty much turned into a pop-up venue surrounded by vintage video games. Its most-read inspiration came from SpongeBob SquarePants. Like most Chicago pop-ups, this one was unauthorized by the creators of said inspiration. That lends conflicted feelings of rooting for that DIY ethic combined with questions about who owns the intellectual property.
During a January shoot, Eater Chicago photographer Barry Brecheisen noticed something peculiar at the Hyde, a new speakeasy-style bar in Hyde Park. It was a set of rules (which the owner called a joke, not a real ban) which called for “No Cubs fans” and “No Trump Supporters.” Brecheisen snapped the photo, and the post went viral. The Cubs/White Sox divide and President Trump are two of the most polarizing concerns for Chicagoans.