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The brass tubes that transport coffee beans inside the world’s-largest Starbucks.

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Eater Chicago’s Most Read Stories of 2019

A look at the top restaurant news of the year

The world’s-largest Starbucks generated a lot of interest in 2019.
| Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

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.

1) Alinea’s owner invites Clemson team to dinner after Trump’s fast-food meal

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.

President Trump Hosts College Football Champion Clemson Tigers At White House
Donald Trump sparked Nick Kokonas to tweet.
Photo by Chris Kleponis - Pool/Getty Images

2) The world’s-largest Starbucks drew long lines on opening day

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.

3) Restaurant owner who bailed out R. Kelly faces social media firestorm

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.

4) Starbucks announces opening date for downtown flagship

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.

Large brass tubes filled with coffee beans and surrounded by a circular escalator.
The circular escalator at Starbucks in downtown Chicago.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

5) Lettuce Entertain You parts ways with a top chef

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.

6) New York’s Katz’s Deli announces Chicago pop-up

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.

7) The estate of Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia to open concert venue

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.

8) West Loop’s Kumiko named as one of Time’s “100 Greatest Places”

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.

A dining room with natural woods, candles on tables.
Kumiko was one of 2019’s best stories.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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.

11) Lincoln Park bar plans SpongeBob pop-up

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.

12) Hyde Park bar ruffles Trump and Cubs fans with rules

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.

A bar’s walls with a list of rules and plenty of photos.
These rules went viral from the Hyde.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Love On The Blu

12454 Western Ave, Blue Island, IL 60406 (708) 925-9904 Visit Website

Publican Quality Meats

825 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 445-8977 Visit Website


1723 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 Visit Website


4365 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60641 (773) 736-5226 Visit Website

The Hyde

5121 S. Harper Avenue, Chicago, IL Visit Website

RPM Steak

66 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60654 (312) 284-4990 Visit Website

Lettuce Entertain You

5419 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 878-7340


630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website
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