Elske, a Michelin-starred restaurant along Randolph Street in the trendy West Loop, has announced they’re temporarily closing until early 2021. David and Anna Posey had been offering a changing carryout menu during the pandemic, adapting to safety concerns as health experts warn the public away from indoor dining. The husband-and-wife team will offer patio service until Sunday, October 11 and carryouts until October 18 before taking “an extended winter break.”
The Poseys made the announcement Monday morning in the restaurant’s newsletter emailed to customers. Switching over to carryout was a change as Elske offered their spins on Scandinavian classics. Normally, customers seated in the dining room would be treated to a tasting menu. Elske is the just the latest Chicago restaurant to announce changes as winter approaches. While Elske is taking a break, restaurants like HaiSous in Pilsen and Jeong in West Town are opening their socially distant dining rooms to serve tasting menus.
Tasting menus allow less contact with servers; there’s little decision making with a set menu. That was the onus behind Curtis Duffy’s consolidation when he opened Ever in August in Fulton Market. Fans who knew Duffy from his old restaurant, Grace, raved about his two tasting menus: an omnivore and a plant-based option. At his new restaurant, while vegetarians can make substitutions, Ever only offers one menu. Duffy says it was a safety precaution designed to limit interactions.
Other Chicago food and drink establishments are opting to take a winter hiatus in light of the extraordinarily challenging season ahead: some vendors at West Loop food hall Chicago’s French Market plan to go into “partial hibernation.” Spots including French patisserie Vanille and Italian meatball shop Polpetti are slated to reopen March 1.
Restaurants who plan to fight it out through cold weather are trying to work with the few options they have. Summer street closures that have allowed customers to dine in extended patios will continue in some neighborhoods through December 31, with the possibility of an extension, according to the Tribune. Many who are trying to coordinate indoor service have found themselves reliant on high-tech gadgets like tabletop air purifiers, ultraviolet sterilization wands, and HVAC units with bipolar ionization technology to keep customers and staff safe. Formento’s, an Italian restaurant in West Loop, has touted its air filtration system.
The city should have some answers this week when Mayor Lori Lightfoot is slated to reveal the winners of the Winter Design Challenge. The contest asked the public to come up with solutions to help restaurants serve customers outdoors during the colder months. The city hopes to find cost-effective projects for restaurants which can sit dining rooms at 40-percent indoor capacity during the pandemic.