As Chicago’s 30-day stay-at-home advisory — announced last week by Mayor Lori Lightfoot — goes into effect Monday, some restaurant owners have made corresponding moves including temporary shut downs. Though the advisory permits patio dining, Boka Restaurant Group has decided to shut down outdoor dining but will continue offering curbside pickup and delivery. Meanwhile, esteemed Andersonville beer bar and restaurant Hopleaf, and trendy new Mediterranean spot Le Sud in Roscoe Village are closed completely for the time being.
With a COVID-19 positivity rate upward of 15 percent and the suspension on indoor dining, Lightfoot has advised Chicagoans to leave their houses only for essential activities: school, work, medical care, and grocery shopping or restaurant carryout. City officials have also limited gatherings to 10 people (both inside and outside) and are begging locals not to travel or hold Thanksgiving events with people outside their immediate household.
Following the mayor’s announcement, James Beard Award-winning Boka (Girl & the Goat, Momotaro, Cira) suspended outdoor service. A few of the group’s restaurants had patio seats, and some were previously using some of the Fulton Market outdoor dining pods that first appeared in October. Earlier in the fall, the group laid off about 275 workers due to the pandemic, and reported it could add at least 240 more in the winter. Workers tell Eater Chicago that shutting down patio dining is the right thing to do, but they feel powerless waiting for the federal government to deliver an industry-tailored aid package.
“In light of the Mayor’s most recent stay-at-home advisory, we have made the decision to pause all in-person dining (including outdoor dining) in our restaurants starting Monday, November 16th,” management wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “We look forward to welcoming you back soon to dine with us. In the meantime, stay well and stay safe, Chicago. We are counting on you to persevere.”
At Hopleaf, owner Michael Roper writes “...it is not prudent or wise for us to remain open,” while citing a back-of-house employee had tested positive, Lightfoot’s advisory, and the virus’ resurgence. His Facebook post adds “Until further notice, Hopleaf is closed. WE ARE NOT GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!! We will reopen when it is deemed safe to resume indoor service.” Roper chronicled the unique challenges his business faces during the pandemic for Eater Chicago in May. He told Block Club Chicago that Hopleaf can survive through April or May, but says after that he’ll need to either pull funds from his retirement savings or shut down the establishment forever.
Le Sud owner Sandy Chen announced a similar decision on social media: “We are sad to say that we have made the painful decision to temporarily close Le Sud to help stop the surge in the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” she wrote on Facebook on Friday, noting Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s assertion that while he doesn’t want to issue another stay-at-home mandate, he may feel obligated to should virus numbers continue to rise.
Temporary restaurant and bar closures over the winter have become increasingly commonplace in Chicago as the virus’ second wave has surged throughout the city. Michelin-starred Randolph Street restaurant Elske closed for the winter in mid-October, long before officials reestablished an indoor dining ban. Other popular local fixtures including Logan Square’s Longman & Eagle and Scofflaw have also temporarily closed their doors in recent days.
In other news...
— Ever, the newish fine dining palace from decorated chef Curtis Duffy (Grace) in Fulton Market, will take its show to Wisconsin later this month for one day only: Milwaukee residents can order two set meals ($55) and add-ons from Ever To Go via Tock for curbside pickup on Wednesday, November 25 at Hotel Madrid (600 S. 6th Street) in Walker’s Point. Meals options include slow-roasted pork belly or Swiss chard tart, both with harissa-spiced Brussels sprouts, butternut squash slaw, mascarpone grits; curried quinoa salad with golden raisins and apple; pretzel baguette with house butter; and cuatro leches cakes with Thai banana jam. Patrons can also order Thanksgiving-themed side dishes such as candied yams with marshmallows, green bean casserole, and white truffle macaroni and cheese.
— Pizza Lobo, the newish pizzeria from Heisler Hospitality (Sportsman’s Club) is teaming up with ABC Chicago’s Hungry Hound Steve Dolinsky — the author of Pizza City USA — to hold a fundraiser Sunday, November 22. They’ll sell a special pizza, Chicago-style squares — kind of a hybrid Detroit pan/Chicago deep-dish — to benefit Southern Smoke, the charity that’s established a relief fund for restaurant workers. Pizza’s $7 per square in four varieties: “Harlem Ave.” (mozzarella, Tempesta Market ’nduja and fennel sausage, giardiniera, hand-crushed Alta Cucina plum tomatoes, fresh basil, Pecorino Romano, hot honey), “Taylor Street” (mozzarella, hand-crushed Alta Cucina plum tomatoes, fresh basil, Pecorino Romano), “Gold Coast” (provolone, sautéed wild mushrooms, garlic, thyme, black pepper, Parmigiano-Reggiano), and “Pilsen” (provolone, griddled corn, cayenne, Pecorino Romano, cilantro, fresh lime).
— Danny Espinoza (Santa Maria Tamaleria) is trying something new to engage customers during the city’s suggested three-week shutdown. Espinoza has introducing DIY tamale kits. They include instructions on how to turn acorn husk, salsa verde and roja, plus premixed and seasoned masa into a tamale. Espinoza, a chef who is worked at Mexique and other Mexican restaurants, says this is his way of averting boredom. Place orders via a Google Doc.