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Chicago’s Restaurant Experts Air Their Pandemic Grievances

“Maskless assholes” and restaurants that ignored safety rules and continues to serve customers indoors were popular answers

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A restaurant worker wearing a mask taking an order through plexiglas.
Mask-less customers who disrespected restaurant workers rank high on this year’s grievances.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s restaurant writers dish on their biggest surprises of 2020 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.

Audarshia Townsend, WGN Morning News, Esquire contributor: It was a year of reckoning after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a racist police officer. And with everyone locked down because of the pandemic, it was an opportunity for people to really dig deeper into social justice issues. FINALLY, marginalized groups — particularly those in the Black community — had a chance for the spotlight. My grievance? Black food writers such as myself as well as Black chefs and restaurateurs have been pushing for our culinary stories to get noticed for more than 25 years in Chicago. It took the death of a Black man in Minneapolis for people to finally pay attention. This current scene of Black food folks being “on trend” had better not be performative.

Mike Sula, Chicago Reader: Maskless assholes

Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago: My biggest dining grievance is the fact that my favorite restaurants may not make it through the winter. Takeout and delivery alone won’t save the places we love — the industry is in dire need of federal aid.

Dennis Lee, the Takeout, Food is Stupid: I have zero dining grievances in regards to restaurants. I do, however, have grievances towards customers who treated, and still treat restaurant staff, like shit. It wasn’t acceptable pre-pandemic, and it’s doubly unacceptable now. I can’t believe the types of customers who came out of the woodwork to act like pieces of garbage. Yes, the hospitality industry is here to make you feel good, feed you, and take care of you, but equating that with servitude is beyond comprehension.

Titus Ruscitti, ChiBBQKing: Ghost kitchens being built for restaurant start-ups only to get taken over by the Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-As. The rent on some of these kitchens in dark rooms with no windows and no chance of social interactions with customers is outrageous.

Aaron Oliver, Seasoned and Blessed: People not being patient with restaurants


Restaurants openly defying the governor’s orders

Michael Gebert, Fooditor: I have no grievances. I forgive all mistakes in my takeout orders, I tipped 25 or 30 percent almost everywhere, I feel for all you good people making food happen and I pray you stay safe and healthy.

As 2020 threw the world a curveball, Eater Chicago this year has expanded its end-of-year panel to include other members of the city’s media.

Natalie Moore, WBEZ: Third-party delivery companies taking too much from restaurants.

Janice Scurio, Sports Illustrated and South Side Sox: This one is admittedly silly and I completely understand why this has to be done, but cocktails-to-go in plastic bottles. I mean, I get it. But. Still.

Sarah Spain, ESPN: Bummed about all the plastic containers required by so much to-go & delivery. Wish more restaurants would use cardboard or aluminum.

Frustrated by the restaurants and patrons who selfishly ignored laws and protocols.

Chicago Party Aunt, @ChiPartyAunt: Not enough 4 a.m. liquor licenses.

Exavier Pope, Forbes, the Athletic, Al Jazeera English: Restaurants that didn’t operate safely or didn’t have adequate seating outdoors.