After eight years in Logan Square, Fat Rice, the pioneering restaurant that introduced many to the fused flavors of China and Portugal by way of Macau, will not reopen. Owners Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo told the New York Times they’re closing the restaurant “for the foreseeable future” to open Super Fat Rice Mart, a general store in the same space that will sell meal kits, groceries, and more.
COVID-19 has ravaged the restaurant world. Some dine-in restaurants have debuted carryout and delivery. The landscape has changed, and Lo and Conlon felt Fat needed to evolve to survive.
“As the galaxy shifts, so must we,” reads a message on Fat Rice’s website, accompanied by a digitized version of AC/DC’s Back in Black. Conlon told the Times that customers were bound to feel uncomfortable sitting next to each other at Fat Rice’s communal tables whenever state officials re-open dining rooms. (Dine-in restaurants have remained closed in Illinois since March 17.)
The meal kits will cost around $100, according to the Times. These kits are more substantial than previous efforts. Right after the state issued stay at home, Conlon and Lo began making meal kits for hospitality workers and anyone who lost a job due to the pandemic. Meals were sold with a pay-what-you-could model. Also, this isn’t the first time Fat Rice’s dining room has been converted to retail space. The restaurant holds annual holiday markets which sell items like hot sauces, wines, and snacks.
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Dear Fat Rice Friends and Family- Thank you for the love, support, and community over the past seven years. The Fat Rice adventure came to life through our amazing team members, guests, vendors, friends, and culinary comrades. We are grateful for the opportunity to have shared our creative vision through good food, with good people. In recent weeks, we have received an incredible outpouring of reach-outs, shout-outs, and check-ins: from "how can I help” to "...will I be able to get those EGG TARTS again?!” Thanks for the Love. We regret to say that, due to the current global crisis, Fat Rice has closed to the public for the foreseeable future. Please consider making a contribution to benefit the devoted and talented individuals who, until recently, worked all day, everyday, to make Fat Rice magical. (link in bio) Proceeds go to our former team members and toward the future of Fat Rice. You can keep with up our Community Kitchen relief efforts and all things Fat Rice @eatfatrice. To follow our quarantine adventures check out @fatricefam for cooking/baking tips, wellness, and other rad content. To The Adventure ahead, and future egg tarts : @michelinguide #TheAdventuresOfFatRice #michelin #bibgourmand #behindthebib #Chicago #toosmalltofail #restaurants #mystorywithmichelin #fundraiser #support #communitykitchen #fatricefam #socialdistancing #86thevirus #jamesbeardfoundation
Fat Rice, a member of the Eater Chicago 38, opened in 2012. The menu refused to be boxed in, as Conlon served peri-peri chicken for Portugal, citing that Macau was a former Portuguese colony. The giant Arroz Gordo looked like an over-stuffed paella with char siu linguica sausage, prawns, and curried chicken thighs. Dishes from China, Portugal, and India regularly rotated on the menu. The restaurant kept a playful vibe as bigger restaurant groups came to dominate the city’s dining scene. In 2016, Conlon and Lo opened a neighboring bakery and a cocktail bar, that showed Conlon and Lo’s growing ambition.
Fat Rice’s growing presence on Diversey led to other restaurants and bars (Superkhana International, Lost Lake, Cellar Door Provisions) to join them along Diversey, creating a bona fide dining strip. In 2018, Conlon won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes, an achievement that further legitimized him six years after he opened Fat Rice.
Last year, Fat Rice debuted a stall inside the massive Time Out Market Chicago in Fulton Market. Each stall signed a one-year contract at the food hall. It’s unclear how the pandemic and its subsequent closure will affect vendors.
Fat Rice is the biggest restaurant closure in Chicago due to the pandemic. There’s sure to be more. However, Fat Rice’s owners left the door open for the restaurant to return, but Lo tells the Times that she expects this upcoming arrangement will last “at least a year, and probably longer.”
Lo and Conlon weren’t immediately reached for comment.