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Massive West Loop Patio Debuts As a Safe Haven From COVID-19

Surrounded by shipping containers, Recess management claims its patio is the largest in 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.

Recess’s outdoor patio in the West Loop looks like it was made to serve customers during a pandemic. The 14,500-square-foot space debuted Wednesday as patios across the city opened, allowing restaurants to serve customers on premises for the first time since mid-March. Surrounded like a children’s fortress with 30 shipping containers, the restaurant and bar has plenty of space to place tables within six feet of each other.

Management is touting the patio as the largest in Chicago. That fact isn’t readily verified, but it’s massive space with a center structure and covering that should keep customers dry from rain. Go up either of two flights of stairs on opposite sides of the venue to additional seating on the perimeter. There’s a unique view of the city that especially looks good during sunset.

The city and state are allowing some indoor dining, provided a window or wall can open up a wall by at least 50 percent. There are a few indoor tables at Recess which are kept eight feet away from garage door windows. This is a space that has the resources to actually adhere to the city’s and state’s novel coronavirus safety guidelines.

Shipping containers and a inflated blue person.
This was a parking lot.
Note the stencils that show customers where to stand.

Staff from Atomic Hospitality (Morgan Street Manufacturing, Untitled) carefully thought out ways to reduce customer and staff anxieties. Staff wear masks, there are stations full of hand sanitizer, and the venue’s name is stenciled on the sidewalk marking where customers could queue. Under the current social distance-friendly configuration — with tables wide apart — they can fit a little under 300 customers. The space’s standing capacity normally would be around 600.

“It’s no longer about spreading the disease, it’s about liability,” says Toula Georgakopoulos, Recess’s event sales manager.

Large-format cocktails are available in water coolers.

Recess is booked with reservations for the weekend. For now, it’ll serve a bar menu. It will eventually add entrees, says Atomic’s COO Joe Manna. An outdoor bar will be in operation over the weekend.

Recess is keeping the government theme; the space was originally named City Hall (the event space is still using the moniker). There was a cut-out of Mayor Lori Lightfoot that greets customers at the host stand. There’s also a large-format drink that comes in a menu water cooler. Servers leave the cooler on the table allowing customers to dispense their own beverages.

It leans on the idea of government workers hanging out around a water cooler and conversing. Drinks like “Rum Emanuel,” “Liquor License,” and the “Crony” are available in these mini-coolers. Manna says he was surprised how popular they are, given that customers at a table may all touch the dispenser. On the other hand, fewer visits from servers could cancel out those health concerns. Recess is also employing QR Codes so customers can use their phones to view menus.

Chicago doesn’t have a venue like this.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Recess’s crews started work on the outdoor portion last year, as the space — which is also used for private events — debuted in 2019. The 2021 private event slate looks robust as the pandemic wiped out this year’s pushing events. While that’s sad for many wedding parties, at least they won’t have to wait for weekend brunch. Recess will start service this weekend.

Recess, 838 W. Kinzie Street, open at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 11 am. on weekends; closing times dependent on city curfew. Reservations available online.

Wednesday was a beautiful night in Chicago.
A view from the perimeter seating above the main floor.
Artificial turf is a nice touch.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago


838 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60642 (312) 801-1181 Visit Website

City Hall

838 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60642 (312) 801-1181 Visit Website
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