The service streets along Randolph Restaurant Row, near Halsted Street, have been closed on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays allowing restaurants to set up tables to serve more customers in a safer environment. Starting Friday, the city will now keep those service streets closed all week. It’s a win for West Loop restaurants who were forced to shut down during the start of the pandemic.
Randolph Street is home to popular restaurants like Rooh, Girl & the Goat, Bar Siena, and Leña Brava. It’s one of the trendiest dining districts in Chicago. Restaurants can serve customers inside dining rooms, but at 25-percent capacity. Patio dining is fine, as long as social distance rules are in place; tables need to be properly spaced out. The city has treaded carefully with its “Make Way” program, where it closes select streets across Chicago to allow restaurants to expand dining capacities. Little Italy, Gold Coast, and Chinatown are some of the participating neighborhoods.
The program hasn’t rolled out smoothly, which isn’t surprising considering it’s a pilot being tested out during a pandemic. Police in Lakeview raised concerns about closing Broadway Street. That program has taken a two-week hiatus and will return on July 24 weekend. Chicago Cubs’ ownership wished to close Clark Street in front of Wrigley Field, but the city has yet to grant the club approval. Business owners in Little Village rejected the plan, feeling it wouldn’t help. There was worry about street congestion and restricting access to shops, as reported by Block Club Chicago.
Neighborhood chambers officials serve as city liaisons to work with restaurant owners. Rod Burch, executive director of the West Central Association, writes that they’re excited about adding extra days. Restaurant can also stay open an hour longer; closing time is now 11 p.m. — 9 p.m. reservations were very popular, Burch writes.
“We’ve made some adjustments to the street closures to accommodate other businesses,” Burch adds. “Randolph is a great street to explore outside dining and see what we can do in the future. We should have a couple new restaurants coming out as well.”
In other news...
— A significant shift is underway at glitzy Gold Coast restaurant Somerset inside the Viceroy Chicago hotel. A spokesperson says chef Lee Wolen (Boka) and Boka Restaurant Group have left the property, transferring management to Viceroy Hotel Group and Chicago real estate company Convexity Properties. The restaurant, which featured familiar-yet-upscale dishes in a lavish space that aimed to evoke a late-1960s yacht club feel, debuted in 2017 along with opulent rooftop pool and bar Devereaux. Viceroy and Convexity has taken over management of the bar as well. The move is similar to the approach across the street when One Off Hospitality departed upscale Italian seafood spot Nico Osteria inside the Thompson Hotel. In 2018, the group withdrew from the restaurant and handed over the management reigns to the hotel.
— When beloved South Loop institution Manny’s Deli issued a call for help on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, Chicagoans came through in droves: Supporters have lined up around the building for enormous pastrami sandwiches, latkes, and more over the past few days, according to Block Club Chicago, and those who can’t show up in person are spreading the word on social media. These include former Obama campaign architect and senior advisor David Axelrod, who tweeted, “I’ve been going [to Manny’s] for forty years to clog my arteries and clear my head!”
— Israeli and Middle Eastern restaurant Galit, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel, is temporarily closed after a worker tested positive for COVID-19, according to an announcement on Instagram Thursday. The restaurant was previously offering carryout and delivery, as well as outdoor dining, called “Galit on the Street.” Ownership has not yet announced a reopening date. For context, Longman & Eagle closed for two weeks after a worker at the Logan Square restaurant tested positive. Alinea reopened Wednesday, five days after a dishwasher at its Fulton Market rooftop pop-up tested positive.
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Hello all, It has come to our attention that one of our team members has tested positive for COVID-19. As such, we are shutting down immediately to ensure the safety of our team. This team member has not come in contact with any guests and is fortunately feeling well. We will remain closed until we can provide a healthy work environment for our team and then our guests. We will keep you posted when we will resume with takeout/delivery and weekend outdoor service with Galit on the Street. In the meantime, our team is in quarantine and getting tested, and our space is being sanitized. Thank you for your understanding, wear a mask, and stay safe. Shalom y’all, Team Galit #staysafe #shalomyall
— South Side barbecue spot Uncle J’s BBQ is temporarily closed for repairs after a small fire, ownership wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “We are closed for repairs,” the post reads. “Everything and everyone is fine, our stack just caught a flame.” Owner Jimmie Hughes and pit master Brian Turner spoke with Eater in 2016 about Chicago’s barbecue culture and legacy. Uncle J’s is an essential barbecue restaurant.
— South Side spot Peach’s Restaurant from chef and restaurateur Cliff Rome (Rome’s Joy) has left the Currency Exchange Cafe on 55th Street in Washington Park, according to a rep. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, so many people have lost their spaces. We are excited to support emerging entrepreneurs and developing local talent in food service, music and design,” a news release announces. “Our new concept, Retreat, will be a place where creatives can begin to open up their practices again.” Rome took over operations at the coffee shop and restaurant, founded by the Rebuild Foundation, in 2018. Rebuild was founded by Chicago artist Theaster Gates in 2007 to help support cultural neighborhood redevelopment for underserved communities.
— Logan Square tiki bar Lost Lake will launch a fundraiser next weekend, “Schmears for Queers,” at 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 26 offering 300 of executive sous chef Dani Kaplan’s bagels and “Mo-mosas” (orange juice, sparkling wine) while supplies last. Bagels come as “the Standard” (sesame bagel, schmear of rainbow cream cheese) and “the Works” (sesame bagel, Nova lox, scallion cream cheese, tomato, red onion, capers). All proceeds will go to Affinity Community Services, a local Black and queer-focused social service non-profit. It’s the second fundraising event at Lost Lake since June, when Kaplan held a “Chick-Feel-Gay” pop-up with riffs on menu items from a notorious fast food chain that’s famous for its donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations. She featured a pickle-brined chicken breast sandwich with waffle fries and “Dyke’s Hard Lemonade,” and donated proceeds to Hyde Park’s Brave Space Alliance.