Longtime West Loop French restaurant La Sardine is permanently closed after nearly 22 years, adding yet another entry to an ever-growing list of Chicago establishments shuttered by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Partner and executive chef Oliver Poilevey announced the closure in an Instagram post Thursday.
A month ago, Poilevey thought he could keep the restaurant afloat despite the challenging circumstances, he told the Tribune. Though the restaurant at 111 N. Carpenter Street didn’t have space for outdoor dining, Poilevey and his team put their efforts into takeout meals and, when the mayor allowed it, limited indoor dining. But when the air conditioning broke, a fragile thread holding La Sardine together broke too.
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After much thought and negotiation, it breaks our heart to announce that after 22 years, we will be permanently closing. It has been a true blessing serving you all, and we are so honored that you chose to spend so many of your life’s special moments with us. Truly. We have seen the west loop change completely but we have tried to remain consistent, delicious, but most of all that old school place that knows your name and is excited to see you again! These philosophies were laid by our late founders, Jean-Claude and Susanne Poilevey. We were so blessed with the best staff past and present, too many to name everyone but you know who you are! You guys made this place special and you should be so proud. Covid is an extinction event for restaurants, so please support small family owned places like ours. If we all disappear we will be left with a city of soul-less chain restaurants. @bouchonchicago isn’t going anywhere so please come see us there! RIP La Sardine 1998-2020
Fixing the air conditioning would cost $80,000, Poilevey told the Trib. As a renter without any income from La Sardine, he spent a month negotiating with his landlord, who ultimately did not fix the system. Poilevey told reporters that he couldn’t rationalize spending that much money without a strategy for rent abatement in the fall, especially in light of the uncertainty regarding how long Chicago officials will allow indoor dining to continue. He informed Le Sardine’s staff, some of whom have worked at the restaurant for two decades, of the closure on Thursday. Poilevey also operates Bucktown restaurant Le Bouchon, which he believes will survive thanks to takeout operations and the fact that he owns the building.
La Sardine was founded by Poilevey’s parents, chef Jean-Claude and Susanne Poilevey, who died in 2016 and 2019, respectively. The restaurant’s closure is yet another confirmation of the tenuous reality now facing restaurants and bars in Chicago and across the country; even after more than two decades, something as simple as a broken air conditioner can mean the end of the line.
And in other news...
— South Side institution and essential Chicago establishment Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria celebrated its (belated) 100th anniversary Thursday with an outdoor gathering, a Blues Brothers tribute band and Bluesmobile car on a 40-foot stage, and — of course — its famous thin-crust tavern-style pizzas, according to the Trib. The occasion was delayed about six weeks due to the pandemic. Third-generation owner Rose Barraco George, 73 — daughter of Nick and granddaughter of Vito — shares more on the restaurant’s vibrant legacy with the Tribune.
— Representation and mentorship are key factors in the development and success of young chefs from underserved communities — especially Black chefs and other chefs of color. Chicago’s Hospitality Scholars Foundation (HSF) aims to provide just that, according to the Sun-Times. Chef and founder Nicola Copeland and activist-educator Dr. Brian J. Hill developed the organization to help participants circumvent industry structures that can lead to the exclusion of BIPOC chefs, instead fostering relationships and creating opportunities for work experience at spots like Lincoln Park breakfast destination Batter & Berries. There, chef Ken Polk says he gets to make sure students who share his background can access education and hone their skills. HSF alumni include chef Malik Waddy, currently of Chatham restaurant and event space the Woodlawn, who previously worked at popular West Town spot Soulé.
— Southern sweets pop-up Baye’s Little Bakery, a new project from Darnell Reed — chef and owner of essential Cajun restaurant Luella’s Southern Kitchen — is up and running inside his Lincoln Square establishment, Chicago reported. He’s featuring hearty delights like “the grunt,” a biscuit-topped fruit cobbler (blackberry compote, sweet potato biscuits, caramel, powdered sugar), fried cherry pie, pecan pralines, hummingbird cake (pineapple-banana- pecan cake, cream cheese frosting), and more. Customers must place orders in advance on the Luella’s website for in-store pickup.
— Pop-ups seem to be (tentatively) reemerging in Chicago for the first time since March, when the pandemic shutdown put a stop to the frequently nostalgic food and drink events that have seen great success in the city. Replay Lincoln Park, the arcade bar that’s also one of the city’s most prolific pop-up venues, launches its first outdoor pop-up Friday. The “Grand Re-Re-Opening” is themed after wildly popular animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, and $40 will net a choice of burger (cheeseburger or burger of the day — the first is “Sweet Home Avocado”), two themed cocktails or other boozy beverages, and a “Jellybean Schnapps” shot. Other burger-of-the-day options will include the “Poutine on the Ritz Burger,” the “Sweaty Palms Burger,” and the “Do the Brussel Burger.” The pop-up runs form 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, August 14 through Sunday, September 27. Tickets are available online via Ticketbud.
— The iconic Chicago Brauhaus, a Lincoln Square institution that closed in 2017 after 52 years, is slated to reopen in a new location next month thanks to the efforts of DANK Haus, the North Side’s active German-American cultural group, according to Block Club Chicago. The DANK Haus German American Cultural Center has raised more than $35,000, and the Brauhaus’s owners donated the original interior to the organization. Once complete, the space on the second floor of 4740 N. Western Avenue will be available for $50 private showings ahead of a grand opening, and those who donate $500 get to have their names engraved on barstools. In April, documentarian and former Brauhaus bartender Matt Richmond held a one-time viewing of Gemütlichkeit: A German-American Fairytale, a documentary that chronicles the last days of the beloved German restaurant and beer hall.
— Members of Chicago’s hospitality industry workforce will be able to apply for funding from the Illinois Restaurant Association and Huston-based nonprofit Southern Smoke, reps announced Thursday, according to the Trib. The IRF’s relief fund will offer one-time grants to Illinois restaurant workers to cover expenses including food, rent, and utilities, with priority given tho those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a caregiver for someone with the virus. Southern Smoke has established a $4 million emergency relief fund for industry employees in Cook County who have at least six months of experience at 30 hours per week and can show need via an application, which is now available online.
— A group of Chicago chefs are rallying Monday, August 17 at Cafe Marie-Jeanne in Humboldt Park to raise money for El Rescate, an organization that provides housing for young people (ages 18 to 24) who are homeless and members of the LGBTQ community (as well as any who’ve tested positive for HIV). The event’s called Taste Jam and it’s like a mini food hall. Cafe Marie-Jeanne chef Michael Simmons says El Rescate is one of the restaurant’s neighbors. They felt their work is important and they want to help the community. Simmons will team up with Hipolito Sanchez on a tribute to Chicago’s hot dog stands. Other participants are Superkhana International’s Yoshi Yamada and Zeeshan Shah, Jamel Jones, Hector Herrera Yepez (Barbaro), and ex-Cafe Marie-Jeanne GM Michelle Beck. The event is noon to 6 p.m. Monday at TK. Cash or Venmo accepted. It’s to-go only.
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This Monday August 17th we invite you to come hang with us for the first ever TASTE JAM!!! This event benefits el Rescate, a shelter for house-less LGBTQIA HIV positive people right here in Humboldt Park on Division street! Come to our socially distanced street food stall and take away delicious items from @lilgirlcrew , @zeeshanshah @72phonestrike @superkhana @jamelmjjones @finomcoffee @barbarotaq @hector.h.yepz @slowmotionformeat and @love_neversleeps !!! This Monday noon to six at 1001 n California! Watch here for more info!! WE NEEEEED YOUR HEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPPP!!! #tastejam