The Walnut Room, the restaurant inside Macy’s on State Street, is making pandemic changes. The historic restaurant, famed for its enormous Christmas tree and chicken pot pie, will mark the return of Chicago’s LGBTQ Pride celebrations in June by hosting the first drag brunch in its 114-year history.
It’s another sign of change as restaurants emerge from the pandemic, with elected officials lifting capacity restrictions. Award-winning local queen Lucy Stoole will host the brunch, slated for 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 12. She’ll feature performances from Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestant Kylie Sonique Love, lauded drag king Tenderoni, and Minneapolis-based chef and queen Sasha Cassadine.
Chicago has a proud history of drag restaurants, including the 52-year-old Baton Show Lounge and the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club in Boystown. Drag restaurant chain Lips made its debut two years ago in South Loop, and Andersonville’s Hamburger Mary’s closed last November after nearly 15 years as a neighborhood pillar. Downtown Chicago has been lacking in the drag department, but perhaps the Walnut Room will help spark more performances in the district.
Patrons can bask in their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent all while dining on items from a Pride brunch menu. Options include a Queen Gouda of Fondue platter (chicken tenders, soft pretzels, beer-battered onion rings, and more with smoked gouda sauce), walnut challah French toast (walnut crumble, bacon, berries), and the restaurant’s iconic 1890 chicken pot pie. Tickets are available online.
The department store giant isn’t the only brand aiming to leverage inclusion this summer: Disney on Monday unveiled a rainbow mountain of Pride-themed merch. Meanwhile, more than 30 states are pushing legislation targeted at transgender youth that would deny them gender-affirming medical care and bar them from playing on sports teams.
Chicago’s annual Pride Parade and other festivities were canceled last year due to COVID-19, and organizers may end up pushing 2021 events until later in the summer, according to Block Club Chicago. Gay and lesbian bars across the country — many in dire straits before March 2020 — are barely hanging in light of the pandemic, and Pride celebrations are badly needed to keep these community gathering spots solvent.
And in other news...
— Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to further loosen pandemic restrictions on businesses, he announced Thursday. Next week, he’ll ease the state into the bridge phase, bumping indoor standing capacity to 30 percent and outdoor standing capacity to 50 percent in regions outside Chicago and Cook County. The state intends to fully reopen as soon as June 11. The Tribune has more details. Chicago, under its own regulations, will have to wait until July.
— Famed brewmaster Gregory Hall, the founder of Goose Island Brewing, is putting out his first new commercial beer in a decade: Virtue Cider’s Vestland, a lager inspired by kveik beer, the Norwegian farmhouse ales, he encountered in Scandinavia. Hall plans to introduce it first in Michigan (where he lives and brews) and Chicago before potentially expanding into other markets. Food & Wine has more on Hall’s exploits.
— Glenwood Sunday Market, the farmers market in Rogers Park, will reopen for its 12th season next month with vendors such as Phoenix Bean Tofu, pHlour Bakery, River Valley, and Katherine Anne Confections, according to a news release. Markets will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday from June 6 through October 24 at 1233-41 W. Pratt Boulevard. More information is available on the market’s website.