Time Out Market Chicago has announced a reopening date — Thursday, June 17 — marking the first time the two-story food hall will be open since the state suspended indoor dining in late October due to COVID-19. The food hall’s new lineup consists of 11 vendors, a roster that includes returning restaurants Dos Urban Cantina, Arami, and Urbanbelly.
When Time Out Market debuted in 2019, it was a splashy affair with three bars and 18 restaurants that featured some of Chicago’s bigger culinary names like James Beard winner Abe Conlon, Band of Bohemia (at that time, America’s only Michelin-starred brewpub), and Brian Fisher of Michelin-starred Entente. Of that group, only Fisher remains; Fat Rice and Band of Bohemia both closed under controversial circumstances.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has left restaurant owners with several choices when it comes to pursuing auxiliary projects. Though chefs rave about the exposure Time Out could give their restaurants which would grow their customer base and brand, the pandemic has forced restaurant owners to rethink their strategies.
Chef John Manion of El Che Steakhouse and Bar has refocused his energy into launching a barbecue shop inside legendary suburban music venue FitzGerald’s. Hai Sous, the Vietnamese restaurant from Thai and Danielle Dang; Decent Beef from Kevin Hickey (Duck Inn); and a stall from Purple Pig chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. won’t return for various reasons. Even Fat Rice has quietly launched a delivery-only cocktail service as the Chicago Spirit, fueling speculation that a comeback in Logan Square is imminent.
Danielle Dang tells Eater they’ve decided to focus on their Pilsen restaurant, aiming to relaunch on June 17 with new dishes. They’ve also partnered with All Day Kitchens, a delivery-only company that works with several Chicago restaurants through ghost kitchens.
Time Out Market Chicago, which bears the same name as the media company responsible for the magazine, has also shifted its strategies after a year marked by a pandemic and the outcry that followed after George Floyd’s murder. The food hall’s original roster included zero Black-owned restaurants. For an operation that desired to curate the best of Chicago’s culinary scene under one roof, a one-stop shop for tourists who prefer to stay close to downtown with limited time to explore the city, this was a glaring omission. Wednesday’s announcement seemed to address that criticism as three out of Time Out’s six new vendors are Black-owned — Soul & Smoke barbecue and two Bronzeville stalwarts: Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream and Cleo’s Southern Cuisine.
“It’s a lot to take in,” says Soul & Smoke chef D’Andre Carter. “I grew up in inner-city Chicago on the South Side and I’m on the Time Out roster — that alone is huge for me.”
It’s been a huge year for Carter as he now has his Evanston restaurant, two Chicago ghost kitchens, and the Time Out stall. He says he’s teamed up with Salumi Chicago’s Greg Laketek on a special hot link with ‘nduja they’ll unveil exclusively at the food hall. For now, they’ll serve baby-back ribs and brisket. A Chicago original, rib tips, aren’t part of the opening menu. Carter doesn’t think the South Side specialty is too messy for posh Fulton Market.
“It’s coming, I’m getting to it — I have too many requests,” he says with a laugh.
Another newcomer is Pisolino, the Italian restaurant in Avondale. Chef and co-owner James De Marte says many of his delivery orders come from the West Loop, so opening nearby makes sense. Time Out gave him the option of offering delivery, but he opted out — he doesn’t have enough workers to keep up with demand. Although Time Out is holding a job fair Wednesday and Thursday, June 2 and 3, the labor situation has De Marte nervous. Still, he’s confident. Last year, he and co-owner Rachel De Marte converted their full-service restaurant into a retail market while still offering catering and lunchtime sandwiches. That saved the business, as James De Marte says that sales are now steadier than they were pre-pandemic. That shift afforded them the stability to pursue projects like Time Out. At the food hall, expect vegetarian and bolognese lasagna, arancini, meatballs, and a rotating slate of fresh pastas.
Time Out reached out to Pisolino in late March, and De Marte is thankful for the change in the food hall’s philosophy and commitment to being more inclusive. He says Chicago’s dining critics have a history of honing in on just a few well-known restaurants, and that excludes many independents: “Stop the crap — there’s too much good stuff out there,” he says. “There are people working really hard and they’re completely ignored.”
Coincidentally, Soul & Smoke was the first restaurant reviewed by new Tribune co-critic Nick Kindelsperger last month.
De Marte says he signed a one-year contract at the market. He’ll be joined by Mini Mott, which was part of the original lineup. The restaurant’s a burger-focused spin-off from the team at Wicker Park’s Mott St. Co-owner Vicki Kim says rents aren’t cheap in the West Loop and Fulton Market area, and having a stall gives Mini Mott a more affordable presence in those neighborhoods. She’s impressed with Time Out’s management, and was part of the hall’s small lineup that briefly returned in August. It takes a lot of energy and resources to reopen multiple times, Kim says. Some restaurant owners may have run out of resolve which would explain why some vendors chose not to return, she adds.
Kim says Time Out’s management has been understanding of pandemic pressures, and that helped retain them as tenants. “This is one of the biggest secrets to making sure your business is successful — to have a strong landlord relationship.”
Another notable change is a pizza swap. Art of Pizza’s deep-dish pies are out, replaced by Candlelite’s tavern-style crusts. Locals may cheer the deep-dish departure, but it also leaves a logistical question: how does a Chicago-style thin-crust vendor serve a food hall? Pizza by the slice would be complicated (a small, crispy triangular end piece is much different from a softer center square). When Lincoln Park tavern-style specialists Pat’s Pizza had a stall at Revival Food Hall in the Loop, they served pizza by the slab. Mini Mott’s Kim is fine with half pizzas: “We’re Chicago, we can handle it,” she says.
Time Out could potentially add more restaurants to its lineup. For now, a news release reminds the public that its three bars, including its rooftop spot, are reopening. Meanwhile, the area’s other food hall, Politan Row, remains quiet as the West Loop complex has remained closed since October.
Check out the full lineup below.
Time Out Chicago food hall, 916 W. Fulton Market, planned for a June 17 reopening.
*denotes a new addition.
- Bill Kim Ramen Shop*
- Brian Fisher
- Cleo’s Southern Cuisine*
- Dos Urban Cantina
- Mini Mott
- Shawn Michelle’s Ice Cream*
- Soul & Smoke*