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Lincoln Park Zoo’s Revamped Retractable Rooftop Restaurant Revives Rainforest Cafe Memories

Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill won’t require masks for the vaccinated

two Adirondack chairs, a giant Connect Four set, and a Foosball table
Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill has games to entertain kids.
Matt Reeves/Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill

The Rainforest Cafe may be gone, but its spirit lives on — sort of — at Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo has revamped and reopened its restaurant above its gift shop. At Bird’s Eye Bar & Grilll there may not be a herd of animatronic elephants, but there will be a prime view of the lions — once the lion house reopens in October.

The 6,000-square-foot space run by Levy Restaurants is intended as a refuge for families. Or, as Ubert Berum, the restaurant’s director of operations, puts it, “It gives parents a nice break. You need it after you spend a few hours at the zoo with kids calling the shots.” Accordingly, there are board games, Giant Jenga, and a foosball table for the kids, and beer and wine for the adults. The food menu is a family-friendly mix of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pizza slices. (And no, there are no punny names.) The restaurant, above the Wild Things! gift shop, is also available to rent out for events, and Levy can provide catering.

exterior of Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill
Bird’s Eye is perched above the gift shop.
Inside the Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill
The outdoor space is intended to be family friendly.

Because Bird’s Eye is outdoors — it has a retractable roof to protect diners from rain or too much sun — it won’t require face masks for vaccinated people, Berum says, although the staff will wear them. The zoo’s overall policy asks everyone who is “medically able” to wear masks, especially while indoors.

Bird’s Eye actually opened in 2019 as Cafe at Wild Things!, but it shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic. During that interval, Berum says, it was the quietest place at the zoo. He expects that to change dramatically. “I’m excited about the games and kids’ activities,” he says. “It’s very different than last year. I can see the kids having a good time and playing and their parents letting them be kids.”

Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill, 2200 N. Cannon Drive, Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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