Cheeseburger in Paradise, a burger joint inspired by the classic Jimmy Buffett song, has a new Chicago location as a ghost kitchen inside the Kitchen United Mix in River North. Unlike Margaritaville at Navy Pier, which provides an immersive experience for Parrotheads, Cheeseburger in Paradise will be delivery-only — but maybe that’s enough to remind office workers that it’s five o’clock somewhere.
According to legend, the original song was inspired by a perilous boat journey undertaken by Buffett and his crew. After days on choppy seas, subsisting on peanut butter and canned food, they yearned for cheeseburgers. And when they straggled into the island of Tortola, they beheld on the marina an American-style snack bar with, yes, cheeseburgers. Buffet isn’t involved in the operation of the chain, but receives royal for the use of his song.
True to its name, the Cheeseburger in Paradise menu is heavy on the cheeseburgers: there are four, following the general Big Mac model of lettuce, tomato, and special sauce with the option to add sriracha or bacon. There are also two chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, onion rings, and potato wedges, but, alas, no frozen concoctions to help you hang on.
This is just another outpost in Buffett’s far-flung hospitality and lifestyle empire, which already includes 60 restaurants, 20 hotels, and an untold number of people driven insane by the chorus to “Margaritaville” looping through their heads.
And in other news...
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed Ruby Ferguson as Chicago’s first food equity policy lead to helm her administration’s Food Equity Agenda, a multi-pronged project that aims to address the city’s growing hunger crisis. Ferguson, an employee of the Greater Chicago Food Depository who will also report to Lightfoot’s policy office, is tasked with priorities including helping food entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) access capital, promoting expansion at food pantries, and making it easier for Chicagoans to grow their own produce. The Sun-Times has more.
— Former WBEZ reporter Monica Eng has announced her next move. Eng — a longtime contributor to NPR’s Chicago outlet — has jumped to Axios. The four-year old digital news publication is looking to expand its local coverage. For its new Chicago bureau, Eng is joined by former WGN host Justin Kaufmann, as announced Monday morning by Chicago media reporter Robert Feder. Eng, a fixture of Chicago’s landscape with the Tribune, Sun-Times, and — most recently — an eight-year stint with WBEZ, has covered a variety of topics from food news to health and public policy. Eng tells Eater Chicago that she plans “to include newsy and delicious food items in the newsletter at least once a week, probably more.” She adds “of course there’s always news to cover (or to highlight if I get scooped) but I’ll also be looking for wonderful things to taste in Chicago that tell a great story about our city.” Eng says they hope to launch the Chicago newsletter by October. Folks can sign up for the newsletter on Axios’s website.
— James Beard Award-winning chef Mike Solomonov (Zahav, Merkaz) of Philadelphia has launched his new collaboration with Chicago-based food retailer Farmer’s Fridge, the company known for its vending machines stocked with fresh salads. The limited-edition item — a shawarma-spiced cauliflower salad (roasted poblano, onion, cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, pickled golden raisins) — is available for delivery (place orders online) and some proceeds will go to Philly-based non-profit Broad Street Ministry, according to a rep. Farmer’s Fridge has previously collaborated with decorated chefs like Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo), Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat), and Bill Kim (Urbanbelly).
— Last week, Business Insider published an explosive report on Chicago-based Grubhub, a company with strong city ties. Though the pandemic was a boon for many food delivery brands, the former third-party delivery giant has taken a serious hit and now trails competitors like Uber Eats and DoorDash with just 16 percent of the market. Former Grubhub employees tell reporters that the business lacked the venture capital and “superior” technology seen at competing companies, and a recent merger with European brand Just Eat Takeaway has not inspired investors.
— Jessica Oloroso, owner of Chicago’s popular Black Dog Gelato, will compete among six contestants on Food Network’s new ice cream competition series Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones, according to a news release. Oloroso, who previously worked as pastry chef for Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard’s now-shuttered restaurant Scylla in Bucktown, operates shops in Ukrainian Village, West Loop, and Logan Square. The series is slated to premiere Monday, August 16 on Food Network.