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Cross-Pollination of Hospitality and Legal Weed Amps Up in Chicago

Plus, a Native American chef is raising funds for a permanent Indigenous restaurant

A corner building decorated with giant mushrooms and a sign that reads “Rainforest Cafe.”
A purple haze is descending on River North.

CORRECTION: Phil Stefani is not an owner of Green Rose Advisors. He’s part of a group, GRI Holdings, which is using the Green Rose branding in River North. A spokesperson contacted Eater with the clarification. Amended story follows.

Nearly three years after Illinois officials legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana in the state, Chicago is seeing an increase in cross-pollination between Chicago’s hospitality industry and its burgeoning dispensary scene.

Well-known local restaurateur Phil Stefani is the latest hospitality leader to embrace the purple haze. Known for prominent venues including Bar Cargo and Stefani Prime, as well as recently closed 24-year-old icon Tavern on Rush, Stefani is part of a group of owners behind GRI Holdings. They’re opening a retail location in the former Carson’s Ribs at 612 N. Wells Street in River North. The pot shop is among the first of Chicago’s 185 newly licensed dispensaries slated to open in the city, according to Crain’s. They’re using the Green Rose brand in their operation.

There’s also an update on the status of a would-be dispensary just blocks away at 605 N. Clark Street in the notorious former home of jungle-themed chain restaurant Rainforest Cafe. In November, Progressive Treatment Solutions (PTS), a company that runs a suburban growing operation and dispensaries, won approval from the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals to move forward with plans to open in the hilariously appropriate location (the cafe’s faded facade features enormous plaster mushrooms) after multiple starts and stops. The company plans to spend $7 million to $10 million on renovations, according to the Sun-Times.

Another project worth noting is in West Town from the owners of Fifty/50 Restaurant Group and former 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar. Located next to the group’s West Town Bakery, 1914 W. Chicago Avenue, Fifty/50’s Scott Weiner hopes to open in March under the name Okay Cannabis. Fifty/50 is also planning to open a dispensary in early January attatched to a new West Town Bakery in suburban Wheeling. A third dispensary should also open this summer in the suburbs.

An Indigenous chef is raising funds for a permanent restaurant featuring Native American cuisine

A rare Chicago-based Native American executive chef is raising funds to transform her pop-up into a food truck and permanent restaurant, according to Block Club Chicago. Jessica Paemonekot, a member of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, known as Chef Walks First, offered her popular tamales, pulled bison, and more out of Ketapanen Kitchen inside the Field Museum in November to mark Native American and Indigenous Heritage Month. Heartened by the interest in her community’s cuisine, she aims to raise $15,000 on GoFundMe to support her future Indigenous culinary and educational endeavors.

Paemonekot speaks about a lack of Native representation in Chicago’s culinary scene, a city that proudly uses Native imagery for its hockey team. Outside of Chicago, it’s a different matter. Last year, the Tribune pondered why the culture lacks opportunities while also sending critic Louisa Chu to Minnesota to explore Owamni by The Sioux Chef, a critically acclaimed restaurant.

Japanese-style soft serve spot Kurimu pops up with a Peanuts partnership

A hand holds up two cups of soft serve ice cream decorated with Snoopy-shaped cookies.
Oh, brother.
Ming Ng

It’s starting to look a lot like A Charlie Brown Christmas at Kurimu, the Japanese-style ice cream mini-chain with locations in Wicker Park, Little Italy, and suburban Schaumburg. Inspired by his sister’s love for Snoopy and all things Peanuts, owner Ming Ng is continuing his run of pop-up collaborations featuring famous characters following a popular Care Bears takeover in May. Fans can expect plenty of cross-branded treats, decor, and merchandise — an approach that Ng plans to expand upon in future collaborations. The Peanuts pop-up will run through the end of March 2023 in Kurimu’s Chicago outposts, but the suburban shop will indulge in Snoopy mania for a full year.

Rainforest Cafe

306 South Avenue, , MN 55425 (952) 854-7500 Visit Website


1159 West Taylor Street, , IL 60607 (312) 877-5227 Visit Website