As Chicago’s COVID-19 case rates continue to drop and city officials dangle the possibility of lifting mask and vaccine mandates by the end of the month, hospitals and health care workers may soon see some relief after nearly two years of pandemic turmoil. But even as hospitalization rates decline, city inspectors have uncovered a different problem for health care institutions: food safety.
Cafeterias and food vendors at nine Chicago hospitals failed inspections by the Chicago Department of Public Health in 2021, with two — Swedish Hospital and Holy Cross Hospital — failing four times, according to the Tribune. A city investigator in October 2021 reported multiple violations at Swedish Hospital, including flying insects and approximately 25 cockroaches in food preparation, storage, and dishwashing areas; Holy Cross was also cited for pest control issues multiple times.
City inspectors also cited several vendor establishments inside hospitals, including Protein Bar & Kitchen and Burrito Beach at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Panera Bread at Rush University Medical Center, for concerns over clusters of fruit flies, and in the case of Protein Bar, failing to have an on-site certified Chicago food service sanitation manager. Protein Bar’s director of operations told the Trib that the problem stemmed from staffing shortages — a problem familiar to hospitality operators in Chicago and across the country. All hospitals and vendors who were cited passed reinspections by the end of 2021.
The portrait painted by food inspection data published in the Chicago Data Portal stands in stark juxtaposition to the flood of support seen for frontline workers in early stages of the pandemic. Despite its own extreme challenges, Chicago’s bars and restaurants leapt into action, donating thousands of meals to hospitals and their employees across the city.
Ode on a Grecian restaurant wall
Two Chicago Greektown classic restaurants, Pegasus and Santorini, were both demolished this week to make way for new development, signifying changes to the neighborhood: many of its Greek residents have left for the suburbs and new Greek and “Mediterranean” restaurants have been opening in neighborhoods known for fine dining, such as Fulton Market or Logan Square. What remains of Pegasus is a mural painted just before the restaurant first opened in 1990 on a wall that it shared with the building next door. It depicts a village on a Greek island, perched above the Aegean Sea. “The mural stands out from the rubble, similar to how many of the beautiful temples and ancient architectural ruins still stood amongst the rubble after the many wars and empires took over the lands in Greece where those temples and ruins stood and still stand,” Ceasar Melidis, son of Pegasus’s owners, told the Sun-Times. Melidis used to work in the restaurant but has since moved to the suburbs.
McDonald’s joins the metaverse
Chicago-based McDonald’s filed at least 12 applications with the U.S. Patent Office earlier this month for “virtual food and beverage products” and “operating a virtual restaurant,” among other virtual things, including (you knew this was coming) NFTs, Crain’s reports. But these plans also appear to involve actual food, according to Food and Wine, delivered by actual delivery people to customers’ actual doors.
McDonald's is headed to the metaverse.— Josh Gerben (@JoshGerben) February 9, 2022
The company has filed 10 (TEN!) trademark applications indicating it plans to offer "a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods" and "operating a virtual restaurant featuring home delivery."#Mcdonalds #Metaverse pic.twitter.com/J9pK7EK9nl
Cunneen’s bar will continue without its longtime owner
Cunneen’s in Rogers Park lost its namesake and owner of nearly 50 years when Steve Cunneen died February 2. But the bar will continue to operate under the management of Belinda Colin-Cunneen, his wife; the couple first met when she worked for him as a bartender in the ’70s. “The bar has been a neighborhood staple for so many years,” Colin-Cunneen told Block Club. “I know it means a lot to so many people. I don’t want to close it down. I’m hoping I can keep it going for a couple more generations.”
Andersonville Restaurant Week, which actually lasts 10 days, begins today
Andersonville Restaurant Week begins today and lasts through next Sunday, February 27, according to a press release. More than a dozen neighborhood restaurants will offer special menus and deals during the 10-day festival, which is in its sixth year. New to the festivities this year are Boca Loca Cantina, Parson’s Chicken & Fish, and Tasting India.