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Chicagoans Respond to Chicagwa, Mayor Lightfoot’s Canned Water Gimmick

Also, now that the Orange Garden sign is sold, the 90-year-old Cantonese restaurant is on the block, too

A row of six cans with colorful labels.
“Chicagwa” is designed to highlight Chicago’s water infrastructure.
City of Chicago

Chicagoans are, shall we say, well acquainted with the concept of water. Lake Michigan is full of it, as is the Chicago River, and the stuff (hopefully) flows out of taps all over the city. But on Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a repackaging of the familiar substance, dubbed Chicagwa, as a limited run of canned Chicago water adorned with labels from a several local street artists. The canned water is part of an initiative designed to highlight the city’s water infrastructure, according to a rep, and starting Wednesday, it can be found (for free) at well-known restaurants and cafes including the Wiener’s Circle, Manny’s, and Dark Matter Coffee.

As the meteoric rise of Liquid Death — the distinctive tallboy cans of water that evolved from a gimmick to a full-fledged phenomenon — proves, there’s an audience for such a product. Chicago even has its own canned water company already: Open Water, a women-owned brand based in Bridgeport.

But Chicagoans are also well acquainted with the concept of snark, and reacted to Lightfoot’s initiative on social media in true local style. “At what point does the water falling from the sky become Chicagwa?” freelance journalist Robert Loerzel wondered on Twitter. “Moving here from New Orleans was a lateral move at least in the municipal shenanigans department,” a Chicago transplant tweeted.

Some, including Reader writer Leor Galil, opted for visual gags: Galil simply tweeted screenshot of a Simpson’s episode featuring Malk, a nutrition-free milk substitute served at Springfield Elementary School.

Others took the opportunity to point out Lightfoot’s record on water safety in Chicago. In September 2020, Lightfoot said that it was “way past time” to address the problem of lead service lines that contaminate tap water in the city, but as of late April — 19 months later — city crews had replaced only 74 of the approximately 400,000 service lines at issue, according to WTTW Chicago. “The cans are lead lined for authenticity,” traffic reporter Mike Pries deadpanned on Twitter.

Want to buy a classic Cantonese restaurant?

First the Ruan family, which has owned the Orange Garden since the ’80s, sold the iconic neon sign that has lit up Irving Park Road for the past 90 years. Now they’re selling the restaurant itself. Co-owner Julie Ruan told Block Club that the whole family has been working longer hours in recent years and that her father, who is in his 70s, wants to retire. The Ruans hope the buyer will keep the restaurant going; Julie Ruan didn’t mention if the sale would include the recipe for the Orange Garden’s famous handmade egg rolls.

Or a fine-dining spot in a penthouse?

Cité, the fine-dining restaurant perched at the top of Lake Point Tower, near Navy Pier, is also for sale, Crain’s reports. That sale, however, is being arranged not by the owner, Evangeline Gouletas, but by a bankruptcy trustee. Despite its spectacular views — Lake Point Tower is the only high-rise east of DuSable Lake Shore Drive and looks out on both the city skyline and the lake — Cité has been losing money and is $6.1 million in debt with $5 million in assets, according to a bankruptcy filing. Gouletas told Crain’s the sale was a “misunderstanding” and that she was working a deal out with her biggest creditor, but both the creditor and the bankruptcy trustee were unaware such a deal existed. There’s no asking price, and the buyer has the option of converting the restaurant into a penthouse condo.

Chicago and Kyiv brewers collaborate on a new Ukrainian golden ale

Midwest Coast Brewing on the Near West Side has teamed up with Varvar Brew in Kyiv, Ukraine, to produce a coriander-flavored Ukrainian golden ale that will start selling on May 15, Block Club reports. Plans for the collaboration were in the works before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February — Midwest Coast co-owner Suzie Compton was born in Odessa and immigrated to the U.S. as a child — but now the project has taken on a special urgency. Proceeds will be donated to two relief organizations, Come Back Alive and the Global Disaster Relief Team, and there will be a silent auction at the brew’s release party to raise more funds.

A Chicago chef goes to Disneyland

Carlos Gaytán, the owner and chef of Michelin Bib Gourmand honoree Tzuco, is moving from downtown Chicago to Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, where he’ll be creating what the Orange County Register describes as “an upscale, gourmet Mexican restaurant.” Among his new neighbors will be an outpost of Din Tai Fung, the celebrated international soup dumpling chain. Gaytán was the first chef of Mexican origin to preside over a Michelin-starred restaurant, Mexique, which closed in West Town in 2018.

Dark Matter Coffee

738 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60612 (773) 697-8472 Visit Website


720 North State Street, , IL 60654 (312) 374-8995 Visit Website

Orange Garden Restaurant

1942 West Irving Park Road, , IL 60613 (773) 525-7479 Visit Website


505 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 644-4050 Visit Website

Midwest Coast Brewing Company

2137 West Walnut Street, , IL 60612 (312) 361-1176 Visit Website