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Chicago’s Record-Breaking Heatwave Forces Restaurants to Temporarily Close

Paulie Gee’s hit pause over safety concerns, but other operators keep the orders coming with chilly specials

A heatwave presents complications for Chicago hospitality.
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Temperatures in Chicago are smashing through heat records, roasting the city with “oppressive and dangerous” indexes that on Wednesday reached 116 degrees. It’s a sweltering, sticky state of affairs that presents obstacles and opportunities for local bars and restaurants amid the city’s busiest hospitality season.

As the previously uninitiated learned from Season 2 of The Bear, restaurants are constantly putting out (metaphorical) fires that have little to do with food: cranky gas lines, broken walk-in doors, and faulty HVAC systems all demand time and money, possibly derailing business for days at a time. Derrick Tung, owner of hit pizzerias Paulie Gee’s, had to make the difficult call on Wednesday to close his restaurant in Logan Square over concerns for the safety of his team. Tung tells Eater that Paulie Gee’s will remain closed on Thursday and they plan to reopen Friday.

“Well, we gave it a try,” Tung writes on Instagram. “Fixed the air conditioning unit in the back, brought down a water cooling unit to push more cold air, but between the electric ovens and the wood-fired ovens and the old building and AC systems, it’s just too hot.”

The forecast is milder this weekend when Tung will appear at Pizza City Fest at Salt Shed. Vendors will use mini-ovens to serve fresh and hot pies along the Chicago River on Saturday and Sunday. The temperatures not only pose a direct threat to vendors and customers but the heat and humidity also impact the preparation of pizza and the dough.

Pizza restaurants in particular seem susceptible to heat sensitivity — an understandable position, as some staff members can spend an entire shift in front of a roaring oven. Gallucci Pizzeria Napoletana, the Old Town spot from award-winning pizzaiolo Gianni Gallucci, also took a time out on Wednesday to “tackle the scorching heat and give [its] airflow a boost,” the team announced on Facebook.

Some operators, on the other hand, are seizing the heatwave as a way to tap into patrons’ patterns and keep the orders rolling in. Chicken wing favorite Badabing Wings in Uptown rolled out a one-day-only “HEATWAVE” discount code for pickup and delivery orders, with the aim of luring wing fans who want to eat in the comfort of their own air conditioning. Mod Indian haunt Superkhana International is following suit, tempting social scrollers with a photo of a glistening, ice-laden Chai Spirit cocktail (cold oat chai, amaro, cinnamon tequila) with a reminder that it is, indeed, “2 HOT 2 function!!”

Earlier this week, the forecast caused some scheduling shuffles. For example, Chaat Dog, a pop-up that serves South Asian-inspired hot dogs, decided to delay its two days at Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s Avondale patio. Instead of hosting pop-ups on Wednesday and Thursday, Chaat Dog is at Honey Butter on Friday and Saturday. The forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees on Friday.

Extreme heat can become dangerous, as Mayor Brandon Johnson mentioned Thursday on what used to be Twitter, asking locals to share water or a cool towel with the city’s sanitation workers. That same neighborly consideration also extends to hospitality, where patrons and colleagues should keep an eye on one another and make sure street vendors, outdoor service staff, and back-of-house workers are properly hydrated.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s ice cream and Italian stands are poised to have big sales. WBBM radio stopped by Mario’s Italian Ice in Little Italy to get the real scoop.

Superkhana International

3059 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-9028 Visit Website

Salt Shed

1357 N. Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL Visit Website

BadaBing Wings

4754 North Clark Street, , IL 60640 (773) 654-3912 Visit Website

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

3361 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (773) 478-4000 Visit Website

Paulie Gee's Logan Square

2451 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 360-1072 Visit Website

Gallucci Pizzeria Napoletana

1551 North Wells Street, , IL 60610 (312) 888-3993 Visit Website