Street scene

How ‘closed street’ pa­tio ar­eas are work­ing (or not) for some restau­rant own­ers

Chicago Sun-Times - - TASTE - BY ASHOK SELVAM AND NAOMI WAX­MAN Eater Chicago

Chicago of­fi­cials have por­trayed out­door din­ing as a pan­demic life­line for the city’s world-class din­ing scene. More than a month after the state shut down restau­rants, Mayor Lori Light­foot and Chicago of­fi­cials in­sti­tuted a plan to close down city streets to ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic. The Make Way pro­gram en­ables restau­rants to serve cus­tomers in the mid­dle of the street, in a pan­demic en­vi­ron­ment that’s safer ver­sus in­door din­ing.

So far eight streets are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram; Jarvis Street in Rogers Park joins the group start­ing this week­end, ac­cord­ing to Block Club Chicago.

The first, Broad­way Street in Lake­view, launched on June 12.

The city is work­ing with lo­cal cham­bers which in turn com­mu­ni­cate with restau­rant own­ers. A spokesper­son for the city’s Busi­ness

Af­fairs and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Depart­ment says they’ve been slammed with re­quests.

Mau­reen Martino, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lake­view East Cham­ber of Com­merce, says the Broad­way Street pi­lot pro­gram in June went well, but ef­forts to ar­range fol­lowup events on the same street were stymied by the lo­cal Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment com­man­der. After an ex­tended back-and­forth be­tween the cham­ber, po­lice, and the mayor’s of­fice, she now hopes to hold open streets din­ing on Broad­way on the week­end of July 31.

“We’ve been wait­ing anx­iously for weeks be­cause our com­man­der de­nied the per­mit for out­door din­ing for any­thing in the dis­trict,” Martino says. “I think he was in­un­dated with so many ap­pli­ca­tions com­ing in, and he had ques­tions about safety, but it’s been a frus­trat­ing process.”

Po­lice ap­proval is re­quired for a per­mit to set up open street din­ing, she says, but the depart­ment doesn’t pro­vide se­cu­rity or re­sources for the event it­self. The cham­ber, now re­spon­si­ble for cov­er­ing es­sen­tial com­po­nents like traf­fic bar­ri­ers and trash re­cep­ta­cles, is re­quir­ing restau­rants to pay into a fund to de­fray the costs of these ser­vices.

“We don’t even get a free bar­ri­cade, a garbage dump­ster — noth­ing,” Martino says. “Ev­ery­thing is paid for by us. Peo­ple think, ‘Oh it’s just clos­ing a street.’ We have to tell neigh­bors, set up bar­ri­cades, bring out ta­bles and get rentals. Not ev­ery­body has a lot of ta­bles and chairs they can just bring out of the restau­rant.”

So­raya Ren­don, owner of Mex­i­can restau­rant Chilam Balam, says she was sur­prised to hear that she’ll have to pay $300 to par­tic­i­pate in open street din­ing on Broad­way. De­spite the costs, she says Martino and the cham­ber’s sup­port is es­sen­tial for the sur­vival of her busi­ness, es­pe­cially as she’s wait­ing to hear back about a pa­tio per­mit she sub­mit­ted a month ago.

Ren­don and her team had a rocky pi­lot launch in June with din­ers who seemed to con­fuse open streets din­ing dur­ing a pan­demic with an out­door fes­ti­val; she de­scribes cus­tomers wan­der­ing around with drinks, con­gre­gat­ing in large groups, and oc­cu­py­ing ran­dom ta­bles without re­gard for staff or other pa­trons.

De­spite a dif­fi­cult first night, how­ever, Ren­don says days two and three of the ini­tial open streets run were “won­der­ful,” and she’s ex­cited to do it again. She also hopes cus­tomers will be re­spect­ful of the mask­ing and so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules her work­ers have to en­force. “We have rules for a rea­son and we’re just fol­low­ing them.”

Over in West Loop, the ser­vice roads along Ran­dolph Street are now closed ev­ery day for street din­ing. That gives Ran­dolph Restau­rant Row, one of the most pop­u­lar din­ing strips in the city, ad­di­tional seat­ing ca­pac­ity. Chicago has set a 25-per­cent limit on in­door din­ing ca­pac­ity.

Chicago restau­ran­teur Bren­dan Sodikoff has two restau­rants along Ran­dolph Street — Au Cheval and Maude’s Liquor Bar. While Au Cheval is open for pa­tio ser­vice, Maude’s re­mains closed. It’s not worth re­open­ing Maude’s for out­door din­ing, at least for the time be­ing, Sodikoff says.

“This is just the re­al­ity, no­body’s win­ning right now,” Sodikoff says. “If ev­ery­one’s will­ing to hurt a lit­tle bit, we’re go­ing to be OK.”

Else­where, the city hasn’t been able to im­ple­ment the pro­gram. The Chicago Cubs con­tinue ef­forts to close Clark Street in front of Wrigleyvil­le.

In Hyde Park, one restau­rant owner says she struck out with try­ing to get 53rd Street closed for din­ing. Chef and owner Lari­cia Chan­dler Baker, or “Chef Fab,” of the Hyde Park ve­gan and vege­tar­ian-friendly spot Can’t Be­lieve It’s Not Meat, says she would leap an op­por­tu­nity to set up open streets din­ing near her 53rd Street restau­rant. Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) was supportive of the idea, but the ma­jor­ity of busi­ness own­ers were con­cerned about the costs so they voted against the pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to Baker’s rep.

“It would be won­der­ful,” says Baker. “There are so many peo­ple we can’t fit on the

Join­ing re­tail­ers at­tempt­ing to con­trol the coro­n­avirus, McDon­ald’s said Friday it will re­quire in-store cus­tomers to wear face masks at all of its 14,000 re­tail­ers across the coun­try. But the Chicago-based com­pany won’t eject those who refuse to com­ply.

McDon­ald’s said the na­tion­wide mask man­date will take ef­fect Aug. 1.

Cus­tomers without a mask will be of­fered one. If they don’t ac­cept it, their or­der will be ex­pe­dited and they will be di­rected to a pickup lo­ca­tion safely dis­tant from oth­ers.

Or, in the words of a joint state­ment from McDon­ald’s USA Pres­i­dent Joe Er­linger and Mark Sale­bra, chair of the Na­tional Fran­chise Lead­er­ship Al­liance, “we’ll put in place ad­di­tional pro­ce­dures to take care of them in a friendly, ex­pe­dited way.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we will pro­vide train­ing for our restau­rant staff to en­sure they are pre­pared to ad­dress this new pol­icy in a friendly and pos­i­tive way.”

Star­bucks, Wal­mart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Publix, Bed Bath & Be­yond and Home De­pot are among the ma­jor re­tail­ers now re­quir­ing masks na­tion­wide. Tar­get, Old Navy and Banana Repub­lic also will start re­quir­ing masks Aug. 1.

The or­der does not apply to drive-thru ser­vice. Most Mc­Don­alds are open for driv­ethru, de­liv­er­ies and car­ry­outs, but with din­ing rooms that are closed.

The com­pany said it will pause re­open­ing din­ing rooms for the next 30 days and add pro­tec­tive pan­els to bet­ter sep­a­rate em­ploy­ees from cus­tomers and one an­other.

The new­est Chicago area Wahlburg­ers has ar­rived. The restau­rant com­pany’s sub­ur­ban Chicago lo­ca­tion at 825 S. Randall Road in St. Charles opened Tues­day.

The restau­rant will abide by all Illi­nois pan­demic re­open­ing guide­lines for safety amid the COVID-19 pan­demic in­clud­ing PPE for all em­ploy­ees, so­cially dis­tanced din­ing op­tions and hand san­i­tizer sta­tions through­out the lo­ca­tion.

“St. Charles holds a very spe­cial place in my heart,” said co-owner, New Kids on the Block mem­ber and ac­tor Don­nie Wahlberg via state­ment. Wahlberg and his wife, ac­tress Jenny Mc­Carthy, re­side in the western sub­urb. “Like so many in our in­dus­try, we’ve faced a lot of set­backs due to the im­pact of COVID-19, but we are de­ter­mined to de­liver on my prom­ise to bring a safe, ex­cit­ing and unique din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to the Fox Val­ley.”

The ground­break­ing for the the 5,000 square-foot ca­sual restau­rant and bar took place in 2019. In ad­di­tion to in­door din­ing, the new lo­ca­tion (a River North Wahlburg­ers lo­ca­tion is tem­po­rar­ily closed due to the pan­demic) also fea­tures out­door seat­ing and a new im­mer­sive “Happy Place” area, ac­cord­ing to com­pany state­ment. “The whim­si­cal and so­cial me­dia-friendly corner of the restau­rant will in­clude a fun-filled and fam­ily-ori­ented pop-up art ex­hibit for guests to pose in front of for pho­tos.”

The menu boasts loaded tater tot appetizers, clas­sic burg­ers and chicken sand­wiches, sal­ads, kids meals, sig­na­ture shakes and more. A full-ser­vice bar fea­tures cock­tails, wine and a va­ri­ety of beers in­clud­ing the sig­na­ture Wahlbrewsk­i pale ale.

Take­out and de­liv­ery are avail­able via the Wahlburg­ers app, Do­or­dash and Uber Eats, on­line at or by phone at (331) 235-5200. De­liv­ery is avail­able via part­ners Do­or­dash and Uber Eats.

Wa­ter­melon is a slice of Amer­i­cana, per­haps best en­joyed on a hot sum­mer day. Those cool­ing, thirst-quench­ing bites that lead to sweet juicy drips off the chin are a nos­tal­gic part of many child­hood mem­o­ries.

Wa­ter­melon orig­i­nated in Africa 5,000 years ago and was first cul­ti­vated in Egypt around 2,000 B.C., where it’s de­picted in hi­ero­glyph­ics and buried with kings to nour­ish them in the afterlife.

Many coun­tries grow this pop­u­lar fruit to­day, which is en­joyed com­pletely, from its flesh and seeds to its rind. Burst­ing with a di­verse set of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and phy­to­chem­i­cals — plant com­pounds with an­tiox­i­dant and dis­ease-fight­ing ben­e­fits — wa­ter­melon is not only de­li­cious, but healthy too!

A mem­ber of the Cu­cur­bitaceae fam­ily of plants — along with pump­kins, squash, cu­cum­bers and can­taloupes — wa­ter­melon (Citrul­lus lana­tus) grows on a flow­er­ing vine and is ac­tu­ally a berry, though it’s com­monly re­ferred to as a melon.

With more than 1,200 va­ri­eties, wa­ter­melon flesh may be red, pink, or­ange or yellow, and its rind might be striped or solid in vary­ing shades of green, not to men­tion a num­ber of shapes, sizes and seeded or not seeded.

Wa­ter­mel­ons are more than 90% water, and a one-cup serv­ing has a mere 46 calo­ries, yet pro­vides 18% DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calo­ries/ day) of vi­sion-pro­tect­ing vi­ta­min A and 21% DV of an­tiox­i­dant vi­ta­min C.

Wa­ter­melon is an ex­cel­lent source of ly­copene, the pow­er­ful an­tiox­i­dant plant com­pound as­so­ci­ated with health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing fight­ing can­cer, in­fer­til­ity, meta­bolic syn­drome and liver dam­age (Food & Func­tion, 2019).

Also rich in the amino acid, cit­rulline, which is linked to lower risk of blood pres­sure and Type 2 di­a­betes, wa­ter­melon has been shown to ben­e­fit in­di­vid­u­als with pre­hy­per­ten­sion and hy­per­ten­sion, as well as im­prove ex­er­cise per­for­mance in healthy young adults (Cur­rent Opin­ion in Clinical Nutri­tion and Meta­bolic Care, 2017).

Grown in warm climes world­wide, wa­ter­melon is avail­able year-round. The best wa­ter­melon will be heavy for its size, free from bruises, cuts or dents, and should have a creamy col­ored spot from ripen­ing on the ground. Once cut from the vine, it’s best eaten within three to four weeks.

Store un­cut wa­ter­melon in a cold place (50-60 de­grees), but not in the re­frig­er­a­tor. Once cut, re­frig­er­ate or freeze.

Wash the rind be­fore cut­ting into cubes, balls, or slices for use in sal­ads, sal­sas, juice, kabobs for the grill, or frozen into sum­mer­time pop­si­cles. For some­thing new, you might want to try roast­ing the seeds or pick­ling the rind.




Tom Zaken and his mom Shaylee Zaken en­joy brunch out­side The Bagel on North Broad­way in Lake View.


Pan­demic street din­ing in Chicago.


Chef Paul Wahlberg’s fa­mous burg­ers and more are on the menu at the newly opened Wahlburg­ers lo­ca­tion in St. Charles.


The fa­mous Wahlbrewsk­i beer is among the drink and cock­tails op­tions at Wahlburg­ers.


Burst­ing with a di­verse set of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, wa­ter­melon is de­li­cious and healthy.

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