Chicago’s renowned dining scene is closer to its pre-pandemic self than ever before. As of May 14, the city’s restaurants and bars can operate at 75 percent capacity with at least six feet of space between tables, according to city guidelines. That’s welcome news for many in the hospitality industry who are hoping for a profitable summer after more than a year of pandemic struggles.
There are other changes too: the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that masks are no longer necessary for those fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have followed the CDC’s lead and lifted mask mandates, but stress that restaurant and bar owners have the right to require customers to wear face coverings inside their businesses. Diners should remember that not everyone is vaccinated, including young children.
The following are just some of the restaurants that have reopened their dining rooms, patios, and takeout windows. It will be updated periodically.
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Bucktown: Northern Thai restaurant Sweet Rice Asian Kitchen is open for takeout, indoor, and outdoor dining, in its new space near the Western Avenue Blue Line Station, according to an Instagram post. Founded in 2016 by the owners of Sticky Rice in Lincoln Square, Sweet Rice has relocated several times before landing its own location in the former Langhe Market. It’s also BYOB. Sweet Rice Bucktown, 1904 N. Western Avenue, Open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Chicago Riverwalk: Popular Nepalese snack shop Chiya Chai is slated on Monday to reopen its outpost along the Chicago Riverwalk, according to a rep. The original Logan Square cafe has developed a following with delectable chaat, savory pies and curry bowls, and arguably the best selection of South Asian chai in the city. Chiya Chai is also on the cusp of opening a new quick-serve location in the Loop. Chiya Chai, 66 E. Wacker Drive, Scheduled to open Monday, June 7.
Pulaski Park: Vaca’s Creamery, Chicago’s first all-vegan ice cream shop, debuted in late May with oat-based soft serve ice cream. Partners Mariana Marinho and Dylan Sutcliff, formerly of lauded vegan ice cream shop Sweet Ritual Austin, Texas, are featuring cups and cones of vanilla, chocolate, and swirl; sundaes like Inner Child (strawberry sauce, confetti cookie dough, rainbow sprinkles); and Handshakes (think Blizzards) with mix-ins including toasted mini marshmallows. Vaca’s Creamery, 1436 W. Blackhawk Street, Open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
West Town: Beauty Bar, the iconic nightclub closed by the pandemic for nearly 15 months, has reopened at long last, according to Block Club Chicago. Patrons shouldn’t expect the sweaty, crowded dance floor that once characterized the spot: Managing partner Rene Romero tells reporters they should instead anticipate being seated at tables, where they must remain while drinking. Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago Avenue, Open 7 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday through Friday; 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday.
Evanston: Found Kitchen, the elegant suburban spot with food from James Beard Award-winning chef Debbie Gold (Tied House), has reopened for dine-in service, according to a rep. Owner Amy Morton (daughter of Morton’s Steakhouse founder Arnie Morton) is also behind top-notch suburban steakhouse the Barn. Found Kitchen & Social House, 1631 Chicago Avenue in suburban Evanston, Open 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For a list of the 2021 winter/spring openings, click here.