Also: The state is still pondering stripping Tank Noodle of its $150K grant
For the first time, Chicago Restaurant Week has expanded to include some of the city’s top hotels. As part of a new campaign to draw guests and help boost finances of hotels hurting throughout the pandemic. The Chicago’s tourism arm has unveiled “Lunch Is On Us,” a promotion that runs from March 19 through April 4. Customers who book an overnight package will receive $50 in dining credits which amounts to a Restaurant Week lunch for two.
According to Choose Chicago, ten hotels have signed on to participate so far, including 1920s-era stalwart the Drake in Gold Coast and the Gwen on Michigan Avenue, which houses Mediterranean restaurant Kostali from acclaimed chef Carrie Nahabedian. Reservations are available online.
The city’s decision to rotate the campaign toward hotels underscores the damage COVID-19 has inflicted on all kinds hospitality businesses. Hotels have struggled through a year of canceled conventions, trade shows, and other events, resulting in enormous financial losses. That pattern will continue past the anniversary of Chicago’s stay-at-home order in March, as organizers have already canceled two food trade shows slated for McCormick Place due to safety concerns.
Many Chicagoans are already familiar with Restaurant Week, which will return this month with both dine-in and takeout menus for the first time. Around 250 restaurants are slated to participate with $25 brunches and lunches and $39 or $55 dinners.
In other news…
— The state continues its investigation into Tank Noodle, to determine if it will strip the Vietnamese restaurant of a $150,000 COVID-19 relief grant. The federal Labor Department claims Tank bilked 60 workers of nearly $700,000 in backpay. A rep for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity tells Eater Chicago that Tank has replied to its initial inquiry over the labor violations, but the state has yet to make a final determination if restaurant ownership violated the terms of its grant application. Stay tuned.
— Chicago hospitality workers can pick up a free meal on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) from local restaurants including Bixi Beer, Luella’s Southern Kitchen, and Emerald Isle, according to Block Club Chicago. The initiative is a partnership among restaurant owners and local hunger, mental health, and social justice groups Darkest Before Dawn, West Town Feeds, and A City United. Workers can pre-order their meal online.
— Organizers of annual neighborhood street festival Andersonville Midsommarfest have officially postponed the mid-June event until 2022, according to a rep. This is the second year without the event, dealing yet another blow to the food vendors and area restaurants that usually serve festival-goers.