As the year reaches a close, Eater Chicago reflects on the roller coast that was 2022. This year was quiet compared to the tribulations of 2020, as the hospitality industry finishes year two of the pandemic. Restaurant owners continue to sow the seeds for recovery, but there was neither an onslaught of openings nor closings. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Reminisce and check out Eater Chicago’s top 10 stories, excluding maps, of 2022.
Is the end of the Jewels? Chicago still doesn’t have answers as the parent of Mariano’s announced a deal to purchase Jewel-Osco, combining the city’s top two grocery chains into a mega-company with ramifications for the entire country. This would make the parent company, Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the country, or at least in shouting distance of Walmart’s 5,000 stores. As the deal needs federal approvals, Chicago wonders if Kroger will wipe out the Jewel name (colloquially called “da Jewels”) and if Kroger could close stores. Nothing is set in stone, so stay tuned.
This year’s Michelin list brought on four newcomers: Kasama (more on them later), Claudia, Esme, and Galit. It was a relatively calm year for the tire company which also subtracted four shuttered restaurants (Yugen, Entente, Spiaggia, and Acadia) to make room.
3) Chicagoans Poke ‘The Bear’ For Its Inaccurate Portrayal of River North as a Gritty Urban Neighborhood
There’s a real problem with how Chicago gets portrayed outside of Chicago and you can’t blame locals for developing a complex. Call it the “Emily in Paris Syndrome,” but movies, would-be political pundits — you name of — struggle with trying to put Chicago into a box. So when The Bear began streaming on Hulu, Chicagoans began to scrutinize the series, pointing out inaccuracies about neighborhoods and there was projecting. Everyone, even show creator Chris Storer, has a version of Chicago, and if a portrayal doesn’t match that version, city folk tend to get emotional. While some of the critiques of The Bear are bonafide, some of it was knee-jerk because they came from Hollywood, not the 312 or 773.
Diversity can mean many things, and it’s about perspective. For many Asians growing up in Chicago, their stories often get ignored. The fact is that the area has a vibrant Filipino population and they found a champion in Kasama. The cafe/tasting menu restaurant has won a plethora of awards, but when Michelin awarded Tim Flores and Genie Kwon’s restaurant a star, Kasama became the world’s only Michelin-starred Filipino restaurant. The designation meant a lot, especially for Flores, a Fil Am who grew up in Chicago. He wasn’t sure there was an audience for Filipino food. Kasama showed there is.
Tragedy struck in October after a 27-year-old woman died at Berlin, one of the city’s iconic LGTBQ nightclubs. The venue closed as police continued to investigate. The death resonated with LGTBQ community members who already possess safety concerns in a turbulent environment that has seen spikes in violent crimes perpetrated against them.
Though she’s largely moved to LA, Stephanie Izard has retained a strong fanbase in Chicago, and when news that Little Goat Diner was leaving Randolph Restaurant Row hit, those fans ate up the story. Little Goat, a collab with Boka Restaurant Group, is opening up in 2023 in Lakeview. Meanwhile, the West Loop space appears to be leaving the Boka family. There’s a rumor it will be converted to retail.
Pisolino was, perhaps, too good for its little space in Avondale. Chef James De Marte and business partner Rachel De Marte poured a lot of effort into their Italian restaurant, and when the pandemic struck in 2020, they were among the first to transform their dining room into a store. The market was stocked with gourmet goods from the chef’s favorite vendors. But all the pivots put a strain on the two. Chef De Marte puts blame on the community and elected officials for why the restaurant didn’t achieve the success he wanted. He hopes to bring back the restaurant in the suburbs.
As restaurants try to heal from the pandemic, Michelin tried a new gimmick to recognize some of Chicago’s newer venues. In 2022, Michelin pushed a new designation to complement its star and Bib Gourmand list. It’s unclear if “New Discoveries” will be back for 2023.
Harold’s Chicken Shack is a phenomenon. The fried chicken slathered with mild sauce is what many Black Chicagoans think of when they think of their city. Writer Shakeia Taylor spoke with several locals who shared their perspectives. Social media helped spread the story to other parts of the country and that excited several displaced Black Chicagoans who miss Chicago.
Part of Wheeling’s restaurant row, Bob Chinn’s Crab House thrilled Midwestern customers who yearned for seafood. Chinn died in May at age 99. A colorful character with flaws, Chinn grew up in Minnesota and was raised by Taiwanese immigrants. The restaurant will turn 40 on Christmas Eve and is still family-owned.