Millennium Park, Willis Tower Attractions revamping restaurants for a post-pandemic future


As tourism in Chicago begins to rebound from closures linked to the 2020 pandemic and Michigan Avenue begins to replace its empty storefronts with new attractions like the Museum of Ice Cream, two major tourist spots – Millennium Park and Willis Tower – are planning additions to their restaurants. options in the form of new restaurants, cafes and markets.

Millennium Park, billed as the premier tourist attraction in the Midwest, will have several more food and beverage options next spring, thanks to a $ 2.5 million investment from Eleven North Hospitality. The group plans to renovate the 140-seat restaurant formerly known as Park Grill and add a Mexican cafe opposite the Bean Sculpture and a coffee bar operated by Momentum Coffee, a small South Side chain owned by Black. There will also be two kiosks, one offering take-out food and the other selling Chicago-themed memorabilia, according to a press release from the City of Chicago.

The Park Grill was previously managed by James Horan, owner of Blue Plate Catering, and Michael O’Malley, owner of Chicago Firehouse restaurant, who were, Sun-Times reports, backed by investors who had close ties to then-mayor Richard M. Daley. The two restaurateurs then spent several years under the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a legal battle with the city before reaching a settlement in 2016. Horan and O’Malley abandoned the Park Grill last year due to bills. legal and lost income due to COVID-19. Eleven North is directed by John Wrenn, who runs Theater on the Lake under a deal struck during the Emanuel administration when his wife, Eileen Mitchell, was the mayor’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, at Willis Tower, the Fifty / 50 group plans to open Kindling, a two-story restaurant with an outdoor patio. Kindling’s main focal point will be a wood-burning grill, where chefs will cook dishes like roast chicken, brisket, and halibut. There will also be an outdoor area with a lawn with additional seating, as well as artwork and lawn games.

Fifty / 50 and the Willis Tower leadership are positioning Kindling as an alternative to social distancing in the era of the pandemic. It is Catalog’s first full-service restaurant, the tower-based dining complex that also includes the Urbanspace Food Hall’s second Chicago location. Urbanspace is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2022 and Kindling is running by the end of 2022.

Fifty / 50 co-owner Scott Weiner said he started work on the project a year ago after Willis management invested $ 70 million in the refurbishment of the SkyDeck which reopened this spring, part of the $ 500 million in comprehensive building renovations. Weiner says the tower is “still one of Chicago’s busiest workplaces,” even without all offices requiring employees to show up for work.

“Noticing that there is no happy hour or full-service venues in the building – and that it’s so close to Union Station – we felt good to be there,” Weiner said, adding, “As we open up, we think the pandemic will be well behind us and that certainly didn’t slow tourism to Chicago last summer.”

Data for August released by Chicago’s tourism arm, Choose Chicago, would agree with Weiner’s claims. The numbers showed hotel occupancy rates to rise with a Choose Chicago promotional campaign generating $ 79 million in hotel revenue from May 1 to August 22.

A branch of Foxtrot Market will also be moving to Willis Tower, where it will join the catalog selection of food options, which already includes Rick Bayless tortazo, Lettuce Entertain You Sushi-san, Sweetgreen, Shake Shack, Do-Rite. Donuts & Chicken, and Brown Bag Seafood Co.

Restaurants at Millennium Park, 11 N. Michigan Avenue, scheduled to open in the spring.

Kindling, inside Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive, scheduled to open in late 2022.

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