Memorial Day serves as a time to honor members of the US military who died while serving with parades, speeches and other ceremonies.
But the otherwise summer occasion also marks the unofficial start of summer. That means you’ll find a wide mix of celebrations throughout the Chicago area, from bars and restaurants offering red, white and blue food and drink specials, to barbecue fundraisers for veterans organizations.
If you prefer to gather with some friends in your own backyard, you can pick up all the food you need to grill along with sides and drinks. These 18 spots will help you make the most of the long weekend.
Enjoy the weather at Millennium Park, and then head across the street for summery and patriotic specials including boozy blood orange Italian ice made with blood orange cordial, amaro and raspberries ($14); and a red, white and blue panna cotta featuring strawberry, sweet cream, braised blueberries and mint. 18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763, acantochicago.com
Dress all in white for Nights in Mykonos, a rooftop bash at 7 pm Saturday featuring a silent disco, a magic show, a photo booth and the chance to win a trip to Greece. Tickets are $80. 180 N. Field Blvd., 312-600-9997, avli.us
Buy one Planta smoothie and you’ll get one free at the River North food hall Friday through Monday. 840 N. Orleans St., 312-835-7787, thecafeteriachicago.com
A Flor de Luna cocktail served throughout the weekend made with mezcal, tequila and hibiscus-pomegranate seltzer provides the perfect drink to enjoy on the Wicker Park restaurant’s patio. 2211 W. North Ave., 773-799-8650, cebuchicago.com
The River West spot is usually closed on Mondays, but it’ll be open from 11 am to 6 pm Memorial Day serving a limited menu with specials including $8 grilled elotes, a $30 hot plate with chipotle baby back ribs, a cheddar brat, mango habanero chicken wings, cornbread and pickles, and a $13 All American Strawberry Pie served with pistachio ice cream. 730 W. Grand Ave., 312-243-8955, the-dawson.com
The Ravenswood breweries’ sixth annual Mayfestiversary street festival, which runs from noon to 10 pm Saturday and noon to 9 pm Sunday, features special tappings of beers including Dovetail’s Maibock golden lager and Begyle’s previously unreleased barrel-aged stout. The bash also features live music, DJs and food from eight vendors including Bulldog Bakery and El Zorro Tacos. Suggested donation of $5 benefits The Friendship Center food pantry. Ravenswood Avenue from Warner to Cuyler avenues, begylebrewing.com; dovetailbrewery.com
Chill out with a Rosé Cobbler cocktail made with cantaloupe aperitif and lime ($14) paired with a Maine lobster roll featuring heirloom tomato, crispy bacon and dill creme fraiche ($30). Finish your meal on a sweet note with a strawberry and rhubarb tart with ginger oatmeal crumble ($13). 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243, thegagechicago.com
Donate $10 to the Wounded Warrior Project and you’ll get access to all-you-can-eat hamburgers, cheeseburgers, beer brats, chips, coleslaw and refried beans at the Wrigleyville bar from noon to 6 pm Sunday. Order a 22-ounce stein of Empirical Local’s Lager for $8, and half the price will be given to the nonprofit. 3441 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-666-5450, graystonetavernchicago.com
Get ready to fire up the grill by picking up a $63 Chicago-style hot dog meal kit, including locally made celery salt, sweet relish, sports peppers, garlic dill pickles and the Original Chicago Sauce, which combines all seven of the toppings used in a Chicago dog. Curbside pickup is available through Friday. 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Ste. 575; 312-380-9789; hereheremarket.com
Feast on three pounds of crawfish, corn and potatoes for $39 from noon-3 pm Monday while sipping $12 hurricanes and $9 palomas. The bash also features live music. 1415 N. Wood St., 773-360-8320, inamaetavern.com
The bar is closed Monday, but you can stop in Friday through Sunday for Red, White & Barbecue specials featuring a chicken and ribs platter with corn on the cob, coleslaw and fries, and a Moscow Mule flight with cranberry, lime and blueberry lemon varieties that can also be purchased individually. 1525 N. Wells St., 312-888-9368, lgsbar.com
Customize a tie-dye shirt on the Bucktown bar’s patio while sipping $4 linen ball Summer Shandy and $6 Milagro margaritas from 2-4 pm Monday. All supplies and the shirt are provided. You can also come early for $5 mimosas and $6 bloody marys from 11 am to 2 pm 1925 W. Cortland St., 773-489-0738, lottiespub.com
Pick up a $125 picnic basket including two lobster rolls, coleslaw, pickles, chips, two sushi rolls and a pair of cookies. Add on a bottle of wine for $50. The baskets are also available for delivery. 616 N. Rush St., lurefishbar.com
Grab a seat on one of the bar’s patios and enjoy specials offered all weekend, including $4 Bud Light Sour Seltzers, a $16 spicy fried chicken sandwich on a brioche bun, and a $14 smoked cheddar bacon brat with caramelized onions and stone-ground mustard. 1801 W. Division St., 773-782-4400, macswoodgrilled.com
Take the stress out of your barbecue with an $85 box featuring two batched cocktails, an appetizer, two sides, two ready-to-grill entrees and salted caramel popcorn cookies for dessert. Options include One in a Melon (a blend of tequila, watermelon and lime), hummus spread, potato salad and hanger steak with ancho chili. Add on an American flag cookie for $5. Locations vary, goddessgrocer.com/memorialday
Spend your day off at the Lincoln Park Zoo and dine outside with a Firehouse Burger featuring American cheese, bacon, barbecue sauce and jalapeños and a beer for $19, or a beer with honey barbecue ribs, coleslaw and fries for $18. The specials are available Friday through Monday. 2021 N. Stockton Drive, 312-742-2000, lpzoo.org
Feed four to six people with a $105 meal including a whole barbecue chicken, two pounds of rib tips, mac & cheese, apple slaw, cornbread muffins and a bottle of barbecue sauce. Pickup is available all weekend long. 1601 Payne St, Evanston; 847-859-2732; soulandsmoke.com
All three locations extend their weekend brunch to Monday, offering bottomless mimosas along with benedicts, omelets and French toast with a Latin twist. Locations vary; takitokitchen.com; takitostreet.com; bartakito.com
Infuse your Memorial Day barbecue with a Peruvian twist. Two ready-to-grill kits range between $75-$100 and feature skewers of chicken, beef, shrimp and salmon, plus delectable sides like roasted fingerling potatoes and Peruvian corn. Add on a pack of empanadas for $30. 118 W. Grand Ave., 312-222-9700, tantachicago.com
The chain celebrates all weekend long with $12 tacos, $10 barbecue pork and cheeseburger sliders and $12 seltzer buckets. Select locations also offer snow cones and live music at 9 pm Locations vary, taphousegrills.com
Samantha Nelson is a freelance writer.
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