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Millennium Park, Willis Tower Landmarks Renovation of restaurants for the future after the pandemic

As Chicago tourism recovers from the 2020 pandemic closings and Michigan Avenue begins to replace its empty storefronts with new attractions like the Museum of Ice Cream, two major tourist attractions – Millennium Park and Willis Tower – are planning to expand their restaurants in Form new restaurants, cafes and markets.

Considered the Midwest’s premier tourist attraction, Millennium Park will receive several more food and drink options next spring thanks to a $ 2.5 million investment from Eleven North Hospitality. The group plans to renovate the 140-seater restaurant formerly known as Park Grill, adding a Mexican cafe across from the Bean sculpture and a coffee bar owned by Momentum Coffee, a small South Side chain owned by Black , is operated. There will also be two kiosks, one offering take-out groceries and the other selling Chicago-themed souvenirs, according to a Chicago city press release.

The Park Grill was previously run by James Horan, owner of Blue Plate Catering, and Michael O’Malley, owner of the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant, who, according to the Sun-Times, were backed by investors who had close ties to then-Mayor Richard M. Daley . The two restaurateurs then spent several years litigating with the city during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration before reaching an agreement in 2016. Horan and O’Malley gave up the Park Grill last year due to draft legislation and lost revenue from COVID-19. Eleven North is headed by John Wrenn, who runs Theater on the Lake under an arrangement made during the Emanuel administration when his wife, Eileen Mitchell, was the mayor’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, the Fifty / 50 Group is planning to open Kindling, a two-story restaurant with an outdoor terrace, in the Willis Tower. Kindling’s main draw will be a wood grill, where chefs prepare dishes like roast chicken, brisket, and halibut. There will also be an outdoor area with a sunbathing area with additional seating, as well as works of art and lawn games.

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

Fifty / 50 co-owner Scott Weiner says they started work on the project a year ago after Willis management invested $ 70 million in remodeling the SkyDeck, which reopened this spring, part of the $ 500 million for the total renovation of the building. Weiner says the tower is “still one of the busiest workplaces in Chicago,” even if all offices don’t require employees to report for work.

“When we noticed that there was no happy hour or full-service seat in the building – and that it was so close to the union station – we felt good to be there,” says Weiner, adding: “We think until we open The pandemic will be far behind us and definitely did not slow down tourism in Chicago last summer. “

The August data released by Chicago’s Choose Chicago tourism division is in line with Weiner’s claims. The numbers showed rising hotel occupancy rates with a Choose Chicago advertising campaign that generated $ 79 million in hotel revenue from May 1 to August 22.

A branch of Foxtrot Market will also move to Willis Tower, where it will join Catalog’s offering, which already includes Rick Bayless’ Tortazo, Lettuce Entertain You’s Sushi-san, Sweetgreen, Shake Shack, Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken, and Brown Bag Seafood Co.

Millennium Park Restaurants, 11 N. Michigan Avenue, slated for a spring opening.

Kindling, in the Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive, planned to open at the end of 2022.

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