Between the James Beard Foundation Awards, Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby, the coming weekend and week is undoubtedly one of the biggest times for restaurants and bars in Chicago (not to mention Mother’s Day is around the corner, lest you forget). Here are some of the coolest food-filled events and happenings to check out around town, from a tiki luau to a bevy of impressive pop-ups and menu takeovers.
Sunda Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
Right up there with local legends like Frontera Grill, Gene & Georgetti and NAHA, Sunda has left an indelible mark on the River North dining and drinking scene. It’s been 10 years since the pan-Asian hot spot burst onto the scene, and it’s celebrating that milestone with a month-long spree of weekly specials, reviving popular dishes and drinks for a “Greatest Hits” retrospective. Specials change weekly, but look for items like firecracker maki (salmon sashimi bundles), roasted duck hash and Indo corn fritters.
Details: Through May 31
Derby Day at Chicago q
If you’re gonna do something for Derby Day, you might as well get dolled up and party in a Southern-style mansion in the Gold Coast. Chicago q is showing the race on a giant screen in the main dining room, and serving up beer, wine, juleps and Southern dishes. There will also be cornhole on the patio and prizes for “Best Hat” and “Best Dressed.”
Details: May 4, 12-7 p.m. (3-7 p.m. is a ticketed event); $85
Cinco de Mayo Party with Babes Only
Cinco de Mayo is usually one of those eye-roll holidays designed mainly to capitalize on margaritas and tacos, but Babes Only is hosting an interesting event for the occasion this year. The non-profit women’s organization is throwing down at Emporium Fulton Market to celebrate Mexican Americans in Chicago with a special lineup of DJs, artisans, crafts and pastries from Loba Pastry + Coffee. Keeping things refreshingly authentic, they’re only working with people of Mexican decent.
Details: May 5, 2-6 p.m. at Emporium Fulton Market; free
Tiki Luau and Pig Roast at Three Dots and a Dash
There are lots of events lined up for this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards, held May 6 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It’s an apt opportunity for food-lovers to party with chefs, restaurateurs and mixologists from across the country, many of whom are popping up at various bars and restaurants for special events. This Three Dots tiki luau is sure to be one of the best, as they’ve tapped reps from award-winning bars like Kimball House from Decatur, Georgia, Dead Rabbit from New York City and The Atomic Lounge out of Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to special cocktails from these bars and others, there will be a pig roast and live entertainment, both inside and out.
Details: May 5, 2-5 p.m.; $50
Marc Vetri Brings His Pizzas to avec
Following the crux of the James Beard hoopla, swing by avec for a pizza party hosted by Philadelphia’s acclaimed chef Marc Vetri (Vetri Cucina). He’s teaming with avec’s own Perry Hendrix for a menu of specialty pizzas and other Italian dishes pulled from his book, Mastering Pizza, like a cacio e pepe pizza with pecorino and ground black pepper.
Details: May 7, 6-11 p.m.; $35 (books are also for sale for $30)
Mother’s Day Card Making at Remedy
Don’t forget about Mother’s Day! With the holiday coming up, Bucktown’s Remedy bar is hosting a free card making party as part of its “Weird Wednesdays” late-night programming. Because you’re sure to write your best cards when buzzed off beer and cocktails. The bar provides all the materials.
Details: May 8, 10 p.m.
Zombie Lyan at Blind Barber
Probably the biggest, most exciting pop-up happening in the wake of James Beard—and as the grand finale of Chicago Style cocktail conference—is this late-night cocktail party by London’s Lyan Company. The group will be slinging drinks from some of their beloved cocktail bars and previewing items from their forthcoming bar, Silver Lyan. Dubbed Zombie Lyan, the lineup for the evening includes super interesting cocktails like a Beeswax Old Fashioned; the Greener Grass Fizz made with Westward whiskey, gem lettuce, millet, lemon and absinthe; and Lada Lada, which has gin, lager “sizzurp,” smoke and elderflower. The wildest of them all is a Chicago-style hot dog in cocktail form, made with Westward whiskey, poppy seeds, tomato grenadine, celery seed soda and optional add-ons like pickles and smoke, for “char.”
Details: May 9, 9 p.m.-12 a.m. at Blind Barber; no cover
The Sandwich Gods Smile Upon Us: Zingerman’s Delicatessen Pops Up at The Ruin Daily
A couple weeks later, there’s another huge pop-up to look forward to, this time out of Michigan. Ann Arbor’s wildly revered Zingerman’s Delicatessen is taking over the menus at The Ruin Daily for two days, slinging crowd-pleasing sandwiches like its famed Reuben and the #36 Lila & Izzie’s Skokie Skidoo, with heaps of Swiss Emmental cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing on grilled farm bread. Michigan beers and cocktails made with Zingerman’s ingredients round it all out.
Details: May 19, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and May 20, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Pilsen Food Truck Social
Summer is almost here. Really. Think warm thoughts and mentally prepare with Pilsen’s upcoming Food Truck Social, slated for June 8 and 9, when a lengthy lineup of local food trucks will park along 18th Street for a weekend of al fresco food, arts, crafts, music and entertainment. Confirmed participants include 5411 Empanadas, Lucy’s, Pierogi Wagon, Yum Dum and The Happy Lobster, joined by Pilsen restaurants like Churro Factory, Honky Tonk BBQ and Le Cebollita Grill.
Details: June 8 and 9; $20 for sampler ticket