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An Impromptu Women’s Restaurant Week Sprouts in Chicago

Running through next Monday, the celebration includes deals from Bar Sotano, Pretty Cool Ice Cream, Bistronomic, Kumiko, and others.

A spread of Indian and Latin offerings from Vermilion   Photo: Courtesy Vermilion

Starting Wednesday, 20 restaurants and bars around Chicago will offer special dishes and deals as part of Women’s Restaurant Week. Running through next Monday, August 31, the celebration includes patio and takeout specials from woman-owned spots like Bar Sotano, Pretty Cool Ice Cream, Bistronomic, and Kumiko.

The initiative is led by the James Beard Foundation’s Let’s Talk Forum. Launched by Vermilion owner Rohini Dey early in the pandemic, the forum is an place for women restaurateurs to lend support and share ideas for managing the crisis at their respective restaurants. Let’s Talk expanded to 10 cities across the country, and in Chicago, participants include HaiSous’ Danielle Dang, Mi Tocaya’s Diana Davila, Passerotto’s Jennifer Kim, and Prairie Grass Café’s Sarah Stegner.

Dey, who cofounded the James Beard Foundation Women in Culinary Leadership program, said that with all in-person Beard events shelved, she wanted to find a way for people to still connect. So she launched Let’s Talk, which facilitates bi-weekly discussions among participants.

“All of us are trying to figure out how to survive this,” she explains. “Anyone who says otherwise is lying. There are 17 of us in Chicago participating, and we’ve all felt so isolated, despite going through similar issues. We were grappling with questions like, Do we want to open our spaces? Do we want to put our teams through it? Is takeout viable? How do I get COVID testing?”

Less than two weeks ago on the Let’s Talk call, the group came up with the idea for a women’s restaurant week and tapped Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association to help pull it together. “What we need right now at our restaurants is traffic and a boost to our numbers,” she says. “We decided to start it on August 26 for sentimental reasons — it’s Women’s Equality Day and celebrates 100 years of suffrage. We didn’t want to miss that milestone.”

Among the specials is Vermilion’s $45 four-course dinner with new Mexican and Indian dishes, like blackened chili tamarind ribs and charred chiles in mole, with vegan options available. The menu can be ordered for patio dining or delivery.

At Demera, Tigist Reda is offering a 15-percent discount on dine-in, take out, or delivery with the promo code WOMENWEEK.

Saigon Sisters’ Mary Aregoni is offering a special $40 world tour menu with Singaporean and Balinese dishes for dine-in, take out, or delivery.

At Kumiko, Julia Momose is honoring Miho Imada, a notable female sake producer, by offering her Seaside sparkling junmai sake alongside yuzu-koshō Japanese fried chicken and shio kōji pickles for $60. The special is available Thursday to Saturday.

You can find a full list of participating restaurants here.

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