Memorial Day Dining Guide 2015

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and the unofficial onset of barbecue bingeing and patio-lounging. As we enter the thick of sunny season, there's lots to eat, drink, and do over the course of Memorial Day weekend. 

Bottled cocktails at JIMMY. Photo by Galdones Photography.

Sportsman's Club embarks on its second summer BBQ series starting Memorial Day weekend. Every Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day finds a different guest chef cooking up 'cue on the bar's spacious back patio. The first chef to get things underway on May 24 is John Manion, who will be previewing his upcoming El Che Bar. The fete begins at 4:00 p.m. and runs until supplies are out. To drink, the backyard cocktail program this year includes a rotating draft cocktail and a couple boozy snow cones, including one splashed with bourbon, Branca Menta, Letherbee Besk, and mint. Cost for food and a beer is $20 per person. 

With Memorial Day comes an increased urge to eat al fresco, perhaps even on a picnic blanket. Ideally with fried chicken. Honey Butter Fried Chicken makes picnic dreams come true with the return of their cold fried chicken packs, baskets of Americana food ample enough to feed four and designed to be taken and eaten at your leisure. With pick-up available on Sunday, May 24, each pack contains eight pieces of cold fried chicken, four corn muffins and honey butter, kale and cabbage slaw, fusilli pasta salad, and four toffee cookies. There's also plates, rolled silverware, napkins, and hand towelettes. All for $45 per pack. The deadline to order is May 22 and orders may be placed by calling  or emailing Pick-up is between 11:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. 

Another restaurant getting in on the special takeout action this season is Yusho, which launches its new Grab 'N' Grill menu this week. Orders must be placed by May 20 for Memorial Day, and with a menu this grill-centric, you'd better get on it. Menu items include pork skewers, lamb skewers, miso marinated salmon, barbecued pork belly, various seafood boils, and something called the "whole dang animal," which is whole squid or stuffed whole branzino. To place an order, call the restaurant. 

A long holiday weekend calls for patio cocktails. Thanks to the launch of JIMMY's new patio, there's another cocktail oasis for you to revel in. The quasi-clandestine River North cocktail haven launches its patio May 23, complete with a progressive cocktail program and light bites courtesy of David Burke's Primehouse. The patio boasts seating for up to 45, bounded by lush greenery, illuminated planters, wooden tables, and twinkling frosted lights dangling overhead. To drink, manager/bartender Matt Hunnel and partner/mixologist Johnny Swet tag-teamed a new seasonally inspired cocktail list brimming with fresh ingredients and juices. Vodka Collins' and Gin Rickys are the bottled cocktails on deck, while other specialty libations include the roasted citrus margarita, the matcha green tea pina colada, and the Chi-chelada, a local riff on the spicy staple made with Old Style beer, Jepson's Malort, fresh lime, and housemade michelada mix. For food, the new patio menu includes caviar brandade, beet pickled quail eggs, cold smoked walleye sashimi, and Lyonnaise salad. Hours for the patio are 3:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. 

Get your Memorial Day started on a nourishing note with Monday brunch at Southport & Irving. The restaurant is extending its weekend brunch service to Monday, May 25, from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Along with brunch cocktails, diners can dig into dishes like braised pork ramen, vegetable frittata, lobster ham and grits, and more. 

Experience a taste of the Wild West in the West Loop at City Winery. On Memorial Day, the winery/restaurant/bar/entertainment venue Mecca is hosting a special festive shindig starting at 1:00 p.m. The special Tex-Mex party features all-day entertainment in the outdoor wine garden and in the indoor concert hall. 

- Matt Kirouac