The biggest event of the year for culinary professionals and food enthusiasts is the James Beard Awards Gala. It just happens to be in Chicago for the third year in a row at Lyric Opera of Chicago. But if you didn't score tickets to the official gala, which happens at 6 p.m. May 1, we've gathered an outstanding lineup of James Beard Eats Week-themed dinners (April 21-May 1), parties and other events around town.
Chicago's Premier Brewpubs and Breweries Under One Roof
Why It's Hot: The Windy City's steadily building cred with craft beer enthusiasts for its spectacular selection of craft beer-focused taverns around town. Here's an opportunity to check out a bunch under one roof as Band of Bohemia hosts an event showcasing its products as well as offerings from Half Acre, 18th Street, Forbidden Root, Revolution, Off Color, Pipeworks and Dark Matter Coffee.
How Much: $25 per person (fee gets attendant a glass and all beer; from there guests will buy tickets in $2 increments. These tickets may be used to purchase beer and food.)
Other Details: It takes place 11 a.m.-6 p.m. May 1 at Band of Bohemia: 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave., 773-271-4710
avec x Sofra Bakery Brunch Collaboration
Why It's Hot: We're completely obsessed with brunch around here, but alas, this particular one is a one-time-only event. "Outstanding Pastry Chef" nominee Maura Kilpatrick, of Oleana Restaurant Group and Sofra Bakery, joins avec chef de cuisine Perry Hendrix for a variety of Middle Eastern-inspired brunch dishes in addition to avec’s regular brunch items.
How Much: A la carte; reservations can be made online.
Other Details: It takes place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, April 30 at avec: 615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002
Backyard BBQ Hosted By Boka, Shake Shack, Bang Bang Pie Co.
Why It's Hot: Shake Shack and the award-winning Boka chef Lee Wolen create a unique burger--inspired by Boka's menu--for this special backyard BBQ happening JBFA weekend. It all goes down on Boka's spectacular patio, where guests will also get to nosh on canapes and pie bites from Bang Bang Pie Co. Cocktails, beer and wine will be included.
How Much: It's $40 per person and tickets may be purchased here.
Other Details: It takes place 3-6 p.m. April 30 at Boka: 1729 N. Halsted St., 312-337-6070
"Trash Tiki" at Broken Shaker
Why It's Hot: Innovative London-based bartenders Kelsey Ramage (Dandelyan) and Iain Griffiths (Mr Lyan) set up shop at the Broken Shaker for their first-ever U.S. pop-up of Trash Tiki. They create anti-waste tiki cocktails made from unsold ingredients, by-products and other raw materials destined for the trash.
How Much: Free admission; cocktails and bites available for purchase
Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration
Why It's Hot: Rick Bayless’ Frontera Farmer Foundation and Chicago-based nonprofit FamilyFarmed host a one-of-a-kind party featuring an intense discussion on the future of good food and tastings from an all-star lineup of chefs. Get ready for signature bites by Stephanie Izard, Marcus Samuelsson, Mindy Segal, Ming Tsai, Michael Mina and Paul Kahan. All proceeds benefit the organization’s efforts to promote family farming and a healthier, more sustainable food system. The event fetes Frontera Grill's 30th anniversary.
How Much: $500 per person; get tickets here
Other Details: A symposium takes place at 5:30 p.m., followed by VIP and general receptions from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 30. It takes place at the Art Institute of Chicago, Modern Wing, 159 E. Monroe St.
The Iconoclast Dinner Experience (IDE) All-Star Culinary Bash
Why It's Hot: The All-Star Culinary Bash is hosted by Joseph “JJ” Johnson and celebrates JBF-recognized chefs of color. Guests may enjoy free-flowing wine, spirits and culinary offerings by some of the country’s most trailblazing chefs. They will also have the opportunity to meet, interact with Jamilka Borges (Spoon, Pittsburgh) 2015 JBF Rising Star Chef Award Semifinalist; Aya Fukai (Maple & Ash, Chicago) 2017 JBF Outstanding Pastry Chef Award Semifinalist; Joseph "JJ" Johnson (Minton's Harlem, NYC) 2015 JBF Rising Star Chef Award Semifinalist; and Digby Stridiron (Balter, St. Croix), 2014 JBF Bootcamp Alumni. One hundred percent of net proceeds from the event benefit Spelman College students from Jamaica and sub-Saharan African countries.
How Much: $100 per person; get tickets here
Other Details: It takes place 8-11 p.m. April 29 at Morgan's on Fulton, 950 W. Fulton St.
Second-Annual Cocktail Takeover at Three Dots and a Dash
Why It's Hot: Dirty Dick from Paris and Trick Dog from San Francisco collaborate with this award-winning tiki lounge in River North for a "takeover" event. They'll join Three Dots and a Dash beverage director Julian Cox for special, sippable creations. Scott Shruder, who founded Dirty Dick and OFTD Plantation Rum, and the Bon Vivants team behind Trick Dog will also promote their latest endeavor, the Trick Dog Mural Project. The book, which doubles as their cocktail menu, will be on sale at the event, with proceeds going to two non-profits in San Francisco.
How Much: Event is free to attend and open to the public. No tickets necessary.
Other Details: It takes place 5-8 p.m. April 30 and the menu will also be available May 1. It all happens at Three Dots and a Dash, 435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4220
Global Cities, Culinary Soft Power at Vermilion
Why It's Hot: Hosted by the James Beard Foundation, World Business Chicago and Vermilion, this panel and cocktail reception examines a key ability of cities to attract and retain people, with a particular focus on Chicago.The panel of leading city leaders and celebrity chefs/restaurateurs includes Daniel Boulud, Andrew Zimmern, David Whitaker and Rohini Dey. Vermilion's Indian-Latin cocktails and appetizers will be served. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the James Beard Foundation’s Women in Culinary Leadership Program.
How Much: $95 per person; get tickets here
Other Details: It takes place 6-8 p.m. April 30 at Vermilion: 10 W. Hubbard St., 312-527-4060
Cure Takes Over The Violet Hour
Why It's Hot: James Beard nominee for "Outstanding Bar Program" Cure is planning a one-night takeover at one of Chicago's hottest cocktail lounges. The Violet Hour won the JBFA award in 2015, and for the second year in a row they're graciously allowing the New Orleans-based bar to dramatically transform it. The festivities include a New Orleans-style soundtrack, cocktails and bites.
How Much: A la carte; no reservations; first come, first served
Other Details: The event occurs 10 p.m.-2 a.m. April 30 at Violet Hour: 1520 N. Damen Ave., 773-252-1500