Chicago

What We're Looking Forward to in Chicago in 2022

From celebrity chef-run restaurant debuts to a jam-packed festival season.

PHOTO BY KATRINA BARBER
PHOTO BY KATRINA BARBER
PHOTO BY KATRINA BARBER

As we bid adieu to 2021 and all of its ups and downs (e.g. the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and new variants alike), we eagerly press on toward what awaits Chicago in ‘22. And thankfully, it’s looking like a lot, driving us to grab our Sharpies (er-pencils with good erasers, perhaps) and get to work on those crisp new calendars. From show-stopping restaurant debuts and interactive art exhibits to music festivals and street parades, here are our favorite reasons to raise a glass to 2022.

Chicago Department of Public Health
Chicago Department of Public Health
Chicago Department of Public Health

A new vaccine mandate

Beginning earlier this week, the City of Chicago put into effect a new vaccine mandate for several types of indoor establishments, including restaurants, bars, gyms, concert venues, and theaters (see the full list here). Heading out to support a prime local restaurant? Be at the ready with your photo ID, proof of two-dose vaccination, and a smile-while the rollout may take some refining, we’re super thankful for it all the same.

Photo by Regan Baroni
Photo by Regan Baroni
Photo by Regan Baroni

Top restaurant openings and exciting collaborations

2021 saw a slew of impressive restaurant openings, and that momentum is carrying over into ‘22 in big ways. Behold Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar, two concepts from Gibsons Restaurant Group, chef José Andrés, and ThinkFoodGroup dedicated to honoring all things land and sea in their new Bank of America Tower digs. When The LaSalle Chicago opens this spring, it’ll bring with it Grill 21, a modern-day American grill that’s a cut above the rest (literally-it’s located on the 21st floor). And over in Lincoln Park, it’s all about the arts. Fine dining newcomer Esmé just released tickets for its first collaboration menu-a partnership with local photographer and videographer Paul Octavious. Titled “Peculiar Contrast, Perfect Light,” the 12-course experience is inspired by Octavious’ pieces (which will be on display at the restaurant until the collab concludes on April 1).

Photo by Matt Haas
Photo by Matt Haas
Photo by Matt Haas

Best reason for a weekend getaway? Camp Aramoni

This May will mark the official opening of Camp Aramoni, an upscale campground with everything you could possibly dream of (and then some) for an idyllic weekend getaway: Nearly a dozen safari-style tents (complete with A/C and heat, hardwood floors, and king-sized beds), a rustic lodge with daily meals, and a 1961 Airstream Overlander RV-turned-coffee bar. The property is located within 90 minutes of Chicago and boasts nearly 100 acres of forest and wildlife terrain (and if that wasn’t enough, Starved Rock State Park and its ample adventures reside right next door).

The St. Regis Chicago
The St. Regis Chicago
The St. Regis Chicago

Hotly anticipated hotels coming to town

The reasons to plan a trip to (or staycation in) Chicago continue to mount in the new year, thanks in part to the arrival of some stellar hotels. Located in the heart of the Financial District, The LaSalle Chicago (part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection) will reside in the top five floors of a historic landmark building from architect Daniel Burnham. Expect classic Art Deco sensibility merged with upmarket aesthetic (spacious marble-clad bathrooms, oversized guestrooms with expansive city views). And for a milestone debut, The St. Regis Chicago will mark the 50th addition to the St. Regis brand when it opens this August in Chicago’s newest downtown skyscraper (the city’s third-tallest building, designed by architect Jeanne Gang).

James Beard Foundation
James Beard Foundation
James Beard Foundation

The return of the James Beard Awards

On June 13, the James Beard Awards will descend once again upon Chicago’s Lyric Opera House, recognizing those doing exceptional work in the culinary world. While several categories will remain the same, the team announced a new Emerging Chef category (awarded to chefs of any age) plus a couple of change-ups: The Outstanding Chef category now requires a chef have worked for three consecutive years instead of five, and the Outstanding Pastry Chef category now applies to any food business, not just brick-and-mortar establishments.

Chicago Pride Fest
Chicago Pride Fest
Chicago Pride Fest

The Chicago Pride Parade’s colorful comeback

Rally your buddies and raise your rainbows-the Pride Parade is back. After needing to postpone the annual LGBTQ+ bash twice last year, PrideChicago is hopeful for its return on June 26, bringing with it floats, decorated vehicles, live performances, a marching band, and good vibes for days.

Chicago Philharmonic
Chicago Philharmonic
Chicago Philharmonic

All the classical music we’ve been craving

This spring ushers in an exciting lineup from the revered Chicago Philharmonic Society, with the American premiere of Pulitzer Prize and three-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon’s mandolin concerto (among other world premieres as part of Fanfare Chicago) touching down on March 27. And on May 29, you can “rock steady” with Aretha Rising, an Aretha Franklin tribute show featuring Broadway vocalist Capathia Jenkins and the full orchestra behind hits like “Respect,” “Think,” and “Natural Woman.” The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra will be just as busy this year, with a roster spanning blockbusters like All Brahms on April 30 and Scheherazade on May 14.

Immersive Frida
Immersive Frida
Immersive Frida

Interactive exhibits and awe-inspiring creative experiences

If you thought the interactive museum movement already had its moment, think again-2022 is promising a host of ways to embrace the arts IRL with all sensory cylinders firing. Case in point? Frida: Immersive Dream, an animated ode to the Mexican painter featuring 500,000-cubic-feet of her work, launches this February at Lighthouse Artspace Chicago, while the current Princess Diana Exhibit celebrates another lauded female figure at Oakbrook Center. And while you eagerly await season two of Netflix’s Bridgerton this spring, you can look forward to a real-life encounter in April with The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience (complete with period costumes, acrobatic performances, and a string quartet score). If that wasn’t sweet enough, ready your spoons and Boomerang snaps for a taste of the Museum of Ice Cream, landing in Chicago this summer with 14 installations including that iconic rainbow sprinkle pool.

Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza

Loads of live music all year long

We’re grateful to have seen live music return in 2021, and even more jazzed to see those tours rev back up again in ’22. Head to Thalia Hall for some of this year’s most exciting acts, from St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Shovels and Rope (March) to Kishi Bashi and Fruit Bats (April). Things continue to warm up come summer (AKA festival season), with dates already announced for Lollapalooza (July 28 – 31) and Windy City Smokeout (August 4 – 7), the latter of which will feature the likes of superstars Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt, and Willie Nelson & Family.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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