Memorial Day serves as a time to honor members of the United States military who have died in service with parades, speeches, and other ceremonies.
But the otherwise somber occasion also marks the unofficial start of summer. That means you’ll find a wide range of celebrations throughout the Chicago area, from bars and restaurants offering red, white, and blue food and drink to barbecue fundraisers for veterans’ organizations.
If you prefer to gather with friends in your garden, you can collect all the food you need for grilling, as well as sides and drinks. These 18 spots will help you make the most of the long weekend.
Enjoy the weather at Millennium Park, then head across the street for summertime and patriotic favorites, including Italian blood orange ice cream drizzled with blood orange cordial, amaro and raspberries ($14); and a red, white and blue panna cotta with strawberry, sweet cream, braised blueberries and mint. 18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763, acantochicago.com
Dress all in white for Nights in Mykonos, a rooftop party at 7 p.m. Saturday featuring a silent disco, magic show, photo booth and the chance to win a trip to Greece. Tickets are $80. 180 N. Field Blvd., 312-600-9997, avli.us
Buy a Planta Smoothie and you’ll get one for free at the River North Food Hall Friday through Monday. 840 N. Orleans St., 312-835-7787, thecafeteriachicago.com
A Flor de Luna cocktail served throughout the weekend made with mezcal, tequila and hibiscus and pomegranate seltzer water is the perfect drink to enjoy on the terrace of the Wicker Park restaurant. 2211 W. North Avenue, 773-799-8650, cebuchicago.com
The River West spot is usually closed on Mondays, but will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Memorial Day serves a limited menu with specialties such as $8 grilled elotes, $30 griddle with chipotle ribs, cheddar brat, mango. habanero chicken wings, cornbread and pickles, and a $13 All-American strawberry pie served with pistachio ice cream. 730 W. Grand Avenue, 312-243-8955, the-dawson.com
Ravenswood Breweries’ sixth annual Mayfestiversary Street Festival, which runs from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. barrel of Begyle. The party also features live music, DJs and food from eight vendors, including Bulldog Bakery and El Zorro Tacos. A suggested donation of $5 benefits the Friendship Center Pantry. Ravenswood Avenue from Warner Avenues to Cuyler Avenues, begylebrewing.com; dovetailbrewery.com
Unwind with a Rosé Cobbler cocktail made with cantaloupe and lime appetizer ($14) paired with a Maine lobster roll with heirloom tomato, crispy bacon and dill crème fraîche ($30). End your meal on a sweet note with a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Ginger Oat Crumble ($13). 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243, thegagechicago.com
Donate $10 to the Wounded Warrior Project and you’ll have access to unlimited burgers, cheeseburgers, beer brats, fries, coleslaw and refried beans at the Wrigleyville Bar from noon to 6 p.m. sunday. Order a 22-ounce mug of Empirical Local’s Lager for $8, and half the price will be donated to the nonprofit. 3441 N. Sheffield Ave, 773-666-5450, graystonetavernchicago.com
Get ready to fire up the grill by purchasing a $63 Chicago-style hot dog meal kit, including locally made celery salt, sweet relish, sport peppers, garlic pickles and dill and the original Chicago sauce, which combines the seven toppings used in a Chicago dog. Curbside pickup is available until Friday. 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Ste. 575; 312-380-9789; hereheremarket.com
Feast on three pounds of crawfish, corn and potatoes for $39 from noon to 3 p.m. Monday while sipping on $12 hurricanes and $9 palomas. The bash also features live music. 1415 N. Wood St., 773-360-8320, inamaetavern.com
The bar is closed on Mondays, but you can stop by Friday through Sunday for red, white and barbecue specialties including a chicken and rib platter with corn on the cob, coleslaw and fries, and a flight Moscow Mule with varieties of cranberries, lime and blueberries and lemon. which can also be purchased individually. 1525 N. Wells St., 312-888-9368, lgsbar.com
Customize a tie-dye shirt on the patio at Bucktown Bar while sipping $4 Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and $6 Milagro margaritas from 2-4 p.m. Monday. All supplies and shirt are provided. You can also come early for $5 mimosas and $6 Bloody Marys from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1925 W. Cortland St., 773-489-0738, lottiespub.com
Pick up a $125 picnic basket that includes two lobster rolls, coleslaw, pickles, chips, two sushi rolls and a pair of cookies. Add a bottle of wine for $50. Baskets are also available for delivery. 616 N. Rush Street, lurefishbar.com
Sit on one of the bar terraces and take advantage of the specials offered all weekend long, including $4 Bud Light Sour Seltzers, a $16 spicy fried chicken sandwich on a brioche bun and a bacon brat $14 smoked cheddar with caramelized onions and stone-ground mustard. 1801 Division Street West, 773-782-4400, macswoodgrilled.com
Take the stress out of your barbecue with an $85 box featuring two batch cocktails, an appetizer, two sides, two ready-to-grill entrees, and salted caramel popcorn cookies for dessert. Options include One in a Melon (a mix of tequila, watermelon, and lime), hummus spread, potato salad, and ground beef with ancho pepper. Add an American flag cookie for $5. Locations vary, goddessgrocer.com/memorialday
Spend your day at the Lincoln Park Zoo and dine outside with a Firehouse Burger featuring American cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce and jalapenos and a beer for $19, or a beer with honey ribs, coleslaw and fries for $18. Promotions are available from Friday to Monday. 2021 N. Stockton Drive, 312-742-2000, lpzoo.org
Feed four to six people with a $105 meal that includes a whole barbecue chicken, two pounds of short ribs, mac and cheese, apple salad, cornbread muffins and a bottle of barbecue sauce. Pickup is available all weekend. 1601 Payne Street, Evanston; 847-859-2732; soulandsmoke.com
All three locations extend their weekend brunch through Monday, offering bottomless mimosas as well as Benedictines, omelettes and French toast with a Latin twist. Locations vary; takitokitchen.com; takitostreet.com; bartakito.com
Add a Peruvian touch to your Memorial Day barbecue. Two ready-to-grill kits range from $75 to $100 and include skewers of chicken, beef, shrimp and salmon, plus delicious sides such as roasted fingerling potatoes and Peruvian corn. Add a package of empanadas for $30. 118 W. Grand Avenue, 312-222-9700, tantachicago.com
The chain is celebrating all weekend with $12 tacos, $10 barbecue pork and cheeseburger sliders, and $12 buckets of seltzer. Some locations also offer snow cones and live music at 9 p.m. Locations vary, taphousegrills.com
Samantha Nelson is a freelance writer.
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