Chicago’s independent restaurants join forces to stay afloat

Ever hear about a restaurant closing and say to yourself, "Man, I really liked that place," while realizing you hadn't eaten there in more than a year?

That's the sort of situation a new group of Chicago restaurants hopes to avoid. The members of Chicago Independents — a group that includes more than a dozen respected restaurants, such as Chez Moi, Elizabeth, Jam, mfk, Prairie Grass Cafe, The Radler and Tete Charcuterie — are attempting to keep themselves in the minds of the dining public via a shared website as well as a Facebook page and Twitter handle (@ChIndependents)

To begin, the site will sell gift certificates, worth $50 but priced at $35, beginning Aug. 27. Each member restaurant is selling 13 certificates, subject to the usual restrictions (tax and gratuity not included; not valid on Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve). Future gift-certificate sales (one every quarter) will be announced to registered users a week in advance.

Most of the restaurants in the group already have benefitted from favorable reviews and online buzz. The trick, as many restaurants have learned, is maintaining that early momentum.

"There are so many great, locally owned-and-operated restaurants and bars that fly a bit under the radar, and may not be getting the attention they deserve," said Scott Worsham, mfk co-owner and president of the fledgling group. "We're going to try to get the word out, to residents and visitors alike, that there's a lot more to this city than they might know."

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