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Chicago restaurants adapting menu for NATO, G-8 summits

Activists protesters march along streets downtown Toronduring G8/G20 Summits June  2010. Chicago is preparing for G8/NATO summits coming May.

Activists and protesters march along the streets of downtown Toronto during the G8/G20 Summits in June 2010. Chicago is preparing for the G8/NATO summits coming in May. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

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Updated: March 29, 2012 8:13AM

Chicago restaurateurs threw their support Monday behind a program to showcase international cuisine in Chicago during the weeks leading up to the NATO and G8 summits in May.

The head of the local host committee for the summits said cuisine is a tourist attraction for Chicago, more so than even the architecture, and promoting it will generate business from locals and visitors alike.

But the campaign by the Illinois Restaurant Association also is part of an official push to build confidence that the summits will be peaceful and a net winner for the city and its businesses.

NATO and G-8 summits in other cities have drawn riots and protests. Chicago officials are working to allay concerns about property damage and massive traffic tieups because of security perimeters.

Lori Healey, executive director of the local host committee, said that while she’s received inquiries from companies and institutions concerning security arrangements, she doubts that many will close for the summits.

The partially overlapping events are expected to draw 10,000 to 15,000 people and delegations from about 80 countries. They will be at McCormick Place starting Saturday, May 19, and running through Monday, May 21.

Much concern, however, has centered on the week or so leading up the summits.

Healey said she believes street closings and other measures to keep protesters away from official delegations won’t be too onerous for Chicagoans.

“We’re working very closely with our partners in the federal government and with our partners in law enforcement here,” Healey said.

She added, “We want to promote Chicago as a global city and we need to act like a global city.”

The restaurant association said more than 50 highly rated eateries in the city and suburbs will offer special menus May 1-25 to commemorate the summits. Diners who eat at least three meals at so-called Culinary Crossroads participants can enter a drawing for local prizes.

Sheila O’Grady, president of the association, said the program is similar to a gourmet dining promotion the group stages in September. She said it would target locals, summit delegation members who arrive a week or so before the events, and the estimated 3,000 foreign journalists expected to show up.

Well-known chefs in Chicago and overseas have agreed to advise the restaurants on their offerings. Information about the program is at

Grant DePorter, chief executive of Harry Caray’s Restaurants, said he’s already gotten into the spirit by translating his menus into the languages of the G8 nations and by offering rotating specials such as elk as a tribute to Canada. “Everybody’s getting the long-term impact this is going to have,” DePorter said.

“Anything that puts us where we belong in the international community is great for us,” said Glenn Keefer, owner of Keefer’s Restaurant at 20 W. Kinzie.

After considering whether to reimburse businesses for patronage lost to summit disruptions, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rejected the idea. Some downtown universities have altered schedules or canceled classes because of the summits, and the Cook County court system is considering a shutdown of the Daley Center.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has said some employees may work off-site if demonstrations turn ugly. The Fed is at 230 S. LaSalle, a location that has been a focus of Occupy Chicago demonstrations.

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