As ‘The Bear’ Season 3 Premieres, Chicago Food Tour Serves Fans

As ‘The Bear’ Season 3 Premieres, Chicago Food Tour Serves Fans

As ‘The Bear’ Season 3 Premieres, Chicago Food Tour Serves Fans

Claudia Dietrich and Ross Lloyd boarded a bus bound for River North’s most popular tourist spot. While their guide recited Chicago trivia, the couple took photos from every angle, including the alley. They were not deterred by the winding rope leading out the front door.

“This is something that brought us to Chicago, there’s no doubt about it,” said Dietrich, a 72-year-old Milwaukee resident.

Your destiny? Mr. Beef, the no-frills sandwich restaurant featured in Hulu’s smash hit, “The Bear.” It’s the first stop on your guided food tour inspired by the series.

A traditional Chicago sandwich shop may seem like an unconventional outing. But since “The Bear” debuted, tourists have flocked to mr meatwhich premiered on River North in 1963. Ahead of Season 3’s release on Wednesday, its cult following is emerging with renewed enthusiasm.

Ask one of the 30 food tour patrons, who were bussed to six restaurants in River North, West Loop and Logan Square last Friday afternoon. Many of the restaurants on the tour served as filming locations for the series.

“I think the show is very authentic,” Dietrich said after trying an Italian beef sandwich with giardiniera. “And you can practically taste the food when you look.”

“The Bear” follows Carmy, a young gourmet chef who seeks to transform his late brother’s sandwich shop into a fine dining establishment. There, he clashes with the diverse and unassuming staff in often anxiety-inducing kitchen scenes, most of which were filmed against Mr. Beef. When contacted by phone to ask how business was going ahead of the PM, a manager at Mr. Beef told the Tribune he didn’t have time to comment because of the line of customers at the door.

The series has been praised for its unflinching depictions of the restaurant industry and lovable characters, winning six Primetime Emmy Awards this year, including best comedy series.

Chicago Food & City Tours began themed tours in November after months of guest requests. The tour is modeled after Season 2, Episode 3, when sous chef Sydney tours the city to try different restaurants, somewhat like a food tour, said Hannah Gleeson, the company’s chief operating officer.

“It became really evident that there was a demand and people wanted it,” Gleeson said. “Our team had been fans of ‘The Bear’ for a long time. So why not try to give people the same experience?

Mr. Beef restaurant from the tour bus during “The Bear” themed food tour on June 21, 2024 in Chicago. (Vincent Albán/Chicago Tribune)

As guide Casey Ross led the group, he sported a blue apron over a white T-shirt, the uniform of the fictional Original Beef of Chicagoland. He also held a tomato can tipped jar, another homage to the series. The chartered tour bus was brimming with excitement.

“We just have one hard and fast rule,” Ross, 41, told the group. “If I ask a question, the answer will be…”

“Yes, chef,” they responded.

“Did you practice outside?” Ross joked.

Ross, like most of the guests, is an avid fan of “The Bear.” He moved to Chicago more than eight years ago from Kansas. The actor even auditioned for a small role in the next season, but did not get the part.

“I can’t wait to watch the episode and see who they hired,” he said. “I’ll be really mad if it’s another bearded redhead.”

After Mr. Beef, guests tried empanadas from Time Out Market, pepperoni pizza from Pizza Lobo, donuts from Roeser’s Bakery, hot chocolate sundaes from Margie’s Candies and drinks from Green Door Tavern.

Tour guide Casey Ross talks to tour guests at Mr. Beef restaurant during “The Bear” themed food tour on June 21, 2024 in Chicago. (Vincent Albán/Chicago Tribune)

Selecting the stops was a long process, according to Gleeson. Many of the restaurants featured in the show had Michelin stars: Elske, Ever and Kasama, for example. Others, like tiny Lao Peng You in Ukraine Village, couldn’t accommodate large groups.

The three-hour tour remains one of the company’s most popular and frequently sells out on Fridays and Saturdays it runs. The crowd is usually an equal mix of locals and tourists, and private tours are also offered, Gleeson added.

“‘The Bear’ does an incredible job of highlighting Chicago’s diverse food scene,” Gleeson said. “And it’s a lot more fun to do something like this than just approaching Mr. Beef.”

Outside Roeser’s in Humboldt Park, sisters Joan and Cora Lanman were mulling over possible plot lines for the show’s next season. As they posed for photos, they swapped theories: Were co-stars Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri dating in real life? Would your characters appear in the program? And what about Carmy’s girlfriend Claire, who she dumped in the last episode?

“I think the second season is one of the best seasons of television of all time,” Joan, 22, said. She has seen the show three times. “I think the writing is so real that it doesn’t feel like a TV show.”

The sisters, from Atlanta, are visiting their parents in Chicago. Their favorite part of “The Bear” is that it creates space for each character’s personal growth, they said. Take Richie, Carmy’s disgruntled family friend, who discovers his passion for hospitality during a feel-good montage of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story.”

“I love Richie,” said 19-year-old Cora. “And I love that Taylor Swift song. That episode makes me very happy.”

Casey Ross, a tour guide during a “The Bear” themed food tour hosted by Chicago Food & City Tours, holds bags of donuts from Roeser’s Bakery to hand out to guests on June 21, 2024. (Vincent Alban/Chicago Tribune)

Then there’s Diane Thomas, 72, who fell in love with “The Bear” for its depiction of the complex dynamics of cooking, along with the dangers of a family business. As a teenager, Thomas worked at her family’s own sandwich restaurant in Michigan, Stage Delicatessen. Her brother still owns the establishment.

“It’s all our cousins, nieces and nephews, all working together,” Thomas said. “I think ‘The Bear’ shows the true chaos that happens in the kitchen.”

Next to him sat Jim Walsh, 68, eating Chinese stickers at Time Out Market. The friends call each other “playmates”: Walsh is recently widowed, while Thomas’s husband prefers to spend his days locked up. They frequently attend guided tours of the city.

“I love stuff like this,” Thomas said.

Further down the table, other guests chatted about the show. Here, “The Bear” takes priority over all other forms of small talk.

“I actually saw Jeremy Allen White on a late-night show last night,” Tiffany Harding said, between bites. “One of the Jimmys was the host.”

“Of course, we had to watch it again before the Season 3 premiere,” said Terri Henry. “We are ready.”

After three rounds of “The Bear” trivia, the bus finally stopped at the historic Green Door Tavern. Each guest selected a soft drink or soft drink. Ross was still smiling by the wooden bar three and a half hours later.

“I love having people to talk to and I love sharing information and telling a good story,” Ross said. “I’m an actor, so I crave an audience, I guess.”

Ross said he, like many others, was nervous about the team’s new restaurant and the fate of the characters he loved so much. But the excitement overcame the stress.

“All of these characters are becoming three-dimensional and I can’t wait to see more of that,” he said. “That and the carefully crafted shots of Chicago. It is a love letter to the city.”