Axios Chicago

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🐟 Happy Friday! It's the last Friday fish fry for some of you … until next Lent.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Chicago member Kate Silver!

Today's newsletter is 909 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Local startup makes fish-free seafood

At a recent West Loop dinner, AQUA Cultured Foods presented fish-free tuna (left) next to real tuna as a test. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

A Chicago startup could soon land fish-free seafood onto your plate.

Why it matters: Overfishing is decreasing fish populations and harming ocean ecosystems. Many conservationists, including those at Shedd Aquarium, recommend diversifying your seafood diet and reducing pressure on fisheries.

The big picture: Aqua Cultured Foods' products are part of a growing movement to create real-tasting meat and seafood substitutes, with innovations using everything from fungus to plant products and cell growth technology.

  • The West Loop company has worked for three years to create fish-like products via a patent-pending process using cellulose, an insoluble fiber found in fruits, vegetables and other plants.

How it works: Anyone who has ever home-brewed kombucha will be familiar with the layer of cellulose, called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), that grows on top. Aqua uses a similar method.

  • "We basically take sugar, water and nutrients, add our microorganism to that broth and let it sit in a temperature-controlled room for a couple of weeks," Aqua co-founder Brittany Chibe says, noting that a layer of cellulose grows in that solution.
  • "We put that cellulose through a pasteurization step and add a flavor system and a color system, so when you see our tuna, it essentially looks just like a tuna filet."

Between the lines: The products β€” which can be served as sashimi, ceviche, maki and crudo β€” cater to those who want to cut their meat consumption for health and sustainability reasons.

Comparable to real tuna and scallops, the Aqua versions will sell for about $27 to $28 a pound.

  • Chibe says they're focused on offering their product in restaurants because "70% of seafood is consumed outside the home."
Scallop-like fish in an open seashell
Aqua scallop-like products served with dill oil and crispy rice. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The intrigue: The products are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but Chibe says they hope to secure approval this year.

  • Aqua says cellulose is safe to eat and already commonly used in foods.

With Aqua products, Chibe notes, you avoid seafood's potential mercury, microplastics and pesticides while enjoying a product packed with cellulose fiber and low in calories.

  • But you also miss out on seafood's beneficial omega-3s.

Monica's review

2. Map of the day: Religious service attendance

Share of adults who say they never or rarely attend religious services
Data: Household Pulse Survey; Note:Β Adults who say they never attend or attend less than once a year; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Nearly half of Chicago-area adults never or seldom attend church or religious services β€” on par with the national average, per a new Axios analysis of Household Pulse Survey data.

The big picture: More than three-quarters of Americans say religion's role in public life is shrinking, per a recent Pew Research Center survey β€” the highest level since the group started tracking such sentiment in 2001, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng write.

  • About 57% of adults say that religion has a positive impact on American life, per Pew.

By the numbers: 49% of Chicago-area adults never attend services or go less than once a year, while 19% say they attend 12 or more times a year. About 14% attend 1-3 times per year.

  • Nationwide, 30% of Protestants say they attend services weekly, compared with 28% of Muslims, 23% of Catholics and 16% of Jews.

Zoom out

3. πŸ† The best Chicago nonfiction book is …

Photo courtesy of Christine Swenson

There were some heavy hitters in our tournament this week to crown Chicago's best nonfiction book. But ultimately "Boss" was, well, boss.

  • The 1971 book by iconic columnist Mike Royko expertly documents the rise of Mayor Richard J. Daley and his construction of the Democratic Machine that lived on well beyond Daley's reign.
Bracket: Axios Visuals

Thanks for participating, and watch for our next tournament in April!

4. Tips and hot links: Illini stay in/leave tournament

Coleman Hawkins #33 of the Illinois Fighting Illini dunks the ball against the Iowa State Cyclones last night. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

πŸ€ The Fighting Illini beat Iowa State last night to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. (Champaign Room)

πŸ’² Workers at the Signature Room were awarded $1.5 million after a federal judge ruled the restaurant's owners failed to give them proper notice when they abruptly closed last September. (Sun-Times)

πŸ“š The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Blood in the Water," about the 1971 Attica Prison riot, sent copies of the book to every Illinois prison after settling a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections, which had previously banned the book. (WBEZ)

⛴️ Starting tomorrow, Chicago Water Taxi boats will run daily for the first time since before 2019. (Tribune)

Sponsored event listings

Stay booked and busy

πŸ“… Upcoming events around the city.

Easter Vintage Eggstravaganza Fest at Patio Theater on March 30:

  • There will be hundreds of local vendors and a massive Easter egg hunt around the city. You won't want to miss out on this unique, family-friendly event.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

5. Marc Nolan expanding into women's footwear

Photo courtesy of Marc Nolan

A West Loop-based men's shoe company is launching a women's line today.

The big picture: Marc Nolan, which started in 2018 and opened a Sangamon Street location two years ago, has grown increasingly popular for marrying style and comfort.

Case in point: Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr., who sported the brand's boots on the Red Carpet this awards season.

Flashback: Marc Nolan founder Sebastian Malczewski says he first became interested in fashion from his grandmother and mother growing up in Poland.

  • He moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago, and his mentor, Marc, helped him get a job in a shoe store, where he learned more about style and quality.
Black patent leather loafers with a chunky sole.
Photo courtesy of Marc Nolan

What to expect: More than 20 new styles similar to the men's loafers with thick, lightweight soles, plus flair to oxfords and boots.

  • Prices range from $135-$170.

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6. 🍬 1 sweet treat to go

Windy City Sweets. Photo: Moyo Adeolu/Axios

Back in the day, Chicago reigned as the candy capital of the world.

The big picture: The city has seen many notable candy and chocolate factories close their doors, including Mars and, most recently, Blommer Chocolate.

Yes, but: There are still plenty of stores to get your fix β€”Β whether you have a sweet tooth or are shopping for Easter.

πŸ“± Moyo recently visited some top spots around town:

Watch her video

Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Yasmeen Altaji.

🎨 Carrie didn't realize that Rock Bottom is now a temporary art gallery. She thinks this pop-up exhibit looks pretty cool.

🍳 Monica is reminding you that today is the last day for pepper and egg sandwiches at local Portillo's.

πŸ™„ Justin is still on vacation. Sheesh, Justin, wanna work a little, buddy?

Want more Axios Chicago content? Check out our Instagram for extra stuff to do, behind the scenes photos, videos and more!