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Today's newsletter is 995 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Server-free restaurants

The dining room at Thattu in Avondale. Photo Monica Eng/Axios

In the run-up to this summer's boost of the tipped worker minimum wage, many restaurants are rethinking their service models, while some have already launched new ones.

Why it matters: A new model that eliminates ordering food through waiters could offer a glimpse of our fine dining future and a way to retain staff with higher wages.

What's happening: We recently checked out the model at Thattu and John's Food and Wine, where patrons order high-end food through QR codes or at the bar.

Two pork chops with a brown sauce on a white plate.
Thattu's famous pork chop peralan on collard greens and a yucca cake. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Thattu: This celebrated Keralan spot opened in Avondale last year serving delicious $16 chickpea curries and $32 pork chop dinner entrees with the tip baked into the price.

How it works: Dinner staffers deliver dishes, bus tables and explain ingredients, but guests order food and settle their bills through a QR code.

  • Lunch patrons fetch their own water and silverware.
  • Under this system, servers can make $23-$24 per hour, co-owner Vinod Kalathil tells Axios.
Bowl of curry next to appam on white plate.
A chickpea curry and appam at Thattu. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

What they're saying: "I think this is why we have not seen any staff attrition in the year we've been open," Kalathil says.

  • And, he says, "99% of [customers] don't have an issue with the QR code."

Should you still tip? Additional tips are not expected, and there's no tip line on the digital bill.

  • But patrons are free to leave cash.
Celery and apple salad with nuts.
Celery and apple salad from John's Food and Wine. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

John's Food and Wine: This popular new Lincoln Park restaurant offers sophisticated seasonal fare from chefs who worked together at Gramercy Tavern in New York.

How it works: Patrons order from a menu board at the bar before being seated. From there servers, chefs and a sommelier answer questions, deliver food and bus tables.

  • Dinner entrees range from a $33 branzino to a $57 NY strip steak, and a 20% service fee is added to the bill.
  • Diners can order additional items and pay with a QR code at their table.

Monica's thought bubble: I loved that I could order food and settle the bill without flagging down busy servers, who also get better pay.

  • But I understand it will take time for others to get used to it.

One more restaurant trying this out

2. Hot property: 925 W. Belmont

Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

A new proposed development hopes to transform the corner of Belmont and Clark ... again.

The big picture: The new building planned for 925 W. Belmont Avenue will be 11 stories tall, and the ground floor will deliver 9,900 square feet of retail space.

  • It will sport 210 residential units, mostly studios and one-bedrooms.
  • There will be a 36-car garage and communal lounge space.
  • 42 apartments will be set aside for affordable housing.

Context: The development will replace two buildings, both built in 1904. They currently house Ann Sather restaurant and Belmont Army Vintage.

  • Sather and the vintage store are remnants of what the Lakeview neighborhood at Belmont and Clark used to be.
  • It served as a late-night, alternative hangout for young punk rock and independent artists.

Yes, but: Those days are gone. It's been years since the iconic Dunkin' Donuts (Punkin' Donuts) was demolished, and The Alley and other head shops have closed up along the funky strip.

The intrigue: To be able to make this development work, the property must be rezoned.

The bottom line: Change is inevitable, and it looks to be heading straight for this historic corridor.

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3. Tips and hot links: Girl dies in mass shooting

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

An 8-year-old girl was killed and three kids were among 10 others injured during a shooting Saturday night on the Southwest Side. (Tribune)

🥛 Oberweis Dairy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy saying it owes more than $4 million, including more than $173,000 to the Cook County treasurer. (Sun-Times)

⛺️ Online registration for summer Chicago Park District camps and programs is today and tomorrow. (NBC5)

4. 🏀 Big night for the Sky

Angel Reese should be available as the Sky look to rebuild. Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The WNBA draft takes place tonight in Brooklyn, and the Sky have multiple opportunities to cash in on the increased interest in women's basketball.

The big picture: The Sky are picking third and seventh as they rebuild their roster, only three years removed from winning a championship.

The latest: The Sky made a last-minute trade with the Minnesota Lynx this weekend to move up one spot from No. 8 to No. 7.

Context: Since winning the WNBA title in 2021, they have replaced their entire coaching staff and roster.

  • That includes star Kahleah Copper, who was traded this offseason to Phoenix.

The intrigue: While Caitlin Clark will not be available when the Sky are on the clock, her rival, LSU standout and SEC Player of the Year Angel Reese, very well could be.

By the numbers: Reese is known for her trash-talking persona but should be known for her on-court dominance, averaging over 18 points and 13 rebounds per game last season at LSU.

Reality check: The Sky are rebuilding at almost every position, so they need more than just Angel Reese. South Carolina star and reigning NCAA champ Kamilla Cardoso is also on the team's radar.

The bottom line: The Sky could capitalize on this year's college interest and draft well-known rookies to forge a path back to the WNBA championship.

  • A fun divisional rivalry with Caitlin Clark wouldn't hurt, either.

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Illustration: Andrew Caress/Axios

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Support local journalism by joining Axios Chicago as a member.

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Together, we can make a difference in keeping our community informed and engaged.

Thank you for your consideration.

5. If you like piña coladas, try Choir of Man

The cast and band of "The Choir of Man." Photo: Courtesy of Michael Brosilow

"The Choir of Man," a new jukebox musical at the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park, has proven so popular it was just extended to July 14.

On tap: Set in a fictional British pub, the show celebrates barstool camaraderie through a series of boisterous song and dance numbers stitched together by Shane the narrator.

  • Songs are drawn from 1970s to 2000s pop hits including tunes by Katy Perry, Adele, Paul Simon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • Playgoers start the show mingling and drinking with the cast at a working bar on stage.

The intrigue: This mainstay show of the Norwegian Cruise Line serves up hefty portions of goofiness and sentimentality, including a "Piña Colada Song" that can elicit groans or smiles depending on your mood.

If you go: Tickets start at $35.

Edited by Emma Hurt and copy edited by Matt Piper and Yasmeen Altaji.

Our picks:

🎨 Carrie is happy she got to see Faith Ringgold's recent show at MCA. The artist died on Saturday.

🚜 Monica is excited about the Earth Day Roof Crop Foundation fundraiser with farm tours and tea and honey samples above Maxwells Trading on April 22.

🧐 Justin loves that you all played the Kaufmann Quiz yesterday! Most of you didn't get a perfect score. It was Ministry, not Smashing Pumpkins, who played Lollapalooza in 1992.

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