As a family owned business, founded by a husband & wife duo that are both lifelong Chicagoans who love and appreciate this city, you'll find art and artifacts throughout Tortoise that are significant to different moments in Chicago history. Each piece tells a story, whether derived from our own family archives, or a colorful character's fascinating Chicago connection. Our menus include local brands and local favorites while our culture runs deep with Chicago traditions. Growing up, our favorite traditions were those specifically stemming from holidays. We love the excitement of preparing for a special day, knowing we will get to see family and friends, and over-indulge on great food and cocktails. The city feels so alive and festive during the holidays, and we try to capture that feeling and those customs for our guests at Tortoise Supper Club. Holding onto the endearing aspects of Chicago culture and to local traditions assists us in fostering the genuine, welcoming, and neighborly atmosphere our guests have become accustomed to. We invite our guests to partake in celebrating annual Chicago festivities with our family here at Tortoise. Together we can honor old traditions, all the while creating new memories and new stories to share with our loved ones for a lifetime.
One of the cities liveliest traditions by far, is the annual downtown Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade. The downtown parade takes place every year on the Saturday prior to St. Patrick's Day, March 17th. This year, Chicago's annual downtown St. Patrick's Day parade is on Saturday, March 11th 2017, which is right around the corner! Check out the Irish fare we've curated to be offered this Saturday, March 11th for the downtown St. Patrick's parade, and for Saturday March 17th, on the actual St. Patrick's holiday.
Aside from our St. Patrick's inspired specials that we're featuring at Tortoise, we've also compiled a list of everything you'll need to know to prepare yourself for the downtown parade. We've put together a parade map, scouted out spots for prime viewing of the river, and even researched the history behind the long lasting ritual of dyeing river green. This post covers everything you need to know, to ensure that your parade day schedule goes off without a hitch!
DYEING THE RIVER GREEN.
WHERE AND HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
The Chicago River is dyed green every Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. The dyeing process takes place between Wabash Avenue and Columbus Drive. A team of river-coloring aficionados, otherwise known as the Butler and Rowan families, have been responsible for the tradition of turning river green for more than 50 years.
Their families have been involved in the tradition for decades, beginning when Butler, who worked for the Chicago Regional Port District, and Rowan's late father, who helped organize the Chicago Police Marine Unit, were asked to help dye the river.
Each year, the crew shakes an orange powder — a top secret recipe — into the Chicago River from a sifter. The only way to become part of the six-person boat crew is to be related by blood or marriage to either Mike Butler or Tom Rowan.
How The Tradition of Dyeing the River Began
Mayor Richard J. Daley is credited not only with reviving Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade, but also proposing the idea of greening part of Lake Michigan to celebrate the holiday. It was his boyhood friend and Chicago Plumbers Union business manager Stephen M. Bailey who suggested dyeing the Chicago River instead. In 1961 Stephen Bailey was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls, they knew this only because they could see some of the original color.
These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect color green. The Chicago River would run green for the first time in 1962 (the same year the photo below was taken), one year after Savannah, GA tried to unsuccessfully dye their river for the Irish holiday.
Four men on the main boat spread the "leprechaun dust," as Marlene Butler calls it. The other two are on the chase boat that follows to stir up the river and spread the green color, a tradition sponsored by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union. After all these years, the recipe to the "leprechaun dust" remains a closely guided secret. What we do know, however, is that the formula has been thoroughly tested by independent chemists and has been proven safe for the environment.
The Chicago river is dyed at 9:00 am. The best place to see the dyeing take place is at the intersection of Michigan Ave, Wacker Drive and the river. We tend to think the best spot to watch is off State Street between Wacker and Kinzie (right by the Tortoise Supper Club).
The Downtown Chicago Parade steps off at 12:00 noon, Saturday March 11th, at the intersection of Balbo and Columbus. The parade will continue to proceed north on Columbus Drive to Monroe (see parade map). A viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain, near Congress and Columbus. There's also Grandstand seating located on either side of the reviewing stand. Tickets for Grandstand seats can be purchased online and also available the day of parade (space permitting). Not in the mood to battle the crowds? The Parade will be broadcast live this year by ABC 7. Step foot inside Tortoise Supper Club's lounge and watch the parade live from the comfort of a cushiony bar stool.
TORTOISE SUPPER CLUB ST. PATRICK'S
Corned Beef Sandwich served with rosemary frites $12.00
Seasonal Soup Beef Barley made with Irish Stout $6.95
Guinness Cans $7
TORTOISE HOURS FOR MARCH 11 & MARCH 17
Saturday March 11th: 12:00pm - 10:30pm.
Saturday March 17th 5pm - 10:30pm.
Tortoise Supper Club's prime location to the Chicago River, is just one of the many conveniences and reasons you should to necessitate it as a destination on your parade day schedule. In addition to location, guests can freely escape the hustle and bustle of downtown crowds and step foot into a calm, comfortable setting that is always conversation friendly. (and did I mention there's never a cover?) Enjoy the company of friends and family while you treat yourself to a delicious Corned Beef sandwich that Chef Browning has curated in honor of St Pat's Day. Pair your sandwich with a bowl of our comforting seasonal soup, Beef Barley, made with Guinness Braised Beef, Pearl Onions, and Bacon! To sip, enjoy a pint of Guinness or an Irish Whiskey Sour. Better yet, let one of our talented neighborly bartenders concoct a specialty cocktail crafted exclusively for your very own personal preference. In addition to our specials, we will be serving from our regular dinner service menu. As an ongoing weekly Saturday special, Tortoise features our Prime Rib every Saturday evening that is to die for. Our Prime Rib is slow roasted with a Northwoods Rub and served with our Rosemary Frites, Creamy Horseradish, and Rosemary Jus. Stay a while and catch some live jazz in our lounge from the amazing Mark Burnell Trio later on in the evening. Live jazz is featured in our lounge every Friday from 7:30-11:00 and Saturday from 8:30-Midnight.
We hope you'll join us as and celebrate St. Patrick's Day in true Tortoise Supper Club fashion. We look forward to serving you and your guests, and more importantly, creating memorable experiences to share stories about for years to come. Click the button below to reserve your table today! Make sure to stop back in a few days to learn which Tortoise favorites we will feature this year for our Easter Grand Buffet! Cheers!