Oak Park Social Club supports local restaurants

The emergence of pandemic-related isolation has produced a sense of social awkwardness in more than a few people, but the Oak Park Social Club is tackling this reintegration issue by bringing people together at a variety of area restaurants. , including Kettlestrings Tavern, Duffy’s Tavern, Beer Boutique and Taco Mucho.

On March 9, club members packed Taco Mucho, 220 Harrison St., on an otherwise quiet Wednesday night. Holding artisan tacos and sipping strawberry margaritas, revelers gathered in the bright and cheerful taqueria to bond for the first time or chat with people they’d met at previous social club meetings. Some came in for a quick drink while others enjoyed a sit down meal.

“Having the Oak Park Social Club at Taco Mucho was an absolute pleasure,” said Ron Aleman, owner of Taco Mucho. “Seeing people go out and have fun in restaurants is a very welcome sign of things to come!”

Artisan Tacos and Friendly Faces: More than 30 people attended the Oak Park Social Club get-together at Taco Mucho, where they enjoyed dishes like fish tacos on handmade tortillas. | Melissa Elsmo

The scheduled gatherings, organized through the popular Meet Up app, are the brainchild of Terra Schultz and Gwen Hassan. The longtime Oak Park residents met when their children were both enrolled in Lincoln Elementary’s Spanish immersion program. Their children are now in high school, but their friendship has remained intact.

The duo launched Oak Park Social Club in October 2021 and membership has grown to over 400. Meet Up groups exist for all types of people, from the city to the suburbs, and cater to a wide range of interests – there are book clubs, cycling groups and even a group specifically for people who like to meditate in Downers Grove. The Oak Park Social Club exists to include everyone. The group has no membership requirements or fees – just download the app and meet up.

“People have a real need to feel connected,” Schultz said. “Hopefully we can become a mainstay in Oak Park and continue to build community for good.”

Sensitive to the isolation and loneliness associated with the pandemic, Schulz and Hassan wanted to create an inclusive and safe space for people to make meaningful connections while supporting area businesses and giving back to the community through support. local non-profit organizations.

“We do everything we can to make sure our gatherings are mutually beneficial to local businesses,” Hassan said. “Our goal is to meet demand on slow nights, and we never ask to come without input from restaurants.”

Rather than collecting dues from members, Oak Park Social Club encourages (but does not require) members to donate to Empowering Gardens, 7730 Madison St. in Forest Park. The non-profit organization, dedicated to providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, is seeking $225,000 to purchase the land it currently leases in Forest Park.

Schultz and Hassan are excited to grow a leadership team in the future and look forward to connecting with more restaurants for meet-and-greet events. For now, they are happy to facilitate face-to-face interactions and remain committed to engaging with every club member in a thoughtful way. They are continually surprised by the diversity of participants that the group attracts. They have doctors, lawyers and even an airline pilot in the fold. Some members are married, while others are single, widowed or divorced – a few married couples regularly date together. All are welcome, but everyone in the club rejoices in turning strangers into familiar faces, one encounter at a time.

The Oak Park Social Club will be heading to Beer Shop’s Bring Your Own Vinyl Party on March 17th and also plan to attend the Forest Park Spring Boardwalk and Wine Shop as a group on April 23rd.

All you have to do is download the app and meet up.

More information about the app and the others mentioned: