MAD Social in the West Loop closes after six years. Credit: Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago

WEST LOOP — MAD Social has closed permanently after six years in the West Loop, citing difficulties with staffing and inflation during the pandemic.

Gina Stefani, daughter of restaurateur Phil Stefani, opened MAD Social in 2016 at 1140 W. Madison St. It was her “baby” as her first venture into Chicago’s competitive restaurant scene, she said.

The restaurant is known for its “French industrial chic” interior and its globally inspired menu from former Executive Chef Mariela Bolaños, which included grilled Spanish octopus, chicken and waffles made with churros batter and topped with pork belly and duck confit tacos. 

Stefani was at the restaurant every day to make sure things ran smoothly and to connect with customers, she said.

But the restaurant — like all others — had to close in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and officials’ efforts to stop the spread.

Many other restaurants reopened in the months afterward, but MAD Social stayed closed, only reopening this January.

“Most of our other restaurants were able to operate on to-go business, but MAD was never really like a to-go place. It just didn’t work,” Stefani said.

When MAD Social did open, it faced challenges with staffing, Stefani said. Reopening with a whole new staff and having issues with retention made it “extremely hard” to stay open, she said.

So, the restaurant group made the decision to close, Stefani said.

“Initially, with the pandemic and then for as long as it was closed, I was able to kind of mourn the old MAD Social and realize that it was never going to open back to the same capacity as it once was,” Stefani said.

The restaurant’s lease expires in February, but another area business has agreed to take over the lease and reopen with a new restaurant, though Stefani could not share details on what’s coming.

Stefani will still have her hands full as she’s having a baby in September and will help with the day-to-day operations of the company’s other restaurants in River North. She’ll also undertake several projects, including the renovation of Castaways on North Avenue Beach this fall.

Stefani’s hopeful some of the popular brunch items from MAD Social might see a new life in one of the company’s other restaurants. But that’s still to be determined, she said.

And although MAD Social is gone, Stefani will always remember her first big project, she said.

“I will always be forever be grateful to all the friends and customers that made MAD what it is,” Stefani said. “I mean, it was my dream when I opened that it was going to be a neighborhood place … and it did become that.”

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