Illinois has experienced nearly a week with more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases a day, and case numbers are surging in most of the United States. Hours after Mr. Muser’s speech, Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down indoor dining rooms and bars across California. New York City had already postponed its return to indoor dining, and last week Mayor Lightfoot announced that Chicago bars that didn’t serve food could not sell alcohol indoors.
“I don’t read the news anymore,” Mr. Duffy said. “I deleted it from my phone.”
Mr. Muser can’t wrap his head around the possibility of a future shutdown of indoor dining. “It just removes all the joy from my profession,” he said. “There’s no such thing as three-Michelin-star to-go anything.”
He checks the virus numbers every morning, then plows ahead, because there can be no hesitation when you’re in the final stretch of opening a restaurant. Most of Ever’s reservations through the end of September have been sold.
Last Tuesday, the kitchen plated the menu for him and the sommeliers Jessica Dennis and Ryan Rickelman so they could decide which wines to pair with, say, caviar and king crab nestled into a cucumber gel in which the Ever logo has been embedded with roasted coconut pudding.
Late Thursday afternoon, Mr. Selk and Chris Sullivan, a line cook, were hanging dehydrated foods — among them slices of dragonfruit, a maitake mushroom, a Fresno pepper and herbs in rice paper — in the hallway corner as the team prepared for the first of three nights of friends-and-family diners.
Mr. Muser was putting the finishing touches on his elegant solution to the P.P.E. question. He had hired the same craftsman who designed the walls to create a matching sculpturelike table that would sit inside the entryway to hold masks and hand sanitizer.
“It’s a $6,000 problem solver,” Mr. Muser said with a rueful smile. He called it “the Covid table.”
The automatic sanitizer dispenser wound up spewing so much goop onto the first guests’ hands that it dripped onto the floor. Mr. Muser made a note. One more problem to solve.