Between awkward encounters and sparse social events (think: lots of beach volleyball), it can be difficult to make new connections after college. Brooke Burton thought a lot about this problem and decided to take the obstacles post-grad social interactions into her own hands. With food and drink at the center of bringing people together, Burton created The People's Club: an engaging and welcoming community through which members can meet new people, try new things and explore local restaurants and businesses. A win-win for everyone. 

Burton established The People’s Club during the pandemic – a time when most were feeling isolated and unable to expand their social circles. She wanted to facilitate connection free from awkwardness and unnecessary hassle for those in the Chicago area.

“I was doing a lot of virtual cocktail making classes and thought that would be a fun way to get people together online,” Burton said.

As Covid-19 restrictions eased, The People’s Club transitioned to in-person programming. Past events include a Sake tasting at Lakeview’s Konbini and Kanpai, and seated dinner at Lao Peng You. Customers can purchase a spot at a single event for $29.99 or an all inclusive membership — valid for all events — for $29.99 a month. Burton said the focus on food and drink is intentional because they “bond all of us.”

And indeed they do. The People’s Club invited Spoon NU to experience their growing community at a pizza-making and wine tasting night hosted by Wicker Park’s Craft Pizza — known for their New York-style pies — and E & J Gallo, a winery and distributor. We got to experience first hand the warm and inviting atmosphere Burton set out to create.

Upon entering the cozy, independently-owned pizza shop, we greeted Burton before mingling with fellow People’s Club attendees. Many recognized each other from past events and were building upon friendships made at comedy club nights and Mezcal tastings. The newbies – like us – were welcomed with open arms as we eagerly awaited pizza and wine

At our table were a mix of seasoned People’s Club veterans and a handful of first-timers like myself. While our first glass was poured – a refreshing Pieropan from Northeast Italy – we chatted about our favorite restaurants in Chicago, college experiences and career plans, and of course, The People’s Club. 

Jireh Pua has been a People’s Club member since the beginning. A friend of Burton’s from business school, he decided to join as a way to support both Burton’s endeavors and local vendors. Two years later, he is still a satisfied customer.

“[Burton] does such a good job of finding the right experiences,” Pua said. “Between the culture and the really cool partnerships, it’s amazing.”

Alex Etzel joined The People’s Club six months ago after many of her friends left Chicago for the suburbs. She hoped to meet others as interested in trying new restaurants as she was. Etzel said the best part about the monthly experiences are the familiar faces you see at each event. The community is what keeps her coming back time and time again.

This was the first People’s Club event for Cecilia Hernandez. Between making new connections, trying Craft Pizza’s delicious pizza and the affordable price, she plans to purchase a The People’s Club membership to attend future events.

Stories and conversations ebbed and flowed as we enjoyed glasses of Pieropan, Allegrini, Ratti and Argiano. Each wine selection complemented the exceptional pies — for me, the Ratti was the clear favorite with notes of strawberry and cherry.

As part of the night’s activities, we were invited to the Craft Pizza kitchen to customize a pie to our liking. While we piled on the toppings, we got to talk to the restaurant’s manager and owner John Ortega. A pizza connoisseur in his own right, Ortega said he plans on working at Craft Pizza for 80 years (talk about dedication!).

After a few minutes in the oven, our custom creations were ready to devour. They were layered in gooey, stretchy cheese and sprinkled with all the toppings we could fit – pepperoni, fresh tomatoes, prosciutto and truffle oil. The first bite was nothing short of decadent.

Our night of sipping, eating and forming friendships now coming to a close, the mission behind the People’s Club was made crystal clear. From the wine consultant, Rafael, to long-time members to Burton herself, everyone at the event was exceptionally welcoming. While in Wicker Park we got to try a new pizza spot promptly added to our “Return-To” list; we learned a bit about wine to impress our fellow college students; but best of all, we met new people we are looking forward to keeping up with at future People’s Club events.

Sign up for The People’s Club email list and follow them on Instagram to learn more about upcoming events and exciting offers.