As the pandemic stretches into month nine, Chicago chefs and restaurant owners are continuing to find new ways to bring in orders.
The latest? Tapping into the suburban dining market.
Over the past few months, restaurant groups like Alinea and Lettuce Entertain You, as well as independent shops like Bayan Ko, have started offering suburban pickup as a means of recapturing diners who once commuted into the city to dine out. One Off Hospitality, for instance, recently launched a Suburban Supper Club, which offers weekly pickups from the Publican, Dove’s Luncheonette, and avec in Highwood, Wilmette, River Forest, and other suburbs.
“For two decades, our guests frequently told us they traveled to the city to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions in our restaurants,” Karen Browne, CEO of One Off Hospitality, said in an email. “With the pandemic’s restrictions on our dining rooms, we realized this was a great opportunity for us to finally be able to bring our food directly to them.”
For some restaurants, the mechanics have been aided by an unlikely third party: DwellSocial, a three-year-old Chicago startup that connects neighbors with shared home services like plumbers, gutter cleaners, and lawn maintenance. This summer, the company pivoted to coordinating restaurant pickups.
“We were having limited success when Covid hit,” says co-founder and CEO Allen Shulman. “Then I asked Pequod’s, ‘If I can get 10 people in Northbrook to order, will you deliver to us? They said, ‘No, but we’ll do a [central] pickup'” in Northbrook.
Pequod’s has continued doing drops, as have spots like Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, which has more than a dozen pickups scheduled for December, Girl & the Goat, Demera, Frontera Grill, and Doughnut Vault.
“It quickly became clear the real play was to aggregate demand for great food from restaurants that were too far away to offer delivery,” Shulman says.
DwellSocial arranges the events, then customers order online and the restaurants drive the food to a central pickup location. There’s a $5 fee for diners (it’s $10 from December 15 to 31, with half the proceeds going to the Greater Chicago Food Depository), with no fee for restaurants until Covid has passed. The restaurants set the menus, with some offering their complete slate. Dishes also come with reheating instructions; for instance, Pequod’s pizzas are par-baked to finish at home. The site is growing quickly, with DwellSocial nearing 40 pickups a week. “We’re basically creating community-based catering events,” Shulman says.
To find DwellSocial pickups, punch in your zip code at dwellsocial.com, and you’ll get a list of upcoming dinners. Here’s where to order from:
- Galit’s Hannukah offerings are available for pickup at EJ’s Place (10027 Skokie Blvd., Skokie) on December 10 or 12. A meal for two is $80 and includes hummus and pita, latkes, falafel, stuffed cabbage, saffron rice, and sufganiyot, plus a la carte latkes with dips (like herbed labneh with everything bagel spice), sufganiyot with pear butter and strawberry-aleppo jam, and kosher wine. Order here. Boka is also doing a Hannukah pickup in Northbrook on December 10, with either a beef brisket dinner or roasted salmon dinner and accompaniments like matzo ball soup and roasted apple and honey cake. The meal serves two for $125 and can be ordered on Tock.
- On DwellSocial, among other drops, Monteverde is doing drops in Evanston on December 10, Libertyville on December 12, Elmhurst on December 18, and Northbrook on December 19, with more scheduled for January, while Irazu is bringing Costa Rican fare to Glenview on December 16.
- Girl & the Goat is doing a Naperville drop-off on December 19, with an array of meal kits, ranging from a Duck Duck Goat dinner for two ($85) to a smoked goat taco kit for four ($85), plus beverages and treats from her new Sugargoat bakery. Order via Tock.
- The Alinea Group is offering pickups Fridays to Sundays at Chalet (3132 Lake Ave., Wilmette) and Black Horizon Brewing Company (7560 S. Quincy St., Willowbrook). Options include a roast chicken dinner with scalloped potatoes and turtle cheesecake for $34.95; Next: The Alps menu with schnitzel, spaetzle, and German chocolate cake for $34.95; and St. Clair Supper Club’s prime rib, mashed potatoes, wedge salad, and grasshopper pie for $34.95. Order via Tock.
- Besides their Suburban Supper Club, One Off Hospitality is offering Tuesday Big Star taco pickups at Rare Bird Preserves (211 Harrison Street, Oak Park), and Hannukah and Christmas menu pickups in Northbrook and River Forest. Upcoming dates and ordering information are available here, where there’s also info about national shipping on items like a Publican brunch box and avec’s focaccia in case you’re really far out.
- Lettuce Entertain You launched a northern suburbs delivery program with offerings from more than 20 restaurants, including il Porcellino, RPM Steak, and Ema. You can start with Bar Ramone’s pan con tomate, move onto Sushi-San’s Mr. Maguro sushi, finish with Beatrix’s caramel pie, and get a half-dozen Do-Rite donuts for breakfast the next day. Delivery is available within a 13-mile radius of Northfield between 5 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday to Sunday each week. You can order via Tock. You can also order a Crab Cellar pickup at Shaw’s in Schaumburg (1900 E. Higgins Road) Thursday to Sunday, with meal packages that serve two ($109) or four ($199) and include crab legs, burgers with Roquefort and fried onions, sides, and coconut cake for dessert. Order via Tock.
- French restaurant Bistronomic teamed up with Winnetka’s George Trois for a collaborative take-out series. The next dinner is December 11 and 12, and consists of a three-course menu for $100 that serves two and includes George Trois’ foie gras medallion and mushroom strudel, Bistronomic’s braised short ribs, and George Trois’ chocolate souffle, with wines and cocktails from both restaurants available. Pickup is at Bistronomic (840 N. Wabash Ave., Gold Coast) or George Trois (64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka). Order via Tock.
- Filipino-Cuban spot Bayan Ko teamed up with Evanston’s Ward Eight for holiday packages, so you can order their Noche Buena Christmas feast (pickup on December 23 with offerings like fideo seafood paella and salted caramel flan for $55) or a New Year’s grazing table (pickup on December 30 with dishes like crab deviled eggs and lobster palabok for $65) plus cocktails like French 75s. Pickup is at Bayan Ko (1810 W. Montrose Ave., Ravenswood) or Ward Eight (629 W. Howard St., Evanston) Order via Tock.
- Italian restaurant La Scarola has been coordinating weekly suburban deliveries through Instagram by posting dates and menu specials and asking diners to text orders. All info is on their Instagram page, with upcoming deliveries slated for Schaumburg and Highland Park.
- Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser’s Ever is offering a Northbrook pickup from 4-6 p.m. on December 17 at Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe (824 Sunset Ridge Road) and a Naperville pickup at Sparrow Coffee (120 Water St. #110) on December 29 from 12-2 p.m. The menu includes a set meal of braised lamb, barley, and mushroom stew, kale salad, baguette with roasted red pepper jam, and molten chocolate cake for $55. The $45 vegetarian option swaps out the lamb stew for a winter vegetable and bean ragout. A la carte options and a kids’ meal are also available. Order via Tock.
- Mott St. is offering pickup at Glen Ellyn’s Common Good Cocktails (560 Crescent Blvd.) each Friday with a family supper menu for $35 a person. This week’s menu includes spatchcocked umami ssam chicken, garlic smashed potatoes, green beans with fish sauce vinaigrette, and apple miso pie bars. Order via Tock.