As Gov. Pritzker's stay-at-home order enters its eighth week, there’s been a noticeable shift in terms of restaurants reopening for carryout and delivery. Several restaurants in the Boka group are back, including Boka, Girl and the Goat, and Momotaro, as are spots like Big Star, Pacific Standard Time, Elske, Dos Urban Cantina, RPM Seafood, Daisies, and others.
The change is due to a combination of factors. For one, chefs have a better sense of the safety protocols needed to run a carryout business during the shutdown. They've also realized that restaurants are going to be closed for a lot longer than everyone thought.
After closing on March 15, West Loop’s La Josie reopened this week for carryout, with a menu of tacos, tortas, and family-style dishes like chiles rellenos.
“As the stay-at-home order is extended and we planned to offer carryout service, it was very important for us to open on La Josie's third anniversary, which happens to be Cinco de Mayo,” says the restaurant's chef/owner Pepe Barajas. “With the weather getting nicer, people are more inclined to come out and pickup.”
Barajas says that during the closure, he learned more about how to safely operate carryout service. All of his employees have completed an online course on food safety during the pandemic.
At West Loop’s Monteverde, chef/partner Sarah Grueneberg is launching a program called Monteverde at Home, which offers a la carte items (with dishes like Calabrian pork ragù, soppressata meatballs, and spaghetti al pomodoro), take-and-bake family-style dishes, and a market component. The family-style menu serves four to six people and changes weekly. This week’s $95 package includes a pork ragù lasagna, beet and apple salad, bread and butter, and dessert.
Why is Monteverde reopening now? "The future is still so uncertain, we had to explore ways to support our team," says Grueneberg. “It’s almost like running a whole new business. We’re selling favorite dishes alongside fresh and dried pastas, pantry staples from our favorite Italian producers, fresh produce from local farmers we love, and wine. Ultimately, we as chefs and restaurateurs have to re-think how we operate as the regular restaurant is no longer viable on its own.”
More and more restaurants have announced their returns — Lost Lake and Mi Tocaya Antojeria are two coming up — so keep an eye on your favorite spots' social media pages.
I’m super sad about a closure this week: Income Tax, the lovely bistro with a fantastic wine and spirits program, has announced that it’s closing and won’t be reopening. It’s a huge loss for Edgewater, but also Chicago, since these independent restaurants give our dining scene vibrancy and personality. If you’re able to help out a favorite place with a takeout order or donation, now's the time.
Little Bucharest Bistro, the long-standing Avondale restaurant, is closing for good after 50 years. If you want one more taste, you can get it this weekend — for free. Owner Branko Podrumedzic is offering gratis stuffed cabbage dishes for curbside pickup, so call the restaurant to set a time.
Amid all this, the excellent Evanston bakery Hewn has relocated to 1733 Central St. It’s open for pickup for breads, pastries, and lunch items, like a take-and-bake croque monsieur, reubens, and banh mi.
Finally, a note from dining critic John Kessler: At Joong Boo market, you can find both N95 and disposable masks at the dumpling stand. If you're in need of a mask, you may as well get some mandu while you're there.