Chicago Bars, Restaurants Enter Strange New World

In less than 48 hours this weekend, the mood among Chicago’s restaurant community went from concern to full-on freak out mode. Friday night I had a few drinks with friends at Bar Sótano, beneath Frontera Grill. The place was about half-full. Chef/Owner Rick Bayless was there – we haven’t seen each other in months, since we stopped taping episodes of The Feed podcast – and he was telling me all of the private dining reservations had evaporated while business was down significantly. This wasn’t surprising. Just a few hours earlier I had cancelled five reservations I had set up in Nashville for next week, and thought of how cancellations around the country must be rippling throughout the industry.

Then on Saturday, there was more talk about how would these small businesses survive a prolonged slow down? Any interruption in business would be devastating for an industry already squeezed by tiny margins. On Thursday, Chef Phillip Foss (El Ideas) had a piece in The Takeout about what COVID-19 could do to the industry; Friday, Alinea Group’s Nick Kokonas laid out their plans to deal with the looming crisis.

But I’m not sure anyone really expected what was to come Sunday afternoon.

Earlier today, several local, independent restaurateurs met at Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar, where they came up with a unified message for Governor Pritzker, asking for immediate help as a form of triage for their businesses. You can watch Julia Momose’s message here, which is the same one you’ll hear from folks like Jason Hammel (Lula), Matthias Merges (Billy Sunday), Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat) and Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate). Just a few hours earlier, Aya Fukai (Aya Pastry) told me she was moving her mostly wholesale bakery to a retail one on Tuesday, open seven days, and would start to sell raw pizza and cookie dough so parents could bake with their kids who were stuck at home for the next two weeks. When I got home, I heard the news that as of tomorrow, March 16, all Illinois bars and restaurants would be closed to dine-in customers, allowing for take-out and delivery only. Suddenly, it felt like the bottom was dropping out. I’ve even begun re-thinking the value of future Hungry Hound stories that tell people where to eat. A decision is coming soon.

So while we’re all trying to figure out what to do, what is safe and what is necessary, I felt the best thing I could do for now would be to share the news I’m receiving each day from small businesses and restaurateurs. They’re getting creative as they attempt to stay afloat over the next few weeks. Hopefully you can get out and support them during this extremely trying time. Feel free to email me at or send me messages on Insta or Twitter, @stevedolinsky with any news you want to share.

Pacific Standard Time is offering PST Family Meal for pick-up from 3:30 pm – 8 pm. You can pre-order here. $40 includes:

Antipasti Salad – mixed lettuce, mighty vine tomatoes, salami cotto, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, roasted garlic vinaigrette
Rigatoni – sausage, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese
Cheese pizza
Chocolate chip cookies (4)

(feeds 4; gluten free & vegetarian family meals available)


Middle Brow Bungalow will continue operating indefinitely for delivery, pick up and curbside pick up. They’ll minimize interaction with the public; their entire menu is available on caviar. They’ll also begin to take on delivery themselves, to help make sure employees who want the work have it. They’ll be selling beers and fresh breads every day for take-away via both pre-order and walk-up. They’ll also be selling weekly subscriptions to exclusive beer, bread and pizzas for take-away and delivery.


FARE, with locations in Time Out Market and Wells Street Market, has fantastic bowls, salads, veggie sides and avocado toasts, among other healthier fare. They’re offering free delivery. Call at 312-217-8041, email or order via Caviar.



    March 15, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    Food trucks exempt?

    • Steve Dolinsky

      March 16, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Yes, since they allow for pick-up and there is NO “dining in” possible.

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