Though the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unhinge the hospitality industry, Chicago’s restaurant owners and chefs have unleashed their creativity and come up with the most exciting restaurant pivots. Restaurants have faced endless hurdles since Chicago first shut down in March, not to mention the city’s recent second ban on indoor dining. Resilient as ever, restaurants have been adapting and getting creative with new ideas to keep their businesses afloat. That's given birth to some of the most delicious and exciting food options in Chicago right now. 

1. The Giant Truck 

Giant might be one of the best restaurants in all of Chicago. Despite having one of the smallest kitchen and dining spaces in the city, every dish they serve packs big, bold flavors. Since the pandemic, they’ve been doing takeout and patio dining on some occasions. Their most recent venture is the Giant food truck. This pandemic-friendly operation on wheels is serving food that’s just as eclectic as their classic restaurant menu. Offerings include falafel burrotis, rectangular slices of butter crust pizza with ever-changing toppings and seasonal plates and sides. Check their Instagram to track where the truck is headed next.

2. Big Kids 

If you know about Turkey of the Wolf in New Orleans, one of the most famed sandwich joints in the country, then Big Kids needs to be next on your hit-list. This 90’s vibe, pick-up only sandwich spot in Logan Square is the baby of Mason Hereford from Turkey and the Wolf and Ryan Pfeiffer, former executive chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Blackbird that closed since the pandemic. Big Kids’ menu is nothing but playful. To name a few items, there’s a fried bologna sandwich stuffed with potato chips and “shreddy letty” or the Veg Crunchwrap, a nod to Taco Bell’s classic Crunchwrap Supreme. If that isn’t intriguing enough, they have 90’s-inspired cocktails to wash everything down. You can find Big Kids cooking out of the Young American Bar space in Logan Square. 

3. Takeaway Bagel at Superkhana International

Until the pandemic, no one would think the Jewish carb classic would come out of an Indian restaurant. While Superkhana is still offers their modern Indian dishes for takeout, every Thursday through Sunday morning, Takeaway Bagel takes over the restaurant’s walk-up window. Former pastry chef of the Chicago staple Lula Cafe, Kelly Helgesen, heads the bagel operation and created a menu that you won’t find at your local Jewish deli. You can get a plain or everything sourdough bagel with chili crisp cream cheese. Or if you’re in the mood for something with a little more heft, opt for the Sandwich Du Jour: their bagel sandwich that changes every week based on what inspires the chef. 

4. Mom’s and Marz Community Brewing Co. Collab 

Mom’s started as a Japanese comfort food pop-up and then worked its way to become a vendor at Politan Row food hall. However, as the pandemic twisted their plans, Mom’s has since transitioned into a collaboration with Marz Community Brewing Co., fittingly called “Moms on Marz.” Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4-8 p.m., the menu of Japanese homestyle dishes and snacks like their pork belly ramen, bento boxes, katsu sando and donburis goes live for pickup or local delivery. And while you're at it, you can grab a couple of Marz’s specialty beers too.

5. Sugargoat

Acclaimed chef Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat recently introduced a sweet addition to her restaurant lineup. Sugargoat is Izard’s new bakery inside of Little Goat Diner featuring an unconventional selection of cakes, cupcakes, pies and cookies. There’s an avocado toast cake where flavors of sourdough, tomatillo and caramel mingle under an outer layer of avocado buttercream. There’s also a Cheez-It cake with strawberry nesquik and cheddar caramel buttercreams and a peanut butter Cheez-It crunch. For those who aren't that adventurous, there are more tame options like chocolate or lemon cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, or pecan pie. In the midst of the pandemic, these playful flavor combinations and Sugargoat’s brightly colored exterior are a welcome dose of sweetness.

6. Avec Rotisserie

Avec serves some of the most outstanding Mediterranean shared plates in Chicago. When the restaurant launched Avec Rotisserie—their fast-casual offshoot—in response to the pandemic this summer, there was no doubt it would be anything but delicious. Quarter, half or full portions of roasted chicken come in a plate with pickles, hot chili sauce and a creamy garlic sauce. Pita, salad and hummus lovers can rejoice too; the classic roasted chicken, charred eggplant and falafel are also available on a pita or as a bowl. Avec Rotisserie is available for pickup or delivery only for lunch and dinner. When the falafel-seasoned french fries taste that good, you’ll be tempted to order for both meals.

Supporting the Restaurant Community

Many restaurants have been forced to close since the pandemic began, and no one knows when indoor dining will return to Chicago. But in the meantime, the chefs and restaurant owners with the means to push forward are flexing their creativity to adapt to the challenges facing them. Lucky for us diners, their determination has resulted in some of the most exciting pivots and new food concepts. It's our job to support these restaurants who have always and continue to provide us with their cooking. For consumers who have the resources, ordering takeout, delivery, or dining outdoors is just one of the many ways to contribute. Hopefully, doing so will be enough to help our favorite restaurants survive the pandemic and be here for us to sit inside and dine in once again.