After months of being hole up in my Chicago apartment during COVID-19 and discovering my new culinary kitchen skills, I emerged in late June to enjoy patio season. I was feeling anxious about how safe it would be but my good friend encouraged me to join her in our first foray into Chicago dining during COVID-19. Here’s how it all went down.
After walking around my neighborhood to observe how well restaurants and diners were adhering to mask and social distancing guidelines on their patios, I decided it was best to dip my toe back into the Chicago dining scene at a small restaurant with limited patio seating. On a Sunday afternoon, I bet my friend Barb for lunch at Farm Bar which has space for only 5 or 6 tables outside. Per Chicago’s mandate, we wore our masks until our food and drinks arrived and our fellow patrons did the same. The waiters donned their masks and gloves the entire time. I felt as safe as I possibly could outside of my home during a global pandemic.
I ordered the super fresh and crispy fish and chips while Barb had Farm Bar’s fabulous cheddar chicken biscuit sandwich. The delicious food and cute patio almost made me forget my anxiety. (Take the CTA Red Line to the Granville ‘L’ stop)
Sometime last year (or maybe 10 years ago? Who knows? COVID-19 has erased time!), Andersonville gained a new culinary hotspot, Oda Mediterranean. They specialize in Turkish and Georgian (the country, not the state!) cuisine. You must put this place on your to-do list. While the inside of this restaurant is cozy and inviting, the sidewalk patio is just as sweet. There were only 5 or 6 tables spaced 6 feet or more apart making my stop here on a cool summer evening very enjoyable. We began with some crisp wine and we ogled the fancy, colorful cocktails the waitress delivered to nearby tables.
The thing I adore most about Mediterranean cuisine is how healthful and earthy it is. My friend, Barb tried the braised short rib with potatoes and apricots. The spices were perfect. I chose a vegetarian favorite, mushroom stroganoff. I am very excited to revisit Oda and work my way through the menu. (Take the CTA Red Line to the Bryn Mawr ‘L’ stop)
Patio season in Chicago wouldn’t be the same without sitting at the picnic tables at Sheffield’s and chowing down on some barbecue. I met up with 3 friends for some beer, sunshine and, of course, the smoky brisket sammie. We each sat at one of the 4 corners of the picnic table, one of several that were spaced 6 feet apart on the patio. Our beers arrived, we removed our masks and settled in for a responsible pandemic meal. Chicago dining during COVID-19 is best done at a familiar place where you feel right at home and Sheffield’s fits that bill perfectly. (Take the CTA Red Line to the Belmont ‘L’ stop)
One of my best friends and my favorite foodie moved back home to Ohio but before she left, we had one last meal together at Eggsperience in Lakeview. Rarely had we done brunch because it’s usually an overpriced endeavor for what costs pennies to make but we made an eggs-ception (HA!). On a sultry Sunday morning, we met on the sidewalk patio with a full coffee urn. Our server donned a well-fitted mask and gloves and the few tables were spaced well enough apart to ease our minds. I had a Greek omelette and Barb had the Belgian waffle with toasted pecans and a side of thick-cut bacon. Delish! (Take the CTA Red Line to the Belmont ‘L stop.)
There you have it! I know 2020 feels like 10 years in one as we navigate our way through the scary fog of this deadly pandemic. We feel anxious and uncertain about our futures but we do need to find some comfort in comfort foods. Breaking bread with friends and family in limited numbers in a safe and responsible way is just the elixir I needed to combat the weariness of COVID-19.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains experience Chicago Dining During COVID-19. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!