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9 Chicago Restaurants Giving Back During the COVID-19 Crisis

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This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Restaurants always have been essential to the fabric of our communities. They provide places to gather, plus a sense of identity and connection for many guests, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a favorite spot to visit on a night off. (During more normal times, at least.) Even now, at a time when most restaurants are facing uncertain futures, many are still not only serving the cuisine their regulars love, but also giving back to their neighborhoods in ways that go far beyond recipes. From feeding families affected by COVID-19 to raising money for Black Lives Matter, check in with these restaurants on their Facebook pages for the latest on how Chicago eateries are making their neighborhoods — and the city — stronger. (Want to take action to help support these restaurants? When we support small business, we support our communities, so Facebook’s Small Business support hub offers resources for those looking to give or get help.)

A number of Chicago restaurants have resumed dine-in service at 25 percent capacity. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit chicago.gov. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Virtue Restaurant

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1462 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 947-8831
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When it became clear that the coronavirus was going to have a devastating impact on restaurant employees, chef Erick Williams sprang into action, raising over $39,000 to pay Virtue’s team members while the restaurant was shut down. Once that goal was met, the restaurant pivoted to raising money for first responders, for whom Williams also had been preparing meals while Virtue was closed to the public. “I don’t want to sound like we were trying to be some heroes,” he said. “We were doing these things out of necessity. Restaurants, at their core, need to feed people.” Now that Virtue is back to offering its Southern-inspired menu of classics, like gizzards with dirty rice and gravy, Williams continues to support his community through events like benefit dinners supporting racial justice and Instagram Live panels on the future of African American foodways. 

2. Mi Tocaya Antojería

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2800 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(872) 315-3947
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When it opened in 2017, the regional Mexican cuisine at Mi Tocaya struck an immediate chord with the neighborhood. Dishes like Yucatan-style roast pork and San Luis Potosi-style tacos, which are pan-fried, have won chef Daniela Dávila countless accolades, and Mi Tocaya has been in the spotlight recently for its advocacy work, too. In addition to crowdfunding support from their loyal customers to help ensure financial stability for the staff, Mi Tocaya partnered with The Power of 10, a restaurant-relief organization that helps re-employ industry staff and distribute meals to families in need.

3. Middle Brow Bungalow

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2840 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 687-9076
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Middle Brow beer was a local favorite for years before the opening of Middle Brow Bungalow, a restaurant and taproom featuring some of Chicago’s best house-made pizza and bread. But feeding carbs to hungry Logan Square residents isn’t the only way that Middle Brow is taking care of its people: They’ve also eliminated tipping, instead adding on a set service charge, to ensure more equitable, consistent pay for staff. And for the past three months they’ve been working on their “community-supported fermentation” program. Those who buy in receive freshly baked bread or beer weekly, and each subscription includes the donation of a bread loaf to a family in need. 

4. Honeybear Cafe

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7036 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
(773) 754-7450
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When this Rogers Park brunch spot opened in February, it was so popular that the restaurant ran out of food. (And if you’ve tried their uber-fluffy biscuits and gravy or decadent cookie-butter-and-banana stuffed french toast, then you’ll get why.) But besides making some of the best breakfast food in the city, owner Prudence Faklaris, who runs Honeybear with her husband, has also been giving back to those frontline workers — donating weekly meals to the staff at Evanston’s Saint Francis Hospital and feeding thousands of doctors, nurses, and more. 

5. Big Star

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1531 N Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 235-4039
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Big Star is a beloved taco spot for good reason. And over the past few months, the restaurant has been giving back to its neighborhood in multiple ways, like providing boxed meals to unemployed service industry workers, and participating in the Save Chicago’s Taquerias campaign. Every week, Big Star uses its huge social platform to highlight a menu item from one of the city’s many neighborhood taquerias; a portion of proceeds then go directly to that taco shop for pandemic support. 

6. XO Marshmallow

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6977 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60626
(773) 654-3142
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Who knew marshmallows could be so tough? In response to the nationwide protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, business owners Kat Connor and Lindzi Shanks made a goal to use their platform — and their recipes — to inspire change. They’ve been active in the #amplifymelanatedvoices campaign, which asks people to use their influence to highlight the work of Black creators. They also produced a limited-edition “Difficult Conversations” marshmallow, intended to spark conversations between friends and family about race and privilege; proceeds went toward Black Girl Ventures, which supports Black women entrepreneurs. “When you give back to your community, your community gives back to you,” they explain.

7. The Promontory

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5311 S Lake Park Ave W
Chicago, IL 60615
(312) 801-2100
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As a hugely popular restaurant and performance space in Hyde Park, The Promontory was hit doubly hard by the pandemic. But managing partner Bruce Finkelman and a group of more than a dozen owners from other Chicago event venues are doing everything they can to support each other. In 2018, they formed CIVL (Chicago Independent Venue League), which advocates on behalf of Chicago’s indie performance spots. During the pandemic, the group has put on livestream performances and teamed up with local breweries to raise money for affected venues. The Promontory is even helping struggling neighborhood eateries, letting other food trucks and vendors serve out of their parking lot.

8. Kizin Creole Restaurant

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2311 Howard St
Chicago, IL 60645
(773) 961-7275
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Even in a food scene as diverse as Chicago’s, there are some cuisines that are woefully underrepresented. At Kizin Creole, owner and executive chef Daniel Desir is bringing a bit of the West Indies to Rogers Park with the city’s only Haitian restaurant. Neighbors love the traditional dishes like goat stew and poul fri, or Haitian fried chicken, and the Haitian community loves having a place that feels connected to “home.” Recently, Desir made a point to celebrate Juneteenth, too, with specials on meals like pork with black rice. 

Courtesy of Kizin Creole

9. HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

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1800 S Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 702-1303
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Since opening in 2017, owners Thai and Danielle Dang have been passionate about contributing to their majority-Latinx neighborhood of Pilsen, and since the start of the pandemic, that passion has only gotten deeper. Besides serving up signature dishes like papaya salad, pho, and bún chả, the Dangs have been actively seeking out ways to support their staff and community. That includes everything from Instagram posts helping people navigate the tricky waters of insurance and rent relief, to helping organize trash cleanup and meal donations in the neighborhood. HaiSous has also launched a custom PPE line in collaboration with family in Vietnam; for every mask or face shield purchased, another is donated to a community member in need.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

1. Virtue Restaurant

1462 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615

When it became clear that the coronavirus was going to have a devastating impact on restaurant employees, chef Erick Williams sprang into action, raising over $39,000 to pay Virtue’s team members while the restaurant was shut down. Once that goal was met, the restaurant pivoted to raising money for first responders, for whom Williams also had been preparing meals while Virtue was closed to the public. “I don’t want to sound like we were trying to be some heroes,” he said. “We were doing these things out of necessity. Restaurants, at their core, need to feed people.” Now that Virtue is back to offering its Southern-inspired menu of classics, like gizzards with dirty rice and gravy, Williams continues to support his community through events like benefit dinners supporting racial justice and Instagram Live panels on the future of African American foodways. 

1462 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615

2. Mi Tocaya Antojería

2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

When it opened in 2017, the regional Mexican cuisine at Mi Tocaya struck an immediate chord with the neighborhood. Dishes like Yucatan-style roast pork and San Luis Potosi-style tacos, which are pan-fried, have won chef Daniela Dávila countless accolades, and Mi Tocaya has been in the spotlight recently for its advocacy work, too. In addition to crowdfunding support from their loyal customers to help ensure financial stability for the staff, Mi Tocaya partnered with The Power of 10, a restaurant-relief organization that helps re-employ industry staff and distribute meals to families in need.

2800 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647

3. Middle Brow Bungalow

2840 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Middle Brow beer was a local favorite for years before the opening of Middle Brow Bungalow, a restaurant and taproom featuring some of Chicago’s best house-made pizza and bread. But feeding carbs to hungry Logan Square residents isn’t the only way that Middle Brow is taking care of its people: They’ve also eliminated tipping, instead adding on a set service charge, to ensure more equitable, consistent pay for staff. And for the past three months they’ve been working on their “community-supported fermentation” program. Those who buy in receive freshly baked bread or beer weekly, and each subscription includes the donation of a bread loaf to a family in need. 

2840 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

4. Honeybear Cafe

7036 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626

When this Rogers Park brunch spot opened in February, it was so popular that the restaurant ran out of food. (And if you’ve tried their uber-fluffy biscuits and gravy or decadent cookie-butter-and-banana stuffed french toast, then you’ll get why.) But besides making some of the best breakfast food in the city, owner Prudence Faklaris, who runs Honeybear with her husband, has also been giving back to those frontline workers — donating weekly meals to the staff at Evanston’s Saint Francis Hospital and feeding thousands of doctors, nurses, and more. 

7036 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626

5. Big Star

1531 N Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60622

Big Star is a beloved taco spot for good reason. And over the past few months, the restaurant has been giving back to its neighborhood in multiple ways, like providing boxed meals to unemployed service industry workers, and participating in the Save Chicago’s Taquerias campaign. Every week, Big Star uses its huge social platform to highlight a menu item from one of the city’s many neighborhood taquerias; a portion of proceeds then go directly to that taco shop for pandemic support. 

1531 N Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

6. XO Marshmallow

6977 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60626

Who knew marshmallows could be so tough? In response to the nationwide protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, business owners Kat Connor and Lindzi Shanks made a goal to use their platform — and their recipes — to inspire change. They’ve been active in the #amplifymelanatedvoices campaign, which asks people to use their influence to highlight the work of Black creators. They also produced a limited-edition “Difficult Conversations” marshmallow, intended to spark conversations between friends and family about race and privilege; proceeds went toward Black Girl Ventures, which supports Black women entrepreneurs. “When you give back to your community, your community gives back to you,” they explain.

6977 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60626

7. The Promontory

5311 S Lake Park Ave W, Chicago, IL 60615

As a hugely popular restaurant and performance space in Hyde Park, The Promontory was hit doubly hard by the pandemic. But managing partner Bruce Finkelman and a group of more than a dozen owners from other Chicago event venues are doing everything they can to support each other. In 2018, they formed CIVL (Chicago Independent Venue League), which advocates on behalf of Chicago’s indie performance spots. During the pandemic, the group has put on livestream performances and teamed up with local breweries to raise money for affected venues. The Promontory is even helping struggling neighborhood eateries, letting other food trucks and vendors serve out of their parking lot.

5311 S Lake Park Ave W
Chicago, IL 60615

8. Kizin Creole Restaurant

2311 Howard St, Chicago, IL 60645
Courtesy of Kizin Creole

Even in a food scene as diverse as Chicago’s, there are some cuisines that are woefully underrepresented. At Kizin Creole, owner and executive chef Daniel Desir is bringing a bit of the West Indies to Rogers Park with the city’s only Haitian restaurant. Neighbors love the traditional dishes like goat stew and poul fri, or Haitian fried chicken, and the Haitian community loves having a place that feels connected to “home.” Recently, Desir made a point to celebrate Juneteenth, too, with specials on meals like pork with black rice. 

2311 Howard St
Chicago, IL 60645

9. HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

1800 S Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60608

Since opening in 2017, owners Thai and Danielle Dang have been passionate about contributing to their majority-Latinx neighborhood of Pilsen, and since the start of the pandemic, that passion has only gotten deeper. Besides serving up signature dishes like papaya salad, pho, and bún chả, the Dangs have been actively seeking out ways to support their staff and community. That includes everything from Instagram posts helping people navigate the tricky waters of insurance and rent relief, to helping organize trash cleanup and meal donations in the neighborhood. HaiSous has also launched a custom PPE line in collaboration with family in Vietnam; for every mask or face shield purchased, another is donated to a community member in need.

1800 S Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60608

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