20 Chicago Pop-Ups & New Takeout-Only Spots
photo credit: Sandy Noto
Chicago’s restaurant landscape feels a lot like the Wild West right now: constantly changing and anything goes. We have never seen more pop-ups, delivery-only virtual restaurants, takeout spots, and collaborations between chefs. It makes sense - now more than ever, restaurants need to get creative to survive. Whether it’s an at-home takeout operation, or a restaurant within a restaurant trying something new, you should check these places out while you can.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. 20 Chicago Pop-Ups & New Takeout-Only Spots is presented by Kenneth Cole. Wear In This Together.
One of the best parts of going to the Maxwell Street Market was the chance to eat at Rubi’s. Specifically, eating their al pastor tacos that come on large tortillas made by hand right in front of you. Unfortunately, there’s no market this year, but luckily the family behind Rubi’s is offering pickup in Pilsen in the alley behind Cafe Indigo, and on Tuesdays takeout in Albany Park. Text 773-318-9526 and check out their Instagram for days, times, and specials.
The goat tacos at Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights are some of our favorites in the city. And now the chef behind that taqueria is doing a three-month-long (at minimum) pop-up at Promontory in Hyde Park. It’s called El Oso and has small plates like tacos dorados, and entrees like crispy pork belly with mole manchalates and chivo tatemado with roasted bone-in goat shank.
Pink Salt was originally a Thai restaurant in the now-closed Fulton Galley food hall. The food was really good, so we’re happy to see that they’ve launched a pop-up called “Room Service” out of Split Rail in Humboldt Park. You’ll find dishes like their som tum, larb gai, and black rice pudding with coconut cream. The menu changes weekly, with pre-orders starting on Thursdays.
This takeout-only spot specializes in Japanese curry and the menu has things like tonkatsu kare, a shaved beef udon curry, and waffle fries (yes, topped with curry). Both the chicken and pork are incredibly juicy, the handmade noodles are wonderfully chewy, and we’re glad the rich curry is covering everything since it’s delicious. Basically, this place has the type of comfort food that can single-handedly get you through winter.
We’re big fans of Amaru, a Latin American spot in Wicker Park, so we’re excited that they opened Bloom, a virtual restaurant focused on vegetarian food. Their new spot has dishes like tacu tacu (a rice and chickpea cake with achiote curry), the cashew e pepe (made with kelp noodles and cashew cheese), and a vegan samosa chaat.
Getting the delicious Chinese food from 3 Little Pigs takes some planning. You need to request an order over Instagram and wait for the chef to get back to you on availability. And because it’s a one-man operation, it might take a while. But your patience will be rewarded with some excellent char siu pork ribs, pork fried rice, and egg rolls. If you’re lucky, they might be experimenting with some new menu items like wings or pork buns that they’ll add to your order just for fun.
You might remember Karyn’s Cooked - a vegan restaurant that had multiple locations around Chicago. It closed a few years ago, but now it’s back and operating out of Jam in Logan Square. Calling itself Eat More Jam, it has a long menu of plant-based dishes like enchiladas, lasagna, and spaghetti with lentil meatballs.
This West Loop spot had the misfortune of having its grand opening right before the shutdown, then having to immediately close in March. But now it’s back, offering carryout and delivery. The focus here is on quesabirria, with fillings like beef, carnitas, and tinga, all meant to be dipped in their house consomme. They also have a beef sandwich served on a telera roll, which is their delicious version of an Italian beef.
Cat-Su Sando is a delivery-only restaurant that specializes in katsu sandwiches. There are five different versions on the menu (like a fried pork cutlet and one made with smoked fish), along with kushiyaki, okonomiyaki, and onigiri. Along with their virtual operation based out of Humboldt park, they also do pop-ups at various spots around the city, like Pilot Brewing Project. Check their Instagram for details.
Retreat is a long-term pop-up (the plan is for it to last a year) happening at the Currency Exchange Cafe in Garfield Park. It’s a spot for BIPOC creatives to showcase their food (as well as art and music), with a rotating list of chefs and artists. In October, they’re hosting Black Cat Pizza, a Neapolitan pizza spot, on Fridays and Saturdays.
This is a new delivery-only chain with multiple locations across the United States. The “Whiz” in question is Whiz Khalifa, and Hotbox’s theme is “stoner food”. This means you’ll find dishes like “blazed burnt ends”, a “mile-high” chocolate brownie, and “mac and yellow” cause, you know, Whiz Khalifa.
This is a new carryout and delivery-only spot operating out of The Hatchery - a restaurant incubator in Garfield Park. And Empanada Mama focuses on (you guessed it) empanadas, along with bites like shrimp ceviche and Puerto Rican rice.
The original Mary’s has been in Garfield Park since 1968, and this is their new carryout and delivery-only location operating out of a shared kitchen space in Humboldt Park. The menu is the same as their original location, with things like rib tips, fried catfish, wings, and burgers.
Gotham Bagels is a to-go bagel shop that’s operating out of an Italian restaurant in Old Town. But don’t let the Inception-style restaurant within a restaurant plot confuse you, this place has excellent bagels. They’re big, soft, slightly chewy, and will shut up any East Coaster who complains about Chicago’s bagel scene. From a perfect BEC sandwich to the lox with cream cheese, everything here is fantastic.
The Boka people are very busy right now. GG is their takeout-only restaurant from the head chef at Boka, and as you might have deduced from the name, this place focuses primarily on chicken. The menu has things like a fried chicken sandwich, whole (and half) roasted chicken, chicken salad, and sides like waffle fries, broccoli slaw, and salads.
Han Burger is a virtual restaurant (meaning it’s takeout and delivery-only, not owned by your Sims avatar) in River West. Their specialty is roujiamo: a Chinese sandwich filled with spicy, slow-cooked meat and peppers on a housemade mo bun. There are two fillings to choose from (brisket or pork belly) and both versions are absolutely delicious, with juicy meat that’s perfectly seasoned with a bunch of different spices that build just the right amount of heat.
Professor Pizza started a few years ago as a popular Chicago pop-up that developed a cult following. Now you can order its Grandma-style pies every day (or the occasional rogue thin crust) through Tock, for delivery or carryout from The Full Shilling in Lincoln Park.
When Superkhana reopened in July, it used its brand new takeout window to sell food and drinks from its employee-run pop-ups: Takeaway Bagel (a bagel spot) and Be Cordial (to-go cocktails). They are both open Thu-Sun, and you’ll find a rotating selection of bagel sandwiches, schmears, and cocktails like strawberry Manhattans and curry leaf mezcal coolers.
Milly’s is a brand new pizza place that takes its inspiration from Burt’s Place in Morton Grove (FYI, Pequod’s was started by Burt). This means Milly’s has the same kind of pan-style deep dish with a caramelized crust that we all know, love, and make all our visiting friends and families eat. There are only a few pies available from Milly’s each day, so order ahead of time.
Brochu is from a former Roister chef - the one responsible for their famous chamomile chicken dish - and was supposed to open a brick-and-mortar last spring. Well, that got derailed, so now it’s a virtual restaurant that’s operating out of Devil Dawgs in Wicker Park. The menu is focused on fried chicken, sides (like BBQ corn or slaw), and a fried chicken sandwich that’s absolutely fantastic. It has a thick, wonderfully crunchy batter, and comes with a delicate chamomile mayo that will feel familiar to anyone who ate the original at Roister.