The novel coronavirus pandemic has left Chicago’s restaurant and bar industry in chaos with dine-in service forbidden across Illinois. Hospitality workers are left without employment while restaurant owners face enormous economic and organizational challenges as they try to avoid permanent closures.
Ordering takeout or delivery is a clear-cut way to support restaurants from the comfort of the couch, and most venues are offering gift cards to help maintain a cashflow during the shutdown. Another method of easy advocacy is buying apparel, treats, and other merchandise from local food and drink establishments online.
Updated May 7
A restaurant shirt for every day of the week
Let’s be honest — there’s no reason to stuff oneself into a collard shirt or business casual blouse these days. Still, it’s probably a good idea to have something on top for Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours, and Chicago’s hospitality community surely has that base covered all week long.
Sunday: Sport a mustard-colored baseball tee featuring an 8-bit Chicago hot dog ($35) from French spot Cafe Marie-Jeanne and inspire envy in housemates.
Monday: Try a illustrated long-sleeved submission ($22.35) to advertise affection for popular Pilsen venue Thalia Hall, available in two colors.
Tuesday: Don the wearable equivalent of a billboard ($25) to support Logan Square pizza palace Paulie Gee’s.
Wednesday: Put on one of Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba’s “Pallela for the People” tees ($25) and help raise money for hourly employees.
Thursday: Take a “Ye Old Sad Dad” t-shirt ($20) from Young American for a socially-distanced saunter around the block.
Friday: Time has no meaning anymore, so keep the comfy tops coming! Andersonville bakery Lost Larson has a dark blue option ($20) that’s both stylish and super soft.
Saturday: Wax nostalgic about cocktails and midnight cookies at Scofflaw in Logan Square with a shirt that bears a cranky cone-of-shamed cat ($25) — all proceeds go to the group’s COVID-19 relief fund.
Bonus: Pizzeria Bebu, the Eater Chicago 38 member in Lincoln Park, has been closed during the crisis for pickup and delivery. But fans can snag a “Feed Me Pizza” T-shirt for $40 or a hat for $50.
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can’t wait till we safely can on the other side of this... and in the meantime, snag yourself one of these bad boys on our website, just click the link in bio and follow the prompts ❤️ . . . . #FeedMePizzaSoon #saverestaurants #toosmalltofail #chicago #lincolnpark #familybusiness #pizzeriabebu
A smooshy XO Marshmallow sweatshirt for the introverts among us
Recluses are having a moment, it seems, and now they get some specialized loungewear too thanks to Rogers Park’s unusual marshmallow cafe. A charcoal grey, fleece-lined, crew-necked sweatshirt with the phrase “Anti-Social S’more Club” printed on the back ($40), the purchase also raises money for small businesses and hospitality workers impacted by the pandemic.
Totes on totes
Tote bags — which manage to be both utilitarian and a great opportunity to shout-out a favorite business — never go out of style. Stock up now for style and substance:
- Retro Humboldt Park cafe Spinning J has a screen-printed tote ($18) featuring three large malt glasses, sure to get onlookers dreaming of ice cream drinks.
- A bold tote ($12) from Jeff and Judes, Ukrainian Village’s Jew-ish deli-in-progress, features a favorite phrase of owner and chef Ursula Silker: “All My Friends Are Bread.” It’s a sentiment many people in pandemic-related isolation can relate to.
- Logan Square brewery Hopewell Brewing Company opts for a straightforward tote approach: “Stay Well,” its bags read (available in both blue-and-white and black-and-red, $12).
- Sol Cafe, a coffee shop and neighborhood spot in Rogers Park, proffers a fun and on-brand tote ($10) with a leaf and coffee mug.
Slip-on Vans from the company’s “Foot the Bill” initiative
Aimed at raising funds for small creative businesses with customizable designs, Vans has selected two Chicago hospitality establishments to feature on its famous slip-on shoes: intimate Lakeview music venue Metro and hospitality group Land & Sea Dept. are both highlighted in the collection of customizable kicks.
A multi-purpose bandana from acclaimed Mexican restaurant Mi Tocaya Antojera
Available in vivid green or yellow, fans of Logan Square’s acclaimed Mexican spot can work its colorful vibe into their wardrobe with this printed bandana ($14.99). Fashion-forward folks could even transform it into a mask for grocery runs or a jaunt around the neighborhood.
- Nepalese cafe Chiya Chai is known for offering some of the best tea in the city, and the shop’s original masala chai concentrate is available by the bottle for home use ($10).
- Speakeasy-style cocktail bar Osito’s Tap in Little Village offers a number of cocktail mixes, including the “El Te-Porcho Mix” (mango, pineapple, grapefruit, lime juice, chamoyada, $25).
- Essential barbecue spot Smoke Daddy features several barbecue and hot sauces that sound fun to play with at home.
A fire Dark Matter bomber jacket
Local roaster Dark Matter Coffee has a bunch of cool and eye-catching shirts, hats, and hoodies bearing the brand’s signature pop-art aesthetic. As Chicagoans are intimately familiar with the value of a good jacket, Dark Matter delivers a particularly great custom-embroidered jaguar bomber jacket featuring art from the company’s Fuego coffee in gold stitching. At $120, it’s definitely an investment, but fashionable fans both large and very small can get the same art (in printed form) on long-sleeve shirts. All are available for shipment.
A Original Rainbow Cone “dad hat” in millennial pink
Working from home has a way of increasing the gap between hair washes for many. Lauded South Side institution the Original Rainbow Cone has a quick and cheery cover-up for dirty locks that’s perfect for Zoom meetings, social distancing sanity walks, and pressing quarantine updates on Instagram Stories: the pink dad hat, equipped with an embroidered ice cream cone and adjustable strap. It goes for $25, plus $8 for shipping and handling.
Rainbow Cone also carries more ice-cream themed items, ranging from t-shirts and sweatshirt to phone cases and backpacks. The pink building on South Western Avenue is open for carryout and delivery with modified hours — check social media for the latest updates.
A tiki-themed Lost Lake commemorative anniversary t-shirt
A good t-shirt does a lot of work for the wearer: it can provide comfort, humor, or nostalgia. Lost Lake’s one-year anniversary commemorative shirt features all three, with black and white illustrations of the bar’s popular island-style drinks. It’s available for $25 with an additional $6 shipping fee.
- Cozy hoodies are among life’s greatest comforts in tumultuous times, and Off Color Brewing has a comfy cat-and-mouse-themed submission ($50) with a zipper, pockets, and draw-string hood. Fans will recognize the hoodie’s delightful animal drawings from artist Nikki Jarecki.
- Israeli and Middle Eastern spot Galit will send a moody blue snapback hat to those who donate $100 to its staff relief fund, and a t-shirt to those who give $50.
- Today in microfashion: Honey Butter Fried Chicken has a wee teal onesie ($15) that’s sure to make all the other babies jealous. Some are just born with good taste.
- The Hideout, a quirky dive bar and performance space with a strong contingent of devotees, is here to remind locals that “there is still kindness and goodness” with a long-sleeve printed shirt ($25). It also bears an illustration of the venue from artist Ben Chlapek.
- The “official un-official” shirt of OSB at Longman & Eagle ($25) may raise questions from grandparents — it features illustrated nods to biker lore from local artist Ryan Duggan — but that just reaffirms its badass appeal.
- Entente, the fine dining restaurant without the stuffy attitude in River North, has T-shirts that may bring to mind a certain West Coast burger joint. The shirts are used by the staff at the Entente’s stall at Time Out Market Chicago. Proceeds benefit the staff.
- Seoul Taco has some clever shirts that evoke the NBA, Run-DMC, and more. Plus, there’s a Taco baseball cap, which will never go out of fashion.
- Kimski chef Won Kim is also an accomplished graffiti artist. The Bridgeport chef has a limited run of T-shirts reminding folks to “wash their damn hands” for $20 each.
- Chicago Board Game Cafe, the restaurant from the folks behind Cards Against Humanity, are offering a ton of merchandise for purchase online, including board games. These are for pickup only.
ACCESSORIES AND OTHER ITEMS
A subtle and sweet tote bag from Elske
Scandinavian-style West Loop restaurant Elske offers fans a both practical and adorable tote starring a canine “employee of the month” ($30) It’s not flashy or pop-culture driven — it’s just a really nice looking bag that one might imagine filling with produce at a farmer’s market or books from an indie store, in some far off future when we can all go back out in public.
A few of Marz Community Brewing’s “lil’ beer pins”
Novelty pins featuring food have only become more popular as popular jacket and hat accessories, but beer is a little late to the party — luckily, Marz has 1” beer can pins (available individually for $10 or in a four-pack for $35) to fill that gap. Options include the “Marz Beer,” “Chug Life,” “Jungle Boogie,” and “Red Marz,” and they’re manufactured by Brooklyn-based Pintrill.
- Vaunted Chicago Jewish deli Manny’s has a way of going above and beyond, even when it comes to merchandise. Its online store offers food-themed cufflinks featuring either a miniature bagels with lox or pastrami sandwiches ($36). There’s also a smattering of branded t-shirts, mugs, and more.
- Recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on January 1, which sounds like a fine excuse to snag a Half Acre Beer Company “squidowl herb grinder” ($25). It’s worth mentioning that a squidowl appears to be exactly what it sounds like, and comes in black, green, or silver.
- Logan Square’s own Lula Cafe is selling artsy little compact mirrors ($7), good for checking for poppyseeds in the teeth and small acts of espionage.
- It’s always a good time for a sturdy travel-friendly mug, and Build Coffee has a slosh-proof version ($30) made with double-walled stainless steel.
- Dorian’s, the multi-pronged restaurant, lounge, music venue, and record store, is offering “mystery vinyl” for delivery with meals via Tock.
SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS
Piri Piri Hot Sauce from Super Fat Rice Mart
Logan Square’s Macanese mega-hit Fat Rice has transitioned to a new business model and identity: Super Fat Rice Mart is now a general store that offers $99 meal kits and an array of Portuguese and Asian speciality ingredients. These include the
($9.99), made with high-quality peppers that are ground and preserved immediately after they’re picked.
Twin Anchors’s Zesty Barbecue Sauce
Open since 1932 in Lincoln Park, Twin Anchors is known for generating long waits for its famous baked ribs. Fans can savor the restaurant’s classic zingy sauce on their own meats at home without the wait and buy the bottled sauce — it’s available by the case (12 bottles) for $60.
- Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat), one of Chicago’s most well-known chefs, has a line of five sauces that draw on flavors from around the world. They’re sold individually ($7.99) or in a set ($39.95 for five).
- The downtown outpost of Harold’s Chicken Shack has mild sauce — Chicago’s favorite sweet, red condiment seen in chicken spots across the city — for sale by the gallon ($19.99). This isn't a knockoff.
- Parson’s Chicken and Fish has its own sauces for sale too: Parson’s Yellow is the spicer of the two, with habanero chiles, fried garlic, and stewed carrots. Parson’s Red, however, is medium-hot and highlights both guajillo and arbol chilies, plus white vinegar and slow-cooked garlic.