Since March 17, Boka Restaurant Group has kept its 18 restaurants closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, the James Beard Award-winning company has made two announcements: On Friday, Boka in Lincoln Park will reopen for takeout. On the same day, Stephanie Izard will start offering an array of pantry items and meals for curbside pickup at Little Goat in West Loop.
Boka’s menu consists of three family-style meals including one that features its popular roasted chicken. There’s also vegetarian and fish options. Chef Lee Wolen says he’s been ready to return to work for weeks. For safety, there will be only four workers inside the restaurant — Wolen, pastry chef Meg Galus, and two others — during operations. While Wolen prefers to let Boka co-founders Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz talk about the economic side of the restaurant, generally, he feels that it’s good to build momentum and bring in some money in the short term. Customers can order via Tock.
“For me, it came to a point at the end of the day that we have to make some money,” Wolen says.
Cooking at home has been therapeutic for the chef. He’s make pizzas with his 2 1⁄2 year old son. But Wolen misses his restaurant. A few weeks ago he posted a temporary photo of the roasted chicken on Instagram. The caption read: “wish I could cook this soon.” It’s been strange being away and without work for Wolen.
He’s appreciative of the leadership of management. Boehm has been been active raising his voice to bring aid to restaurants: “He’s not just fighting for Boka, he’s fighting for the entire industry,” Wolen says of Boehm.
The menu could change from time to time. Wolen mentioned Boka recently took a shipment of dry-aged ducks. No recent event precipitated the move to reopen, Wolen says. The chef says he just asked and management was receptive to his request.
Over in West Loop, Boka and Izard have picked the Little Goat as the base for their new endeavor: “Girl & the Goat-Ceries.” Customers can order fresh bread, pickled vegetables, and take-and-bake items. There’s cocktail kits and prepared items like a goat belly tostada dinner, weekend brunch, and pig face biscuit meals. Pig face is one of Girl & the Goat’s signature dishes for Izard, a Top Chef and Iron Chef champion.