COVID-19 has changed the way all restaurants are doing business, from the Tamale Guy to Michelin-starred restaurants. Now, starting today, Alinea — Chicago’s only restaurant with a full three stars from Michelin — is selling a six-course to-go meal to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The Lincoln Park restaurant in March quickly began offering to-go meals with curbside pickup, and now chef Grant Achatz is commemorating his restaurant’s milestone birthday with an unorthodox celebration.
Like previous to-go iterations, customers will have to heat up their meals. Unlike Alinea’s customary three-figure price figure (which varies depending on time and date), this meal costs $49.95. They’re sold out through the weekend (and Mother’s Day, May 10), with the first availability coming on Monday, May 4. Alinea is offering the meal, at least this initial run, through Wednesday, May 13. A supplemental course of 50 grams of Regiis Ova Ossetra caviar is sold for $125. Customers have taken to posting their Alinea meals on Instagram while celebrating events, like birthdays, during the state’s stay-at-home order that started on March 21 and will last until May 30. Alinea first opened on May 4, 2005.
Throughout the pandemic Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas and his company have come up with new business ideas to keep its workers paid, and they’ve also expanded their dinner reservation system, Tock, for carryout orders, offering dine-in restaurants which have never offered takeout a new platform. An executive at a competing third-party platform said Tock is charging a 3-percent commission per order. That would be under the city’s proposed ordinance to cap fees from companies, like Grubhub and DoorDash, at 5 percent. Commission fees, at least for deliveries, hover around 30 percent from those companies. For the record, Kokonas has said on social media he opposes the city’s proposal as he’s uncomfortable with government intervention.
And in other news...
- Families in need of meals in Little Village and North Lawndale have hope thanks to Cocina RX, a new program started by Food Hero — an organization working to train members of the restaurant industry in both Spanish and English. Block Club Chicago reports that last week the program donated 600 meals made at Little Village restaurant Sora Temakeriam, which from the same owners of La Villita.
- Split-Rail’s Zoë Schor is the latest chef to go online to teach classes during the pandemic. Schor, who owns a restaurant and bar where Ukrainian Village meets Humboldt Park, is working with Tasting Collective, a company that started in N.Y. and is starting to offer more programming in Chicago. Schor will offer a 90-minute class at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, and tickets cost $30. Folks have to buy their own groceries from a list Tasting Collective provides. Schor says she’s going to focus on timing, which is an underrated aspect of cooking. She’s going to pan-sear a fish in front of the live audience and make panna cotta.
- Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, the tiny Lincoln Square slice shop known for New York-style pizza, has been doing well, reports Block Club. Owner Jimmy Kang says they ran out of dough last weekend and he was forced to give customers store credit because they couldn’t fulfill all their orders. Fans have been worried about Jimmy’s future in recent months.
- Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is celebrating Pizzeria Portofino’s Chicago Tribune Readers’s Choice Dining Award as Best New Restaurant by reopening for this weekend only. From 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday the restaurant will be open for takeout and delivery, reports the Tribune. The pizzeria is part of LEYE’s mammoth RPM on the Water project the opened last year along the Chicago Riverwalk. They’re calling it a pop-up.
- And finally, Fifty/50 Restaurant Group (Roots Handmade Pizza, Portsmith, Utopian Tailgate) is holding a raffle with some unusual prizes. Tickets are on sale now through May 12 and cost $20. Prizes include a variety of virtual happy hours with same famous guests. Winners could video conference in former Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Or they could hang out with ESPN’s Sarah Spain or Real Housewives of New York’s Tinsley Mortimer. But Emanuel and Ricketts are the lightning rods locally. Via Twitter, Reader music writer Leor Galil shared how much he wants to win the raffle. The raffle is for a good cause, helping Fifty/50 to continue its charity efforts which have fed more than 25,000 meals during the pandemic while keeping many of the restaurant’s workers employed.