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A drive throw with two giant fiberglas hot dogs on the roof.
Superdawg is among the best restaurants for limited contact.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

15 Drive-Thrus, Walk-up Windows, and Limited Contact Restaurants With Great Meals in Chicago

Find hot dogs, butter chicken calzones, vegetarian al pastor, and more from a safe distance

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Superdawg is among the best restaurants for limited contact.
| Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Nearly a year into the pandemic, Chicago restaurant operators and patrons have all learned that dining during COVID-19 is a balancing act: everyone involved plays a role in limiting exposure among workers and customers, and many locals have turned to delivery as a means to mitigate risk. Others, however, fear the growing dominance of third-party delivery companies for the harm they can cause to restaurants and the industry at large.

In a vast and vibrant food scene like Chicago’s, there are plenty of options that allow for varying degrees of distance. Check out the options below for a diverse assortment of drive-ins, drive-thrus, and walk-up windows that allow for limited interaction and also let customers to directly support restaurants.

As of January 23, Chicago restaurants are permitted to serve customers indoors with a 25 percent maximum capacity per room. At the same time, despite winter weather, a number of Chicago restaurants continue to offer outdoor seating. Regardless, the state requires reservations for indoor and outdoor dining. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. 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 the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. 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.

Superdawg Drive-In

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As Chicago’s only independent drive-in restaurant, Superdawg is uniquely positioned for socially-distant service. The Northwest Side stalwart, which has served Norwood Park for more than 70 years, has again been been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic for its carhops who deliver vehicle-bound patrons their hot dogs, burgers, and crinkle-cut fries.

Two cardboard boxes, a drink, on a stainless steall counter. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Lost Larson

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Modern Scandinavian bakery Lost Larson has a tendency to draw lines for its immaculately-crafted cardamom buns and moist slices of princess cake, so chef and owner Bobby Schaffer has installed large, transparent partitions in the shop’s accordion windows to insulate both workers and patrons. Customers place orders through an intercom system and wait on distanced markers spray-painted on the sidewalk along Clark Street in Andersonville. A similar system is also in place at the bakery’s newish Wicker Park outpost. 

Superkhana International

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Superkhana in Logan Square makes it easy to retrieve its contemporary Indian delights at a distance thanks to online ordering and pickup via a walk-up window on Albany Avenue. Bring a mask to snag the restaurant’s popular butter chicken calzones, tender vindaloo-braised pork shoulder, and spicy chile cheese naan with green chile achaar puree. 

Taqueria Chingon

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This Bucktown taqueria may have only debuted in December, but it’s earned a reputation for featuring some of the best tacos in town, like carnitas with pig’s heads, morcillo (blood sausage), vegetarian al pastor with celery root, onions, and portobello mushrooms. Despite opening to much fanfare, the restaurant only accepts online orders for delivery or curbside pickup. 

A taco counter.
Taqueria Chingon only accepts online orders.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

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A popular destination for treats like gravy-smothered biscuits and pies, Bang Bang has cut down its operating hours to Saturdays only. Walk-up customers form an orderly, socially-distanced cue (each person stands on a spaced-out pie sidewalk marking) and make their way to a small window to place orders. Patrons then migrate to the shop’s large back patio space, which offers plenty of room for everyone to spread out while they wait for orders to be filled.

Split-Rail

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Neighborhood fried chicken destination Split-Rail has committed to exclusively accepting online orders through third-party platforms like Toast to help get the goods into customers’ hands with minimal contact. Patrons can order delivery or pickup via the restaurant’s walk-up window. Chef and co-owner Zoe Schor says staff are happy to help guide would-be diners who struggle with technology through their system. 

A black-painted brick building with an awning at the entrance.
Split-Rail has been closed to dine-in customers since March.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

Aya Pastry

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Playful and creative sweet spot Aya Pastry has amassed a passionate fanbase that beats a path to West Town for Girl Scout-inspired Samoa cakes and buttery croissants. Owner and chef Aya Fukai recently introduced a drive-thru window for patrons who’d rather not go inside the storefront bakery. It’s open for pickup from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily.

Kitchen and Online HQ for Kitchfix

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Kitchfix has offered nutritionist-approved meals for years, and now they’ve expanded with steak and other options that don’t have as much of a healthy focus. Folks can pick up their meals in West Town by texting they’re waiting, and a worker will pop out and drop the food off in a car. The company also offers delivery. There’s even an in-house dietician to help design meal plans for customers with specific health-related needs and desires. 

Swift & Sons

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The experience at Swift & Sons, Boka Restaurant Group’s fancy Fulton Market steakhouse, is augmented by the addition of its yurt village on the west side of the restaurant. Staff takes each customer’s temperature, before being whisked away to a private round tent heated by a lamp over the table. The interiors differ in each tent and are fun, the perfect antidote to winter’s doldrums. They serve a prix fixe menu cleverly tailored to the environment (charcuterie doesn’t diminish in the cold). Drink menus are online and brought up with a QR code. It’s not a cheap experience (about $150 per person), but it’s unique and staff takes the time to diminish the risk. Hopefully guests can reciprocate by keeping their masks on when needed to respect staff. Reservations via Tock.

IDOF - I Dream of Falafel

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This popular mini chain offers online ordering, but customers can also order via large touchscreens inside that limit contact with staff. The chain is known for wraps, pitas, falafel, and shawarma, and has locations in Wicker Park, Lakeview, and more.

TeaPotBrew Bakery

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TeaPotBrew Bakery, a family-owned cake haven in South Loop, has recalibrated its space to keep workers and patrons protected during the pandemic. Staff use dividers and floor stickers to show people where to form a socially-distanced line inside the bakery, but if numbers become too great, they immediately switch over to a numbered buzzer system with devices that alert waiting customers that their orders are ready. There are also two retractable garage doors that workers open when the weather allows it.

A storefront with two garage doors.
TeaPotBrew Bakery
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Pilsen Yards

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Cabin fever-stricken Chicagoans who are looking for a drink in a lower-risk environment may be interested to visit new neighborhood watering hole Pilsen Yards. Ownership aims to make the spot “the safest, warmest, coolest patio in Chicago” with radiant heated floors and a convection process that turns over all the air in the entire covered patio every one to three minutes. For the time being, drink offerings are limited to packaged beers and draft cocktails, with more complex drink options on hold until the pandemic ends. 

A patio with an overhang.
Pilsen Yards was designed for the pandemic.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Lawrence's Fish & Shrimp

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Fans of the insulation a car can offer — both from the pandemic and the winter chill — will see the appeal of Lawrence’s, a South Side spot that features brown paper bags of crispy, golden fried shrimp, catfish, cod, and perch. Customers in the know set their vehicles in park, unbuckle, and dig in.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Antique Taco Bridgeport

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Owners at Antique Taco, one of the city’s most popular taquerias, have worked to bring a little nostalgic joy during the pandemic by transforming their Bridgeport patio into a retro drive-in with carhop service. Keeping patrons buckled up helps everyone maintain appropriate distance. In keeping with the theme, menu options include a cheeseburger taco (prime beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, flour tortilla) and a Chicago dog taco (Vienna hot dog dragged through the garden, flour tortilla).

Calumet Fisheries

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There’s a lot to love about Calumet Fisheries: its connection to iconic Chicago flick the Blues Brothers, its status as an American Classic (per the James Beard Foundation), but most of all, its fabulous smoked fish. The 73-year-old landmark is also well suited to pandemic-era patrons as fans have long taken to their cars to devour sable, whitefish, and much more.

Superdawg Drive-In

Two cardboard boxes, a drink, on a stainless steall counter. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

As Chicago’s only independent drive-in restaurant, Superdawg is uniquely positioned for socially-distant service. The Northwest Side stalwart, which has served Norwood Park for more than 70 years, has again been been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic for its carhops who deliver vehicle-bound patrons their hot dogs, burgers, and crinkle-cut fries.

Two cardboard boxes, a drink, on a stainless steall counter. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Lost Larson

Modern Scandinavian bakery Lost Larson has a tendency to draw lines for its immaculately-crafted cardamom buns and moist slices of princess cake, so chef and owner Bobby Schaffer has installed large, transparent partitions in the shop’s accordion windows to insulate both workers and patrons. Customers place orders through an intercom system and wait on distanced markers spray-painted on the sidewalk along Clark Street in Andersonville. A similar system is also in place at the bakery’s newish Wicker Park outpost. 

Superkhana International

Superkhana in Logan Square makes it easy to retrieve its contemporary Indian delights at a distance thanks to online ordering and pickup via a walk-up window on Albany Avenue. Bring a mask to snag the restaurant’s popular butter chicken calzones, tender vindaloo-braised pork shoulder, and spicy chile cheese naan with green chile achaar puree. 

Taqueria Chingon

A taco counter.
Taqueria Chingon only accepts online orders.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

This Bucktown taqueria may have only debuted in December, but it’s earned a reputation for featuring some of the best tacos in town, like carnitas with pig’s heads, morcillo (blood sausage), vegetarian al pastor with celery root, onions, and portobello mushrooms. Despite opening to much fanfare, the restaurant only accepts online orders for delivery or curbside pickup. 

A taco counter.
Taqueria Chingon only accepts online orders.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

A popular destination for treats like gravy-smothered biscuits and pies, Bang Bang has cut down its operating hours to Saturdays only. Walk-up customers form an orderly, socially-distanced cue (each person stands on a spaced-out pie sidewalk marking) and make their way to a small window to place orders. Patrons then migrate to the shop’s large back patio space, which offers plenty of room for everyone to spread out while they wait for orders to be filled.

Split-Rail

A black-painted brick building with an awning at the entrance.
Split-Rail has been closed to dine-in customers since March.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

Neighborhood fried chicken destination Split-Rail has committed to exclusively accepting online orders through third-party platforms like Toast to help get the goods into customers’ hands with minimal contact. Patrons can order delivery or pickup via the restaurant’s walk-up window. Chef and co-owner Zoe Schor says staff are happy to help guide would-be diners who struggle with technology through their system. 

A black-painted brick building with an awning at the entrance.
Split-Rail has been closed to dine-in customers since March.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

Aya Pastry

Playful and creative sweet spot Aya Pastry has amassed a passionate fanbase that beats a path to West Town for Girl Scout-inspired Samoa cakes and buttery croissants. Owner and chef Aya Fukai recently introduced a drive-thru window for patrons who’d rather not go inside the storefront bakery. It’s open for pickup from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily.

Kitchen and Online HQ for Kitchfix

Kitchfix has offered nutritionist-approved meals for years, and now they’ve expanded with steak and other options that don’t have as much of a healthy focus. Folks can pick up their meals in West Town by texting they’re waiting, and a worker will pop out and drop the food off in a car. The company also offers delivery. There’s even an in-house dietician to help design meal plans for customers with specific health-related needs and desires. 

Swift & Sons

The experience at Swift & Sons, Boka Restaurant Group’s fancy Fulton Market steakhouse, is augmented by the addition of its yurt village on the west side of the restaurant. Staff takes each customer’s temperature, before being whisked away to a private round tent heated by a lamp over the table. The interiors differ in each tent and are fun, the perfect antidote to winter’s doldrums. They serve a prix fixe menu cleverly tailored to the environment (charcuterie doesn’t diminish in the cold). Drink menus are online and brought up with a QR code. It’s not a cheap experience (about $150 per person), but it’s unique and staff takes the time to diminish the risk. Hopefully guests can reciprocate by keeping their masks on when needed to respect staff. Reservations via Tock.

IDOF - I Dream of Falafel

This popular mini chain offers online ordering, but customers can also order via large touchscreens inside that limit contact with staff. The chain is known for wraps, pitas, falafel, and shawarma, and has locations in Wicker Park, Lakeview, and more.

TeaPotBrew Bakery

A storefront with two garage doors.
TeaPotBrew Bakery
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

TeaPotBrew Bakery, a family-owned cake haven in South Loop, has recalibrated its space to keep workers and patrons protected during the pandemic. Staff use dividers and floor stickers to show people where to form a socially-distanced line inside the bakery, but if numbers become too great, they immediately switch over to a numbered buzzer system with devices that alert waiting customers that their orders are ready. There are also two retractable garage doors that workers open when the weather allows it.

A storefront with two garage doors.
TeaPotBrew Bakery
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Pilsen Yards

A patio with an overhang.
Pilsen Yards was designed for the pandemic.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Cabin fever-stricken Chicagoans who are looking for a drink in a lower-risk environment may be interested to visit new neighborhood watering hole Pilsen Yards. Ownership aims to make the spot “the safest, warmest, coolest patio in Chicago” with radiant heated floors and a convection process that turns over all the air in the entire covered patio every one to three minutes. For the time being, drink offerings are limited to packaged beers and draft cocktails, with more complex drink options on hold until the pandemic ends. 

A patio with an overhang.
Pilsen Yards was designed for the pandemic.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Lawrence's Fish & Shrimp

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Fans of the insulation a car can offer — both from the pandemic and the winter chill — will see the appeal of Lawrence’s, a South Side spot that features brown paper bags of crispy, golden fried shrimp, catfish, cod, and perch. Customers in the know set their vehicles in park, unbuckle, and dig in.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Antique Taco Bridgeport

Owners at Antique Taco, one of the city’s most popular taquerias, have worked to bring a little nostalgic joy during the pandemic by transforming their Bridgeport patio into a retro drive-in with carhop service. Keeping patrons buckled up helps everyone maintain appropriate distance. In keeping with the theme, menu options include a cheeseburger taco (prime beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, flour tortilla) and a Chicago dog taco (Vienna hot dog dragged through the garden, flour tortilla).

Calumet Fisheries

There’s a lot to love about Calumet Fisheries: its connection to iconic Chicago flick the Blues Brothers, its status as an American Classic (per the James Beard Foundation), but most of all, its fabulous smoked fish. The 73-year-old landmark is also well suited to pandemic-era patrons as fans have long taken to their cars to devour sable, whitefish, and much more.

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