If you took a spin down Clark Street through Wrigleyville last Saturday evening you could imagine it was a game day rather than a national outpouring of grief, rage, and rebellion. The sun dappled patios were packed with the sandaled and unmasked, shedding coronavirus for Corona buckets. Ready or not, patio season is back, more harrowing than ever.
We’ll see in a few weeks whether this is a smart or terrible bet for the hospitality industry. Carryout and delivery- only isn’t going to cut it for much longer. Workers gotta work. Drinkers gotta drink.
Some of the chefs I’ve written about in the past few weeks are opening back up too, Brian Jupiter at Ina Mae Tavern and Frontier, and Erick Williams at Virtue among them. But these chefs have also exercised another option to keep the lights on and their people employed, while helping to stabilize the food supply chain. And this is one restaurants should be sticking with and even ramping up while we wait to see if there’s a viral surge around the corner.
“There’s a fuckload of people who aren’t eating food,” says Ed Marzewski of Marz Community Brewing. We’re stabilizing our businesses, trying to work with our buddies, but we gotta do whatever we can to help people out.”
This week he and his crew, along with their not- for- profit Public Media Institute, launched Community Kitchen, out of the brewery and Kimski. It’s a four week pilot program to provide 200 meals, three times a week to south side seniors, food pantries, churches, and hospitals, funded by private foundations, and donations (yours included).
On Monday, Randi Howry and Kelly Ijichi of Mom’s,* made 200 boxes of grilled chicken and rice, with white bean and tomato salad, with asparagus from Mick Klug Farm. On Wednesday Won Kim put out free box lunches—gochujang braised chicken thighs, chap chae noodles, pea tendril slaw, and a Bridgeport Bakery cookie—to all comers at Kimski, and today, while he’s prepping for a pop up with his new Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream collaboration with Eat Free Pizza and Pretty Cool Ice Cream, Mom’s are back at it with 200 more box lunches: grilled chicken teriyaki with rice, cucumber, and cabbage tsukemono with pea shoots from Closed Loop Farms, vegetable dumplings with sweet chili sauce, and a cream bun from Crescent Bakery, all prepped, cooked, and distributed via the brewery.
A crucial aspect of this national movement of repurposing restaurant kitchens for community food stability, is providing markets for the farmers with far fewer restaurant customers. On Sunday, Marz is debuting it’s Community of the Future Market in the lot behind the brewery from 10 am to 2, a cashless, touchless, open-air farmers market. You have to RSVP to attend with a $5 deposit, applied to purchases. At the end of the day Community Kitchen will buy the leftover produce and put it toward next week’s round of meals. Customers staggered 20 at a time can fuel their shopping with beer, bottled cocktails, and spirit-free beverages from the Marz profile, and all will be staggered 20 at a time, which seems like a safer bet for a few drinks in the sun.
Coronavirus and Corona buckets not allowed.
*Contributors, along with Jupiter and Williams, to our community cookbook, Reader Recipes: Chicago Cook and Drinks at Home.