It might be a new year, but you’re still finding yourself ordering food from the same three restaurants. Again. And again. And again. While it’s important to support your favorites (please don’t stop), occasionally you need some encouragement to try something different. So if your takeout routine is starting to feel like Groundhog Day, only with way more disposable forks, that’s what this guide is for. From DIY handrolls to a birria pop-up to the best shawarma in the city, these 13 spots are guaranteed to break up your delivery déjà vu.
Mr Kebab opened in West Rogers Park last September and makes some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city. Order either the combination plate (which includes your choice of shawarma, kefta, rice, salad, and pita), a gyro, beef shawarma sandwich, or the vegetarian combo with baba ganoush, hummus, falafel, and dolmas, and plan on immediately turning this place into one of your new favorites.
Ever since Popeyes released its fried chicken sandwich, Chicago restaurants have been required by law to have one on their menu. OK, that’s not true, but the city does have a lot of them, and you should still put Cluck-It on your list of places to try if you haven’t already. It’s a new virtual restaurant in Bronzeville that focuses solely on fried chicken, and their “mother clucker” sandwich is what you need to order. It has a crunchy thigh, squishy brioche bun, and is topped with American cheese, spicy sauce, and pickles. But the desserts are another reason this place stands out - they make an incredible caramel banana pudding and a sweet and savory cornflake sandwich cookie filled with honey buttercream that we promise will improve your life.
In case you need another great new Chinese restaurant to try (you do), order from 3 Little Pigs via Instagram. This virtual restaurant is based in Bridgeport, and you order by DM’ing their account, then find out day-of the pick-up location for your food, which will be somewhere in Chinatown. The menu is short, focusing on different preparations of pork. You can expect things like char siu ribs, pork-filled egg rolls, and fluffy fried rice made with Chinese sausage, ham, and bbq pork that’s some of the best fried rice we’ve ever had.
If you’ve ever eaten the excellent Mexican food at Mi Tocaya in Logan Square, you’ll be delighted to hear that one of their chefs started a beef and vegetarian birria pop-up. Birria Ta Ta Tacos has no set schedule or location, and you need to check their Instagram to see when and where the pop-up will be that week (but it’s almost always on a Sunday). Their quesotacos are wonderfully crispy and cheesy, and you should absolutely devote your weekend to tracking them down.
Delivery-only spot Tasting India is not about instant gratification - getting the Indian food from here requires a little planning. It’s a one-woman operation, and she’s making thali meals that highlight a different region of India each week. Menus are announced on Saturdays at 6pm on Instagram, and then you fill out your order form and wait for confirmation before receiving your meal the following Saturday between 11am-5pm. One week might be churpi, thukpa, and gundkruk from Sikkim, and another might have vadouvan seafood stew and other specialties from Puducherry, and everything will be packaged in little boxes and tins.
While we probably won’t attempt our own 15-course omakase any time soon, making handrolls feels both fun and manageable. Jinsei Motto, a delivery-only sushi spot on Tock makes this possible. Along with their regular menu of nigiri, sashimi, and maki, they also sell hand roll kits. Each pack costs $40 and comes with spicy tuna, spicy tako, spicy shrimp, salmon, avocado, cucumber, rice, and seaweed.
This brand new Peranakan spot is from the owners of Serai in Logan Square. Unlike Serai, which is casual and more of a carryout operation, Kapitan is located in Lincoln Park and designed to be a sit-down restaurant. But until indoor dining returns, they’re focusing on takeout and delivery, and are doing an excellent job. For example, the pie tee is packaged with the vegetable filling separately, keeping the pastry nice and crispy. Kapitan serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner all-day, with dishes like chee cheong fun, a whole roasted Hainanese chicken, and kuih that changes every week.
With a menu that changes every day (released on Instagram at 8am), Flour Power is guaranteed to break you out of your pasta rut - something we just made up, but are 100% certain exists. This carryout-only spot has a short menu of handmade pastas (available pre-made or as meal kits) and you’ll rarely see the same thing twice. From campanelle with nduja and tomato confit to cheddar-filled tortellini to casarecce with smoked sweet potato, whatever you get will be delicious.
Meal kits are a fun option for date night - they come with a built-in activity, and the added excitement that comes from wondering if you might mess it up and ruin your dinner. If that last part doesn’t sound very fun, hedge your bets by ordering Vietnamese restaurant HaiSous’ dinner and cooking class. It comes with a pre-recorded cooking demo so you can play, pause, rewind, and play again just to make sure that you’re doing it right (or to prove to your significant other that they’re doing it wrong). Each month is something different, and January is Saigonese braised chicken and ginger, and comes with a ready-made papaya salad, octopus salad, lotus with cucumber and dried squid, and sticky rice.
When Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream opened in Bridgeport last summer, it focused on Sicilian-style slices sold out of a takeout window. And while they still sell those (along with, yes, fried chicken and ice cream), they recently pivoted to tavern-style pies. The crust is thin and crispy, slightly burnt around the edges, with toppings like pepperoni or sausage with giardiniera. There’s a rumor that they might be discontinuing the tavern-style, so order it while you can. In the meantime, we’ll be starting a petition to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Milly's Pizza In The Pan
Have you ever heard of Pequod’s? Just kidding, you have leftovers in your fridge right now. Milly’s is a great alternative if you love Pequod’s, but have eaten it so often that you know the perfect way to reheat those leftovers (10 seconds in the microwave followed by seven and a half minutes in a toaster oven). This online-only spot was inspired by Pequod’s and makes the same kind of pan-style deep dish with a caramelized crust. But what makes Milly’s different is that this pie has dollops of mozzarella, making it a bit cheesier than its predecessors. Oh, and you haven’t already eaten it 569 times.
Yes, there are a lot of sandwich shops out there. But consider ordering a hoagie from Hoagie Palace. This pop-up operates on Sundays (another place you order from on Instagram), offers different hoagies each week, and donates the profits to local organizations like Brave Space Alliance. Plus, their sandwiches happen to be really good, with fluffy bread and an ideal ratio of fillings.
Living in a city with brutal winters means experiencing the joy of eating something warm and cozy in a way that people with year-round sun will never know. Next time it’s 14 degrees outside, order from Bokuchan. This takeout-only spot specializes in Japanese curry, and the menu has things like tonkatsu kare, udon, and waffle fries topped with a curry aioli. Both the chicken and pork are incredibly juicy, the handmade noodles are wonderfully chewy, and the rich curry is better than any space heater.