Six months after the first shutdown of restaurants for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the restaurant industry finds itself in limbo. For some out-of-the-box thinkers, the new norm presented them with an opportunity to get creative and secure their share of the limited foodservice dollars being spent. This often required the development of a limited, yet adventurous menu, to keep diners interested and coming back for more. At the new Chicago-based pop-up Elsewhere, this included a culinary spin on the typical bar burger and tacos.
The 64-seat pop-up features socially distanced tables in a backyard-type setting in a downtown parking lot. There are optional tents to manage rain and heater lamps for those dining occasions when the temperatures dip. Elsewhere limits its hours of operation and its menu to stay profitable. Meat and poultry are part of that menu.
“We need to focus on day periods that yield the highest results,” said Brian Galati, co-owner. “We were also very surgical with our selections to keep costs and labor down but offer extremely unique items. It was important that our team could execute items quickly but equally as important that the offerings were creative and top quality. It was a delicate dance to produce this menu full of impactful and unique items that hopefully keep the guests coming back but could also be executed quickly and most importantly profitably.”
The menu includes a layered Caesar salad featuring Hook’s parmesan cheese and sourdough crumble. There are varied proteins that may be added for a complete meal. The “engineered cheeseburger” features bone marrow, griddled onions, pickles, lettuce and miso thousand island dressing. It’s served with salt and vinegar fries. For more adventurous palates, there’s hurricane fries, which are topped with Japanese-style mayonnaise, sweet and sour sauce, bonito flakes, nori and sesame seeds. Crispy chicken tacos – beef may be substituted – include cabbage apple slaw, sake pickled peppers, togarashi, ginger soy gastrique, cilantro and a drizzle of lime aioli.