Restaurants offer incentives to help food pantries

December 19, 2011 3:34:15 PM PST
Over the past two months, a number of local restaurants have been holding food drives -- and, in some cases, giving customers a delicious incentive to help out.

The familiar bins are placed just inside the doors of dozens of local restaurants. But when you "Do It for Chicago" this season, your canned donation also does something for you.

"Bring in a canned good, and we're offering a couple little bites as a thank you for supporting the Greater Chicago Food Depository," said Custom House Tavern Chef Perry Hendrix.

Custom House Tavern is one of several restaurants participating in the program.. Bring in a can up until Christmas Eve, and they'll send out a special amuse, or starter, plus a sweet ending. To start, it might be turkey rillettes, that is, turkey that's been cooked down in its own fat then pounded into a paste; it's topped with pickled golden raisins embedded with mustard seeds. To end, how about a bacon pecan blondie topped with powdered sugar? Another option: take one of the brown bags, return it filled with canned goods, and you'll get a 25-dollar gift certificate good for next year. Hendrix says he wants to help where he can.

"The work they do there is just incredible and I think any way that we can contribute to help them is a help," said Hendrix.

At Brunch, right off the Ohio feeder ramp, they're also taking donations-- but they request five cans at a time. The payback?

"Not really on the menu... could be something we have on the menu, could be something I just have...we're gonna make you something special," said Brunch Chef Joseph Pierro.

Special and significant, like this grilled steak Benedict on an English muffin, topped with a pepper and tomato marmalade, plus a tempura-fried egg and a cilantro hollandaise. Food Depository officials say donations with long shelf lives are best.

"We recommend pasta, rice, canned soup, canned fruit and canned vegetables. Items that are really healthful and have a long shelf life," said Bob Dolgan, of the Chicago Food Depository.

The goal is to bring in a million pounds of food this year; participating restaurants say it's a goal within reach.

"There's obviously a lot of needy people in Chicago... and whatever we can do to help it, I'm all for it," Pierro said.

The food drive here at Brunch runs 'til the end of the month, and five cans may seem like a lot for a donation...the food you're gonna be getting is a pretty large portion and the fact that those cans are gonna be helping Chicagoans in need this season, well, it's a pretty good deal all around.

Custom House Tavern
500 S. Dearborn

644 N. Orleans

For more information about restaurants participating, visit or call 773-843-7291. To donate to the ABC7/Dominick's Holiday Food drive, click here.

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