Restaurants step up to help feed, protect healthcare frontline workers fighting COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On this Good Friday, there are a number of good Samaritans doing their part to help support the frontline health care workers during this pandemic.

Whether it's making personal protective equipment or just dropping off free meals, kind gestures are swelling as cases continue to increase across the region.

Up until everything shut down, The Art of Dosa was doing brisk business in the Revival Food Hall, selling its vegan and gluten-free friendly dosas, or crepes, made from lentils and rice.

Over the past week or so, they've been making almost daily deliveries, free of charge, to staffs at Stroger, Loretto and Rush Hospitals, due in part to owner Ravi Nagubadi's brother, Swamy, a Pulmonary I-C-U specialist at Stroger.

"We're so grateful for Ravi, for delivering food to our department," said Nurse Case Manager, Diana Bates-Mack, at Stroger Hospital. "We greatly appreciate it. We're so humbled for this."

Meanwhile, in Wicker Park, the staff at Dimo's Pizza has been coming up with a use for their slice reheating ovens.

"We have these ovens that we usually use for slices, they're just sitting empty, not being used," said Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau, the Manager at Dimo's.

"I said the big shortage I've been seeing is that they don't have good PPE, well acrylic melts - it can be malleable - if you have ovens, maybe we can just put them in the oven, melt them, form them to shape and actually make those face shields. I thought, we should do that." he said.

The shields sell for $3 each, and they're working on ramping up production over the next week or so. They're also making new menu items, including DIY pizza kits, that will help buy pizzas for healthcare workers.

"A portion of those proceeds goes into a bucket and then we give pizzas to the hospitals from that," he said.

In Pilsen, the skeleton crew working for Aztec Dave's is back at work, thanks to a donation that will help them provide thousands of meals to hospital workers. They have three trucks running each day, making and packing up chicken and steak tacos.

"We're in charge of planning and executing pretty much feeding 2,500 meals across Chicagoland, between 17 different hospitals," said Ramón Torres, owner of Aztec Dave's.

The owners aren't getting paid, but their staff is.

"We just have the good feeling of doing something good, as well as putting our employees to work," he said.

One of the recipients is the ER staff at Community First Medical Center in Portage Park, where they've been working around the clock. The sight of several dozen brown-bagged meals is a small but meaningful gesture that's certainly appreciated.

"It's very important because they've been working tirelessly to get people cured and to get the sick back to 100% and this is a big 'thank you' to them and they're always appreciated for what they do," said Torres.

Especially for food trucks, the only money they're seeing right now is from donations from the public to both pay their employees, but also feed these first responders.

Aztec Daves Food Truck
To help them continue donating meals to Health Care Workers:

Dimo's Pizza

To purchase face shields for front line workers:

Carnitas Uruapan is donating 150 meals per week to first responders. Those interested in donating to the campaign, or first responders interested in receiving donations of food can email for more information.
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