Change of plans: Newly opened restaurants struggle to start amid pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As you can imagine, a lot of restaurants and food shops have had to make adjustments over the past several weeks. But what would you do if your plans for opening a new business coincided with the pandemic?

The Hungry Hound visited a pair of new places this week, each in its infancy, and trying to navigate a world that was definitely not a part of their original business plan.

Randall Felts spent years in the cheese business, working for Pastoral before it closed.

He's spent a considerable amount of time and money planning his dream business, Beautiful Rind, a cheese and charcuterie shop in Logan Square that also sells wine and beer.

The plan was to have a retail counter, as well as a bar and small restaurant menu.

"We had our final inspections - as far as health department, fire department, liquor commission, all that stuff - the day before the governor's stay-at-home order," said Felts.

The blocks of Snowfields - a butterkse style from Wisconsin - could still be cut down and sold for carryout; they'd continue assembling cheese boards, just packing them into containers.

"We were looking around at what was going on, not just locally but nationally, and seeing a lot of small producers suffer, and realizing there are ways you can safely serve food," he said.

Gorgeous wheels of Tete de Moine, a Swiss alpine cheese, are cut into frilly rosettes using a French cheese curler.

The staff's expertise is evident, and while it's still possible to ask questions in-person, Felts has upgraded his website and gotten more involved in social media to interact with customers.

"We enabled a chat-bot on our website where people can instantly I-M with us; email, Facebook, Instagram," Felts said.

"It's definitely been a challenging time," said Orville Diaz, one of the Owners of Miki's Park.

In River North, where warmer weather would typically mean a lot of foot traffic, Miki's Park is silent on a recent weekday.

The plan was to offer Korean-inspired street food like spicy chicken bites, bulgogi rice bowls with soft-cooked eggs and sesame-garlic-kissed chicken wings that are sweet and sticky.

They opened the week before St. Patrick's Day.

"We wanted to just keep on going with it, fight through the whole pandemic and just showcase the neighborhood," said Diaz.

They see this modified opening as a chance to get their name out, as well as work out the kinks.

With a bar inside silent, the bulk of the activity turns to their take-out window.

"Originally that was a late-night window, but we decided since we have it, we might as well just continue to move forward with it and really capitalize on the to-go business," he said.

Springtime in this neighborhood typically would mean a full dining room. The owners at Miki's Park say staying open is good marketing and hopefully some of the neighbors and people who work in this neighborhood will come back once things improve.

Beautiful Rind
2211 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Miki's Park
109 W. Hubbard St.
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