Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right These restaurants reinvented themselves in order to survive
Daisies market
Photograph: Ryan Gorey

These restaurants reinvented themselves in order to survive

From a virtual omakase to a farm-fresh bodega—here's how five restaurants are switching it up to stay in business

By Time Out editors
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Restaurants and bars around the world are facing the challenge of a lifetime. Though every city has its own unique safety measures in place, most chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs are operating their establishments at a fraction of their usual capacity. They've had to get creative with their offerings, push delivery and takeout and find new ways to keep the lights on. In cities across the country, we've watched in awe as restaurants and bars have reinvented themselves in an effort to better serve their community's new needs. Kitchens are flipping to wine shops, high-end dinners are going virtual and expanded outdoor spaces are thriving. Take a closer look at five inspiring stories of restaurants that are turning their business models upside-down in an effort to continue doing what they love.

Restaurant reinventions

Il Giardino
Il Giardino
Photograph: Courtesy Tuscan Kitchen

An alfresco beacon in Boston

Restaurants Italian Seaport District

As Boston entered summer with restrictions in place, its most social neighborhood stayed humming thanks to Tuscan Kitchen’s newly opened Il Giardino. Smack dab in the heart of the Seaport, this outdoor dining and social experience has become a magnet for those looking to regain that feeling of eating and drinking surrounded by a see-and-be-seen crowd, all with enhanced safety and distancing measures in place.

The restaurant set out to meet the needs of its cooped-up clientele by pivoting from its indoor space—a slick set of handsome rooms that received a steady stream of corporate traffic—and transporting its warm, Italian-accented hospitality to a neighboring 22,000-square-foot outdoor lot. Now a partially tented culinary wonderland with twinkling lights, Il Giardino has become one of the most expansive outdoor dining destinations in the city. —Eric Grossman, Time Out Boston editor

Wine Medium at NIU Kitchen
Wine Medium at NIU Kitchen
Photograph: Virginia Gil

A restaurant-turned-wine-shop in Miami

Restaurants Spanish Downtown

In downtown Miami, a cozy Catalonian restaurant has reinvented itself several times over the course of the past few months. Too compact to operate even at half capacity, NIU Kitchen endeavored to replicate its inimitable vibe and personalized attention with curated takeout experiences to enjoy at home. First came the record and wine pairings (What grapes and genres go with your meal?), then the floral arrangements to complement special occasion dinners (they really came through on Mother’s Day) and, finally, natural wines to go. That last one stuck, and NIU’s been Wine Medium ever since.

Led by co-owner Karina Iglesias—an irreverent, statuesque, natural-wine vet—the pop-up boutique sells biodynamic varieties from around the world with a focus on fair-trade labels. After decades of working with natural wines, Iglesias knows labels and their makers as well as she does drinkers, which is partly what inspired the shop’s name. The almost-telepathic connection with her customers is what sets Iglesias and Wine Medium apart from similar retail operations. You can trust her. The selection might be comparable, but can you count on someone else to pick a funky biodynamic bottle that’s approachable and won't totally turn off your dinner guests? Hardly. —Virginia Gil, Time Out Miami editor

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Sushi Bar to go
Sushi Bar to go
Photograph: Courtesy Sushi Bar/John Troxell

A digital omakase in Los Angeles

There’s takeout sushi, and then there’s bringing the entire omakase experience to your dining room. Top Chef's Phillip Frankland Lee knows that great nigiri is only part of what makes a visit to his Encino restaurant Sushi Bar, so when he reimagined what his takeout would look like, he decided to recreate the intimate omakase with beautifully produced videos—one for each of the 16 courses and their corresponding cocktails—each shot at eye level as though you were sitting at his sushi bar and not, you know, on your couch and in your sweats.

Each video explains the cut of fish you’ll be enjoying, one by one, and details all of the signature accoutrements such as sprinkles of house-made matcha salt and freshly ground wasabi root. Lee has moved Sushi Bar outdoors to a makeshift patio, too, for those who want to dine in, but if you’re grabbing some of the best sushi in L.A. to go, well, now you’ve got a Top Chef contestant to walk you through it at home. —Stephanie Breijo, Time Out L.A.'s Restaurants & Bars editor

Daisies market
Daisies market
Photograph: Ryan Gorey

A farm-fresh bodega in Chicago

Restaurants Logan Square

Back in March, when Daisies chef-owner Joe Frillman was imagining what the future held for his restaurant, he found himself revisiting his initial business plan and looking at the things he wasn't able to do when he first opened. One idea really stuck: Converting the back dining room into a grab-and-go market that's stocked with fresh produce, everyday cooking essentials and locally sourced treats. He got to work and executed his pipe dream in August.

The centerpiece of the operation is a partnership between Frillman and his brother Tim, who owns and operates a farm in nearby Michigan. Since the day it opened, Daisies has showcased produce from the farm prominently on its menu, but the new concept allows guests to shop its freshest picks without leaving city limits. Diners and neighborhood folks can swing by for garden-fresh goodies, eggs, bread flour, olive oil and wine—all the necessities for holing up at home. —Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago editor

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The Koji Club
The Koji Club
Photograph: @briansamuelsphotography

A virtual sake club comes to New York (and beyond)

Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale wanted to demystify sake with a bar that she hoped to eventually open in New York one day (her original plan was for Boston), but when she had to scrap those plans, she didn't give up. During the pandemic, she started leaving bottles for friends on their stoops, and as that became more popular, she started The Koji Club.

DiPasquale is now sending sake kits, usually featuring three to four bottles, across the country to conduct virtual tastings (she also had a monthlong pop-up in Brooklyn this summer). The relaxed Zoom meetups—if you want to do a sake bomb, by all means—are meant to showcase sake as an everyday beverage. —Bao Ong, Time Out New York's Food & Drink editor

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