Yesterday the city of Chicago announced that it had selected three designs from its Winter Dining Challenge contest to move on to the prototype phase.

COVID-19 has presented many yet unanswered questions, and one of the most pressing is: what’s going to happen to outdoor dining during the winter? Unfortunately, nobody really knows, including our own elected leaders. It’s for that reason that the city of Chicago announced a contest soliciting solutions from the public, and now, after receiving more than 640 submissions, we can say with certainty that people… got a little creative.

As reported by Eater Chicago, responses ranged from converting old CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) buses and trains into ersatz diners, to doing in-car dining using carhops (like at old-school drive-ins), to using pods, igloos, and other forms of temporary shelter. My personal favorite is a bubble that creator Hollister Schneider named “Hot Beans.”

Perhaps the best idea so far seems to be using modular greenhouses:

“For the city’s contest, the idea that generated the most positive feedback on IDEO’s page is called “Slide & Dine.” These are described as modular greenhouses with their own heating and ventilation systems and sliding doors. They would be placed in parking lots and streets. The system is also ADA compliant, according to the applicant.

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