No doubt about it, 2020 proved to be a challenging year for restaurants, but creative carryout solutions, resourceful chefs and devoted customers proved it was possible to keep things downright delicious in our little food-focused alcove.

We know the struggle is not over for our beloved eateries, but showing our support is the best way to help them through these difficult days. Enjoy this look back at several of our favorite bites this year — and order some carryout to help our restaurants carry on.

Forest Park Power Pairings:

In early March, Duffy’s Tavern and Small Batch Barbecue hosted a “smoke fat and whiskey event” and served up a smoked old-fashioned with a prime rib slider. The combo was a pre-COVID highlight.

The Arnold Palmer Pop – Popify, Oak Park: Popify collaborates with Todd and Holland Tea Merchants to create their Arnold Palmer Pops. Made with fresh lemon and lavender earl grey tea, these refreshing hyper-local artisan popsicles are sold from a bike or delivered via porch drop in the summer, making them proper pandemic fare.

Beef Medallion Family Meal – Golden Steer Steakhouse, Forest Park: The pandemic brought family meals to the forefront and Golden Steer has one of the best. The unfussy steak dinner, comes with classic sides that remind us sometimes simple is best.

Ice Cream through a Window – Brown Cow, Forest Park: After assessing how best to serve customers efficiently during a pandemic, Connie Brown broke out her toolbox and created a diminutive walk-up window to safely serve cones, cakes and DIY sundae kits from the street.

French Toast Breakfast – Louie’s Grill, Forest Park: A classic breakfast from Louie’s Grill. Even after a brief ride in the car, the French toast, served with maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar, will make anyone feel like a kid again.

The Asian Bowl – Lathrop House Café, Forest Park: Patrick O’Brien is bringing the Scratch Restaurant philosophy to his new breakfast- and lunch-focused joint. We loved the Asian bowl featuring mixed greens, hearty farro, pulled chicken, pickled carrots and crispy wontons in a sesame-ginger dressing.

Anything and Everything – Chef Gaetano’s Artisan Foods, Forest Park: The Madison Street newcomer is the result of a mid-pandemic pivot. Expect extraordinary smells as you patiently peruse artisan breads, fresh pastas, premium meats, and house-made sauces. Notable finds included house-smoked ricotta, fresh spinach and ricotta triangoli, and wild boar ragu. Gaetano’s Artisan Foods, with Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto, also offers enticing house-made pizzas.

“The Obvious” – The Daly Bagel, Oak Park: Folks line up daily for these East Coast style beauties, and bagel maven Amanda Daly clearly knows how to pile lox, cream cheese, onions, and capers on a bagel.

Mix and Match Soups – Starship Restaurant, Forest Park: Starship’s perennially popular freezer full of soups has been an even bigger hit during the pandemic. The sandwich shop offers a selection of 80 soups every day, including Italian wedding, turkey pot pie, cream of dill pickle and rabbit stew.

Black Lives Matter Blend – Kribi Coffee Air Roasters, Forest Park: Kribi Coffee customers connect with owner Jacques Shalo’s personal narrative and passion for coffee. The blend of African and South American coffee beans was created and sold to benefit the official Black Lives Matter Movement.

Burger Bliss – Fitzgerald’s, Berwyn: Chef John Manion of El Che served up the “mano de deus” burger at Fitzgerald’s “Burgers are Best” pop-up this summer. Elevated in the hands of a capable chef, this “two-handed” burger featured house-made pickles and potato chip crumbles. Nearly six months later, we are still thinking about it.