Yes, we’ve all had to make serious sacrifices these past few weeks, with dining out being at the top of the list. As we practice social distancing for an indefinite period, something we don’t need to give up is eating well while supporting local dining establishments – thanks to takeout and delivery.
Many restaurants in the region are continuing to operate their kitchens to serve the majority of their regular menus to patrons. They just need to take their meal home rather than dine-in for their own health safety and for that of staff. Several have added “comfort food” menu items designed to satisfy the appetite and not break the bank.
Luca Paris, owner of Luca’s Mediteranean Cafe on Central Square in Keene, is offering a selection of $10 pasta dishes, from spaghetti bolognese to spinach and ricotta ravioli.
“The menu was built for the ease of the kitchen and because [these items] travel well,” said Paris, who has added delivery to his services during this time, as well as curb-side pickup.
He added that these dishes normally go for $14 to $20 on the dine-in menu. “We’re all facing hard times. We don’t need to do a price gauge.”
To-go sandwiches, including his caprese panino with house-fresh mozzarella, as well as tapas such as Moroccan roasted cauliflower and Spanish shrimp and chorizo, have been a big hit. Paris also hasn’t forgotten a much-welcome pleasure right now: dessert. Customers may cap off their meal at home as they would at the café – with an order of tiramisu or almond honey cheesecake.
“They are easily translatable [to takeout],” he said.
Machina Kitchen & ArtBar on Court Street in Keene has also changed up its takeout menu and added stick-to-your-ribs selections such as beef stew and shepherd’s pie with lamb, beef and pork. At the same time, chef Jordan Scott is continuing to serve upscale casual cuisine, including the once-daily special duck cassoulet in a to-go container. To draw customers, the restaurant is offering daily deals with orders of $25 or more – last week, it was a free order of potstickers, biscuits and chocolate mousse.
Machina, along with many other local establishments, began offering delivery this month via the online service DoorDash. Customers may now order a bottle of red or white wine, or IPA, lager, porter or hard cider by the can to accompany their meal.
“We continue to change and adapt with this situation and plan to continue to think about creative ways we can bring you our farm-to-table, organic food safely from the comfort of your home,” said owner Danya Ricethins Landis.
Landis has also made a point to customers that their safety is important, which is why the restaurant is taking extra precautions such as taking credit card information over the phone for quick and easy checkout, bringing food and receipts to customer vehicles upon request, and making sure the doorknobs, pens, receipt holders and high-traffic areas are safe for pick-up customers.
In fact, it’s a good idea to leave cash at home. In person, you can read your credit card number to them verbally, or even use your phone to pay.
Street and Savory, which serves food from its truck normally parked in the Ace Rental Center lot on Route 10, across from Hamshaw Lumber, as well as from its restaurant inside Branch and Blade Brewery nearby on Bradco Street, expanded its food truck menu to accommodate more customers this month.
Owner Austin Reida said while the food truck and restaurant are normally known for their fusion cuisine (Korean chicken salad with wonton crisps and kimchi/miso dressing is a signature item), people want comfort food during these challenging times.
“We’re selling a lot of burgers and Philly cheese steaks,” he said. A popular item on the regular menu is the Street Savory traditional smash burger with grilled onions, jalapeno and secret sauce. “We’re focusing on unique specials that will make people feel a little better hiding in their living rooms.” He is also selling canned six-packs of Branch and Blade beer to-go.
Along with Paris, Reida has ordered carry-out meals for himself and his staff from other local restaurants this month – a highlight was a barbecue sundae from CC&D’s Market layered with mac and cheese, brisket, smoked sausage, house pickles and slaw.
“We want to support everyone,” Reida said.
If you would like to support local restaurants while helping others, consider purchasing a gift card from your favorites or making donations. Paris is using donations he’s received to purchase meals for those in need. Also don’t forget to tip, and a little more than usual if possible because waitstaff and delivery drivers’ income have dropped.
While we endure these tough times, Paris said his main goal is to keep a sense of normalcy, and even bring a little levity to the situation. With each order (while supplies last), he is adding a roll of toilet paper to each order with his hand-written words, “We got your back... side.” Customers have posted photos on social media of their bag contents.
“Even if we smile for five minutes today,” Paris said. “I just want to make sure we all get through this.”