By Marjorie Rice
It’s been more than a month since Gov. Doug Ducey ordered Arizona restaurants to close their doors to all but takeout and delivery service to help stem the spread of the Coronavirus and area restaurateurs are coming up with a varied menu of coping strategies as that order stretches into May and possibly beyond.
Many North Central area dining spots closed completely, while others opted to try to stay open with limited menus and delivery/takeout service.
With more weeks of uncertainty ahead, owners are taking another look at their businesses, tweaking the take-out concept, ramping up catering services and offering family-style meal options.
Others are offering a changing slate of discounts, free delivery and other lures. The best way to find a deal is to visit the restaurants’ websites, as these can change daily.
One of the most innovative – and fun – ideas for reaching out to customers is Upward Projects’ Postino Wine Wagon, which delivers $15 bottles of wine to various neighborhoods. Log onto upwardupdates.com/wine-wagon and follow Postino on Instagram to find out where they’ll deliver next.
Speaking of spirits, Clever Koi, 4236 N. Central Ave., has developed an extensive menu of cocktails for its takeout menu. Example: “The Enabler,” with Evan Williams 100 proof bourbon, grilled lemon juice, maple syrup, smoked sea salt garnish and dehydrated lemon wheels. Cocktails are $20 for two, $40 for four, including garnishes and ice.
And at Phoenix City Grille, the chef, a bourbon fan, is hoping to set up a virtual pairing of the whiskey with a variety of dishes.
Sheldon Knapp, owner of Phoenix City Grille, says uncertainty is the new normal for his and other restaurants as government and health officials plan to open back businesses.
When will customers be permitted back into his restaurant?
“We’re planning on as long as the end of June, and we re-evaluate that every few weeks,” Knapp said. Even then, the vibe will be very different as people begin to come out of isolation. “People are just going to be real leery, not feeling confident about being out in groups,” Knapp said. “I hope I’m wrong.”
Meanwhile, the Grille is offering new online ordering for customers, including family-style meals.
“We’re finding a lot of success with meals that are really good values for a family of four rather than ordering the same items separately for each person,” Knapp said. “And we’re doing ongoing specials. We’re about to try a bourbon tasting with food pairings. My partner and executive chef Micah Wyzlic is a bourbon aficionado. He’ll do a seminar with tastings online. We don’t know if it’s going to work, but there has been a lot of interest in it. I think you’ll see (restaurants trying) more and more of those kinds of things. Every little bit helps.”
At Sierra Bonita Catering, as demand for large catered events evaporated, owner Kim Hopper decided to look inside the box – at single-serve take-and-reheat meals. (The catering company is a separate entity from Sierra Bonita Grill, owned by Hopper’s husband, which currently is closed.)
“I wanted to keep our employees busy and also give the community what they’re craving,” Hopper said. “We have had an awesome response. We sent out an e-mail to everyone on our contact list, asking what they were really missing. I had so much feedback, it helped us tailor our menu.”
At press time, catering orders were available for Friday pick-up only, but Hopper said the response has been so positive that they may add a Wednesday pick-up.
Menus change, but recent items include kale salad with almonds, carrots, dried cranberries and Spanish sherry vinaigrette ($6 – all prices are per serving); smoked bacon and green chile meatloaf with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables ($16), and Asian salad with soy-ginger marinated steak, cabbage, carrots, edamame, sesame and rice wine vinaigrette ($17).
While some restaurants are offering family-style meals, Hopper said she’s sticking with single-serve, which her customers seem to prefer.
And the new service may be a silver lining to this Coronavirus cloud, she added.
“This may turn into a new business for our catering company – single-meal service,” Hopper said.
To be placed on an e-mail list for weekly menus, go to the company’s Facebook page, click on “More,” then “Join my List.” For more information or to place an order, call or e-mail Hopper at 602-573-2367, or email her at email@example.com.
Now about those family-size meals:
Miracle Mile Delicatessen, located at 4433 North 16th St., has a selection of family packs that feed from four to 10 people, ranging in price from a $55 Pastrami Pack with two pounds of hot pastrami, rolls, slaw, mac and cheese, pickles and two slices of pie to a $95 Super Stocker with two pounds each of pastrami, corned beef and brisket, rolls, slaw, potato salad, mac and cheese, pickles and a whole pie. Visit http://miraclemiledeli.com/ or call 602-776-0992 for hours and more information.
The Macintosh’s curbside menu includes a $45 family combo platter that rotates each week – brisket, andouille sausage links, pickle chips, red beans and rice, slaw, rolls with honey butter and two slices of key lime pie was one offering. Another week, it was baby back ribs, whole roasted chicken, jalapeno-cheddar grits and butterscotch pecan pie. The Macintosh, in Town & Country Shopping Center at 2119 E. Camelback Road, also offers half off on kids’ meals and all beer and wine to go. For hours and the full curbside menu, go to themacintoshaz.com or call 602-368-8766.