By Meda Kessler, June Naylor and Babs Rodriguez
Plastic bowls. Paper bags. Welcome to the new world, where everything is takeout or delivery.
As in many cultures, our traditional answer to most every emergency is a need to feed. So it isn’t surprising that the comfort we seek in this time of self-quarantine is symbolized by full fridges, freezers and pantries. But many are still putting in long hours at the office; and even working at home doesn’t necessarily equate to having the time or energy to cook. For those who eat out regularly as well as those working in the service industry, COVID-19 prevention measures mean scrambling for a new normal — and ways to keep businesses afloat, spirits up and bellies full. Restaurants wanting to protect staff and the public but also earn a little something toward their bottom line quickly transitioned to curbside pickup of everything from sushi to chateaubriand to off-the-menu comfort casseroles in family-size portions. Of course, commercial delivery services (ChowNow, Favor, Grubhub, Uber Eats) are also popular options. We talked with the owners of a handful of restaurants to find out how they’re dealing with a situation that seems to change every day — and what they’re cooking. As these businesses struggle to keep you happy and fed, remember your support may be key to their survival and sadly, not all will make it. Staff layoffs mean it might be the restaurant owner or the sommelier handing you your food during a curbside pickup. The list of who is now bagging up food is a long one and constantly changing; check with your favorite restaurant or search the internet for options. Eat up, try someplace new and please be generous to curbside servers and delivery folks.
Merlot to-go, please
While restaurants were quick to figure out logistics for delivery and curbside service, customers jokingly wished out loud that they could get a bottle of wine or a cocktail, too, with their bag of food-filled plastic containers and paper napkins. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made that happen March 19 by issuing a waiver to allow restaurants to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks as long as there is a food purchase. And participating restaurants have to have a mixed-beverage permit. Some restaurants are getting creative: Taco Heads is selling a plastic container of margaritas (with sliced limes) that serves four; Bird Café in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square posted online a special cocktail menu just for pickup. All you need to add is ice. At Grace in downtown Fort Worth, you can get the advice of one of the sommeliers for something to accompany your takeout. The key thing to remember is to drink responsibly. Cheers.
At FnG Eats, the Keller bar and grill known for fine-dining-quality scratch cooking in an especially casual setting does everything with a feel-good intention. Co-chef and co-owner Bob Stephenson places a high priority on keeping staff members busy and active. “We’ve scaled back with the drop in volume, but we are also trying to come up with new ways to drive business,” says Stephenson, addressing curbside and delivery service additions.
The Take and Bake option is comfort food that feels like a big bear hug. Family-size casseroles (with 12 servings each) include King Ranch chicken, meat or chicken lasagna, meat or chicken ziti and mac and cheese, along with specialty soups by the quart. Order 48 hours in advance and pick up, or have Uber Eats deliver. 201 Town Center Lane, Keller, 817-741-5200, fngeats.com
Mason & Dixie’s Beth Newman has been growing her Grapevine lunch spot from a market corner to full cafe in the past couple of years, adding limited dinner hours more recently. The near-halt in business hit when she was celebrating her birthday at the beach: “Mason & Dixie’s sales numbers dropped dramatically,” she says of the startling end to a much-needed vacation. As she cuts back hours for the dining room, she’s making meals ready for order, pickup and delivery — and she talks about the kindness she’s received from her loyal customers, who have offered their time to drive deliveries for her. “There is no reserve in place for workers, servers or owners of small businesses,” she writes in a letter to her patrons. “Know that we are strong and have lived through other crises.”
Ready-to-bake frozen meals in 10-by-13-inch pans (with 6 to 10 servings each) include shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings, baby back ribs, pot roast with mashed potatoes, stacked vegetable enchiladas, eggplant Parmesan, and chicken chili, among many choices. Other to-go items include soups, as well as chicken and egg salad and pimento cheese.
Menus are listed on Facebook and the website; options change daily. Pay when placing an order by phone. 603 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-707-2111, masonanddixietx.com
Not all our to-go grub is comfort food or tacos. High-end take-away is made easy by B&B Butchers & Restaurant. If you’re in the mood for fancy steakhouse fare, order from B&B’s menu of three-course offerings you call in to pick up curbside or have delivered.
Dinner for two includes a choice of two appetizers (Caesar salad, meatballs or Chef Tommy’s Bacon Box), an entree (chateaubriand or beef Wellington for two or filet mignon or bone-in rib-eye), three sides (Brussels sprouts, creamed spinach, mac and cheese) and two desserts (choose from among chocolate cake, Key lime pie or New York cheesecake).
The B&B Butcher Shop sells various cuts of meat, Texas wagyu burgers and hot dogs, and deli meats; for every $100 spent in the Butcher Shop, guests receive a $20 gift card to be used later. The Shops at Clearfork, 5212 Marathon Ave., Fort Worth, 817-731-5360, bbbutchers.com/fortworth