A lot could happen between the time I write this and the time it hits print, but here is where we stand. The perception of many is a little bit “Mad Max”-ish. The reality is much calmer today than I expected. Our immediate world looks the same as I go for my morning walk, wave to the neighbors who are home from work yet calm. They know there is something out there we don’t want. Maybe we are sick of talking about it.
What they are not sick of talking about is our restaurant situation. I don’t have all the answers, but I occasionally get a little more inside scoop than others from my friends in the biz. Those guys and gals are all over the place right now. Some are proud to be closed, others begging to work. More of the population is paycheck to paycheck than not. Some say they could make it a month. The question I am asked the most is: Who is open and who is closed?
There is a fantastic list at mobile.org, subject to change, of course. You can find a more beach-friendly list at gulfshores.com. A few that slipped through the cracks are out there cranking out meals like it’s nobody’s business. Fast food lines are wrapped around the buildings. If you’re brave enough to risk that, why not eat local instead?
Bay Barbeque is feeding Florida Street the good stuff. Big Time Diner is open for curbside and to-go orders with the classics fit for a tall man. Callaghan’s starts feeding Oakleigh at 11 a.m. Crown Hall had meals ready to go last I checked. Dash Poké and Sno Dash have takeout and delivery on Waitr and Postmates. Moe’s Original BBQ is still smoking. Mediterranean Sandwich Co. is still slinging pitas. Head west to grab a catfish sandwich or a stuffed burger from Boondocks Bar & Grill.
Baldwin has P.S. Taco Company and Rock-N-Roll Sushi at the Tanger Outlets with curbside and free delivery with Waitr. The Daphne strip is alive and well with Manci’s Antique Club and Guido’s reporting in. Trattoria on Highway 31 is working the drive-thru with my favorite tuna Caesar. Tamara’s Downtown still has the lights on in Fairhope. David’s Catfish House is curbside with whole fish and filets.
If you need finer dining in your world, NoJa has become GoJa with a smart, multi-course dinner menu that must be phoned in by 4:30 p.m. for a 6 p.m. pickup. It’s $60 per person, but each meal comes with a $20 gift card to be used when things get back to normal. Noble South has curbside lunch and family-style dinners with a bottle of wine brought to your car.
Some restaurants are already temporarily closed. Roosters Latin American shut its doors, choosing to do some deep cleaning. The Royal Scam has been closed longer than it’s ever been in its 13 years of operation. Nixon’s is laying low. Butch Cassidy’s decided the risk wasn’t worth it and closed Wednesday. The Cheese Cottage closed, but may do some online demos. Von’s Bistro is taking a break. Dauphin’s announced Thursday morning their bird’s-eye view would be closed until further notice. Cheryl’s Café in Spanish Fort is using this downtime to continue their expansion plans. I am counting the days for these fine establishments to welcome me back to a table.
Grocery stores are, of course, busier than ever. I’m not sure why. It’s like there is a hurricane in the Gulf. My every-other-day quest is to find milk for baby Henry, sometimes taking a trip to two or three stores. The power isn’t out, the gas stations aren’t closed, but the shelves are emptying faster than my bank account. Those heroes of the highways keep trucking the product in, and consumers keep buying it up. There isn’t a shortage. There is only the illusion of a shortage due to panic.
So, what happens if we do have a mandatory lockdown? It’s my understanding you will still be able to go to the doctor, pharmacy and grocery store, but if you need to stretch your meals, just be smart about it.
A decent burger will always be welcomed, but that ground beef goes a lot further in soup. I don’t know how my pantry accumulates so many cans of beans and tomatoes. If yours, like mine, looks like a Y2K fallout shelter, take advantage of it. Taco soup, chili, hamburger soup, veggie soup with meatballs … those mysterious cans will stretch that meat for three days.
Stock up on chicken stock. We make a good bit of chicken stock around here. Bone-in chicken is the way to go. The stock freezes well and is a must for gumbo, sauces and the like. Cooking rice or pasta in stock instead of tap water adds a new dimension. Plus, think of all you can do with the chicken.
There’s no good time for a pandemic, but at least we can go outside and enjoy the spring garden. If you’re not already growing veggies, it’s a good time to start. You’ll likely not have any crops by the time this subsides, but you can get immediate benefits from fresh herbs. Even potted herbs on your patio will do well, and are cheap and easy. Sturdy rosemary should be in the ground as it does as good here as azaleas. Thyme can take over a flower bed, and I welcome it. I can’t have enough. Green onions are easy. We are a house divided when it comes to curly versus flat-leaf parsley. Grow basil for pesto and get to canning or freezing.
Be smart about this. Take care of your neighbors from a six-foot distance. Call your grandmother. Hand sanitizer is not a replacement for soap. Tip your carhop. Heavily. Learn to cook. Feed those you can, safely. Don’t eat bats. Follow the good rules. Enjoy the sun. Work on yourself. Don’t kiss anyone unless she’s worth it.
Eat well when you can.
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