Dining out in the Chesapeake region has become something entirely different during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants and bars were forced to close their doors to diners more than a week ago, but have adapted quickly and in creative ways. Places that didn’t offer takeout or delivery before have discovered that in our new reality, to-go is the only way to go.
From tacos and nachos to steak and seafood, Chesapeake region restaurants remain ready to feed your appetites.
Some restaurants with multiple locations are being squeezed even harder by the COVID crisis. Chesapeake Grille & Deli has three locations: Dunkirk, North Beach and Bowie.
“For us, it was a matter of pivoting our business to meet an increased demand for carry-out,” says Chad Wagaman, owner of Chesapeake Grille & Deli. “Catering is a big thing for us, but with catered events all cancelled, we’ve made take-out and delivery our focus.”
Customers are using their newly implemented online ordering systems to place both take-out and delivery orders.
A strong community is key to keeping these businesses afloat, and very quickly social media came to the rescue by spreading the word about which spots are still open for business (see our recently launched online map encompassing hundreds of restaurants at www.bayweekly.com).
That kind of support is encouraging to Jennifer Schiavone, manager of JesseJays Latin Inspired Kitchen in Churchton.
“We are truly blessed to have so many amazing regulars who we see a few times a week continue to come in for carry-out,” says Schiavone. “Customer support has been nothing short of amazing. And, they have been extremely generous! Our week was steady, but the weekend was busy. We hope this will continue, so we can stay open for the duration.”
JesseJays, like many others, has had to shift to a smaller staff but Schiavone says they were able to add one more to the weekend shift thanks to the steady orders. “I honestly believe we will be able to ride this out. We were lucky because a good portion of our business has always been carryout,” she says.
Relaxed rules about alcohol are also helping to grease the wheel. “We are trying to take advantage of our off-premise liquor license like so many local restaurants are, so we are offering margarita kits to go. We heard a lot of great feedback about our taco-and-beer package,” adds Schiavone.
Harvest Thyme Modern Kitchen & Tavern’s Chef-Owner Rik Squillari is relying on adaptability and liquor sales to bring his restaurant through the current crisis. The fine-dining Davidsonville restaurant is known for its 5-course wine dinners and guest bartender events. With the dine-in experience no longer an option, take-out is keeping the doors open.
“We’ve adapted our menu to be more carry-out friendly,” Squillari says. The to-go entree Chicken Milanese pares nicely with white wine, but pizza and beer are proving to be popular choices as well.
Comfort foods are living up to their moniker it appears. Bill Sherman, chef and owner at Neptune’s Seafood Pub in North Beach, says people are craving comfort foods in these uncertain times and his restaurant is providing just that. “Pizza, appetizers, sandwiches are popular carry-out items.”
Around the region, no matter who we spoke to, restaurant owners, managers, chef and cooks remain optimistic about weathering the storm and reopening their dining rooms to guests.
“Some of my employees have been here for over ten years. We are a family and we are working together,” says Sherman.