I’m going to lead off with some personal observations about restaurants reopening with distancing restrictions in place.
First, expanding outdoor seating is a good idea. More distance, more open air. For the record: this idea appeared first in YES! Weekly, when I suggested it in my April 22 column. The world, not just Greensboro, would be a better place of government asked for my advice more often. Better yet, ask my wife.
Second, although revenue will be negatively impacted by the half capacity rule, and that is not sustainable in the long run, for the time being, let’s rejoice in a positive, unanticipated impact. The most frequent complaint I get from readers, and it’s one I share, is that the noise level in restaurants is so loud you can’t carry on a conversation, and harsh noise undermines enjoyment of the dining experience. Fewer people = less noise. Let’s savor the quiet while we can!
Third, it seems to me that restaurants ought to be taking reservations, even if they didn’t before quarantine. Maybe standing in line won’t be a problem, but I’m not comfortable with the prospect. Moreover, having a reasonable assurance of expected volume on any given night ought to work to the restaurant’s advantage as well and contribute to overall efficiency.
Meanwhile, takeout is still a viable option. I’ve read several articles recently attesting to the increased safety of this procedure. My preference is for an arrangement that provides for payment in advance, over the phone, so a server can just place your order in the car seat, providing completely contactless delivery.
Whether you’re dining in or taking out, here are three more recommendations.
I was in the process of preparing an article about Embur Fire Fusion (emburfirefusion.com, 107 Smyres Place, 336-541-8442) before quarantine. This is a unique concept, combining Peruvian style rotisserie chicken plus Italian style pizza, capitalizing on the restaurant’s wood burning brick oven. I don’t want to say too much and pre-empt the article that will run after full reopening, but I’ll provide this teaser: some of the best chicken I’ve ever tasted and great pizza!
Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Crafted- the art of the taco (eatatcrafted.com, 219-A S. Elm St., 336-273-0030) has been a favorite ever since they opened in a smaller space across the street. The popular following that the casual, inexpensive food developed morphed into a larger space after a few years, as well as expansion into another property in Winston-Salem.
A taco shell can host a lot of creativity. The takeout menu, available 4-8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, offers several taco kits, to be assembled at home. Chicken Tinga (with chili peppers and onions), Braised Beef, Chorizo sausage, “Chofu” (vegetarian), and Shrimp are the proteins. French fries, cilantro-lime rice, and black beans are the vegetables. Chips and guacamole and Spicy Pimiento Cheese Macaroni can also be ordered.
Several of the pre-assembled tacos look interesting. Big Truck combines pimiento macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, bacon barbecue sauce, and crisp tobacco onions. Cuban Link is based on pulled pork with ham, plus shredded cheese, pickled red onion, and Dijon aioli. Honky Tonk hosts fried chicken, marinated in buttermilk.
Burgers, wings, and a chicken sandwich round out the non-taco selections.
Natty Greene’s (nattygreenesbrewpub.com, 345 S. Elm St., 336-274-1373) downtown was one of the earliest restaurants to implement the brew pub concept. Their artisan beers are now widely distributed outside the original restaurant, often featured even in other restaurants. Reopening for takeout took place May 22, with in house dining initiated as part of Phase II, statewide. New hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. The Brewhouse (1918 W. Gate City Blvd., 336-285-8036) reopened May 28, 4-9 p.m. Thursday & Friday, 1-9 p.m. Saturday & Sunday.
The menu has been abbreviated. Starters/small plates include Grilled Shrimp with remoulade sauce; and Chicken Wings with a choice of dry rub, barbecue sauce, or hot sauce.
Burgers come with half-pound patties. In addition to the traditional preparation, a Backyard version is available with bacon, cheddar cheese, onion, and barbecue sauce. Or you might consider the Carolina, with homemade chili, cheddar cheese, and onions. There’s also an Elm Street Philly Steak sandwich.
A Barbecue Plate and a Fried Chicken Plate come with a choice of two sides- French fries, homemade potato chips, sweet potato fries, cole slaw, mac and cheese, or salad.
In addition to these, you can access my previous recommendations for takeout at issuu.com/yesweekly.