These days, Ryan Christopher’s BYOB is “BYOC.” Call ahead, bring your own car to the Narberth restaurant, and fill it with food prepared by chef/owner Michael Klaumenzer or one of his family members. Delivery is available through GrubHub and Caviar, but Klaumenzer says most customers use his curbside service. “It’s a great way for us to say hello in a very safe way,” he says. “While it doesn’t replace dining in, the takeout volume has been huge.”
BYOC is also the new normal at Firepoint Grill in Newtown Square, which has curbside lunch and dinner menus. “We hope that enjoying a quality meal at home can give our guests a sense of normalcy,” says Jillian Fligge, director of marketing and special projects for Paxos Restaurants, Firepoint’s parent company.
It’s the same scene at Savona in Gulph Mills. “We’re doing four times more pickup than delivery,” says chef/owner Andrew Masciangelo. “People want to get out of the house, and we love seeing our customers—even for a few seconds.”
Pre-COVID, the Gables at Chadds Ford didn’t do much takeout business. But proprietor Ann Kolenick and her staff quickly created menus for Sunday brunch, lunch, dinner and family-style meals. The Gables’ new daily specials offer perks like free appetizers, dessert and kids’ meals. “We put a few tables and signage together to make the pickup area look special,” says Kolenick. “The little touches still matter.”
After some logistical re-orchestration, Brick & Brew has opened its gastropubs in Havertown, Media and Malvern. “We hadn’t focused on takeout, so we needed to activate ordering technology channels,” says Brick & Brew’s Marc Dent. “Once we got it going, it went gangbusters.”
Some local restaurateurs see the situation as an unexpected opportunity. “We wanted to be a neighborhood restaurant, and we are—now more than ever,” says Christine Kondra, who owns Cornerstone Bistro & Artisanal Market in Wayne with her husband, Nick. “The support from the community has been tremendous.”
There are fresh oysters on the menu at Cornerstone—and oyster knives for at-home shucking. The Gables’ Kolenick has engineered to-go ice cream floats. “I’m trying to figure out how to tell adults to add a drop of liquor for a nice treat—although I’m pretty sure they’re figuring that out for themselves,” she says.
At Ryan Christopher’s, Klaumenzer maintains a “liver list” of 220 customers who’ve asked to be notified when he’s serving that organ meat. He has another list for lobster and a third for baby-back ribs. Over 500 Savona customers get Masciangelo’s stay-at-home menu specials. They also have first dibs on to-go pints of gelato, available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry guava and other flavors. “My pastry chef’s grocery store was sold out of good ice cream, so we made gelato ourselves,” says Masciangelo.
Not surprisingly, folks in lockdown have been craving comfort food served family-style. Chicken Parm is one of the most popular to-go orders at Ryan Christopher’s—served with tomato gravy, fire-roasted peppers and capellini, plus salad and Italian bread. Short ribs and salmon are big sellers at both the Gables and Savona, where family meals come with salad, a starch and vegetables. Masciangelo has brought back decade-old Savona classics like Dover sole and an 18-ounce dry-rubbed rib-eye steak.
Brick & Brew has also honed in on customer favorites, paring down its extensive menu to burgers, wood-fired pizzas, a rotating roster of tacos, and its crazy-popular chicken wings. “The wings have been flying out of here—no pun intended,” says Dent.
Takeout items at Cornerstone include fresh pasta, tomato-and-burrata salad, and lemon sole with capers, tomatoes, olives and lemon aioli. Their family-style New England lobster bake is a veritable to-go feast of lobster, corn on the cob, potatoes, and beer or wine upon request.
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In keeping with the seafood theme, Ryan Christopher’s should be serving soft-shell crabs, shrimp, and crab gazpacho by early June. The Gables is planning on soft-shells, too—plus fried green tomatoes and fresh berry desserts. Savona will get seasonal with various fruits and vegetables. Kondra recommends grilling Cornerstone’s oysters at home, with herbs, panko breadcrumbs and hot sauce.
The restaurateurs we talked to aren’t worried about potential hiccups in their food supply. Regional vendors and local farmers seem to be fully stocked. Klaumenzer and other chefs do their own shopping, figuring out menus based on what’s available every day. “It’s almost like a game show,” says Klaumenzer. “Here’s what we have. What can we make with it?”
Just keep in mind that some items are in short supply. “We sell out of dishes pretty regularly,” says Masciangelo.
And while most restaurants can have meals ready within 30 minutes, ordering well in advance is also advised. Cornerstone recommends a 24-hour window. “It’s kind of like making a reservation, except you’ll be dining in your home,” Kondra says.