Faced with limitations and new challenges, local food providers have gotten inventive to reach customers
From curbside pickup to home delivery, expanded outdoor seating to brand new menu items, the food service industry in the Inland Northwest has pushed onward with innovation and resourcefulness while faced with myriad pandemic-caused disruptions.
Opening a new business while social distancing limitations remain in place — and the public’s concerns about the spread of COVID-19 are high — may seem like a poorly timed choice, but for some in the region it’s actually been surprisingly beneficial.
SPOKANE SALAD DELIVERY, for example, launched in May and just around the time other restaurants across the state were allowed to reopen for limited dine-in service after two months of only takeout. The timing was in owner Ryan Willcockson’s favor, however, because he’d planned for the business to be delivery-only.
Customers can place advance orders at spokanesaladdelivery.com to have fresh-made and flavor-packed salads delivered with no contact to their office or front porch on the following day. Current menu options include a Mexican grilled chicken Cobb, and a pulled pork salad with a barbecue sauce vinaigrette, as well as a vegan option. Each heartily portioned salad can stand alone as its own meal, or be shared as a side.
Besides restaurants, local event venues that frequently host and serve food for large gatherings for weddings and parties have also been deeply impacted by current circumstances.
When it became clear that many of the private events on its 2020 calendar would be canceled, owners of the COMMELLINI ESTATE in North Spokane decided to do something they’d long envisioned: Open a restaurant.
“The real focus was our events — weddings, anniversaries, corporate parties, any event you could think of,” says estate co-owner Lauri Seghetti. “We never opened as a restaurant, but it was in the back of our mind that we’d maybe figure out how to do it along with the events. The pandemic kind of allowed us to rethink.”
To that end, the historic venue debuted its on-site restaurant TAVOLA CALDA (in Italian, the name means “hot table”) in mid-July, offering a menu of family recipes for some of the venue’s most popular Italian dishes, like chicken cacciatore and several richly sauced pastas. Tavola Calda is open five days a week, barring any privately scheduled events, and customers order in a counter-service style. Tables are spread out across the estate’s scenic grounds in the Little Spokane watershed, and guests are encouraged to wander until they find the perfect outdoor picnic spot.
Picnics in the park have also become a pleasant and popular way to escape the confines of home, and are an activity many restaurants have in mind with new carry-out specials for the whole household.
Since early spring, LOST BOYS GARAGE in North Spokane has offered a low-key picnic-friendly deal for $40 that comes with four bacon cheeseburgers, a large salad, extra-large fries and dessert to share. You won’t find the special on the restaurant’s regular menu, so make sure to call in or stop by to order.
Level up your picnic game with a fancy cheese board and bottle of wine from downtown cheese and wine shop WANDERLUST DELICATO. Enjoy as a snack or full meal in the backyard, at a local park, or after hiking to a scenic destination — wherever your heart desires! Wanderlust’s transport-friendly, individually portioned picnic snack packs come with three artisan cheeses, olives, crackers, almonds and more, with an option to add charcuterie. Options for larger groups are all listed on the shop’s website for preorder, with custom platters available as well.
Innovation doesn’t stop with the restaurants listed here. Pre-made family-size meals (see page 34) and cocktails to-go (more on page 26) also remain popular choices to enjoy a restaurant meal or craft beverage in the safety of your home as this pandemic continues to disrupt the hospitality industry.
For those who feel comfortable dining out in a socially distanced setting, many local eateries have taken full advantage of the outdoor dining season, now at its tail end, to expand on-site patios (see page 10) for a fresh new al fresco experience.