The hospitality industry is still struggling to adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions and reinvent itself, at least for the short term, in order to make it through this crisis. Unfortunately for the bars and nightclubs, there aren't many options. For local restaurants and markets, however, the looser laws on alcohol to-go have added a bit of an income stream along with the take-out and delivery system.
It's probably a little more difficult for fine dining restaurants who bank on the clientele spending their dough on celebrations and special occasions. Most people don't want to drop a couple Benjamins on take-out. So, each restaurant or enterprise has to adapt its mode of operation to compete for the ever-dwindling funds that many Americans are experiencing on a daily basis. The restaurant industry isn't the only sector that is suffering. Millions of Americans are being laid off or furloughed without pay because of the shutdown and social distancing restrictions.
Some restaurants have begun to recognize that fact and there are some deals to be had right now. With Easter and Passover this week, restaurants are trying to cash in on the fact that many families still want a sense of celebration in their lives. We have a list of restaurants and markets that are creating packages, meal and cocktail kits to ease the quarantine pain. Even for those of us who love to cook, it's becoming a bit much.
First, however, we have a restaurant still looking to the future with plans to open, just a little later than expected.
Xin Chao, 2310 Decatur, has surpassed its original goal on NextSeed and is now concentrating on the future. The modern Vietnamese restaurant comes from chefs Christine Ha (The Blind Goat) and Tony Nguyen (Saigon House) and business partner John Su. A look online shows a blue-tiled backsplash at the bar, light wood floors and mid-century style furniture. On its NextSeed page, Ha says: " With the COVID-19 pandemic so adversely affecting the restaurant industry, we are aware that we are facing great challenges. However, we are optimistic and are using this 'stay at home' time to continue interviewing prospective candidates via video chat and developing recipes in our respective home kitchens." We're optimistic, too.
Bravery Chef Hall
Houston has seen a plethora of food halls in the past couple of years with more planned for the future. However, the concept of people gathering at a number of different restaurants and bars in a contained space doesn't really work during a social shutdown. Bravery Chef Hall has decided to reinvent itself for now as a massive "Ghost Kitchen."
The ghost kitchen idea has already begun across the country with the advent of numerous food delivery platforms. Now the chef-driven food hall, located on the ground level of Aris Market Square, has implemented its own delivery system with vetted drivers to deliver food from several of its core restaurants, including Christine Ha's The Blind Goat and Ben McPherson's BOH Pasta and Pizza.
Patrons can order meal kits such as G.O.A.T Curry and Rice with frozen curry and rice on the side ($24). It serves 2 to 3 people. There's also a Tofu Tikka Masala Kit ($10) and two frozen apple pies with fish sauce caramel ($6). BOH is offering its frozen pizzas ($10) and meals like Bolognese Meat Sauce($20) which includes one pint Bolognese, 12 ounces fresh pasta of your choice and two ounces Grana Padana cheese.
Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Kitchen has burger kits for the family with all the toppings and buns from Cake and Bacon. Besides meal kits and dinners, Bravery Chef Hall has a market to order from and offers items like jams, spices, pasta flour, fresh pasta, cheeses and coffee kits.
Brennan's of Houston
This New Orleans-inspired restaurant has been serving Cajun and Creole cuisine to Houstonians since 1967. Now, it has shifted its fine dining concept to "To Geaux". It has some of its best-loved dishes such as its turtle soup, gumbo, crawfish etoufee and more available for curbside take-out or delivery through UberEats. Orders must be called in and cash is not accepted at this time.
Brennan's is offering Easter at Home packages for two ($100) which includes a three-course meal with various starter and entree choices plus Bananas Foster Bread Pudding for dessert. The deadline for ordering is Friday, April 10 at 5 p.m.
Brennan's has also partnered with H-E-B to offer its famous turtle soup at six H-E-B stores in Houston with more items and more stores planned for the future. It sells for $7.95 for twelve ounces. Brennan's is one of three local businesses partnering with H-E-B to sell some of their prepared items in-store. Others include Chris Shepherd's Underbelly Hospitality and Felix Flores' Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Kitchen.
If you're looking to insert some healthier meals in your stay-at-home plans, HS Green has reasonably priced soups, wraps, burgers, smoothies and juices to perk up your energy. You can also treat yourself to one of its desserts like the Nutella Pizza. This family-owned restaurant is also offering some deals during this time like BOGO pizzas, 50 percent off bottles of wine and free kids meals with adult entrees on phone orders. It has an easy online ordering menu and if you use the code STYHEALTHY, you can save 20 percent off curbside pick up.
Luna y Sol Mexican Eatery
9115 FM 723
This authentic Mexican restaurant, helmed by Cordon Bleu-trained chef Esther Castaneda, relocated from its Midtown location to the new spot in late January of this year. Luna y Sol won Best Authentic Taco at the Houston Press Tacolandia 2016. It serves breakfast all day and has fresh pozole and menudo on Sunday for $10 a bowl. Customers have a variety of family packs to choose from like the Fajita Pack which includes enough meat, fixings, rice, beans, chips and salsa for four. Chicken is $60, mixed is $65 and all beef is $70. There are enchilada packs and torta trays as well. The restaurant is also offering deals on margaritas, so check its Facebook page for more information and daily specials such as a $25 gift card with a purchase of $75 or more.
Mutiny Wine Room
This Napa-style wine room and restaurant from longtime Heights residents, Mark Ellenberger and Emily Trout, is hoping to foster a sense of community and togetherness by being part of an initiative called Front Porch Friday Picnic.The idea is to have residents come outside on the porch or in the front yard around 6 p.m. each Friday and visit one another while social distancing. So, Mutiny is offering a Front Porch Friday package($28) which is a special selection of meats and cheeses. Of course, a good cheese plate deserves a good wine and Mutiny will offer suggested pairings which can be purchased and picked up along with the meats and cheeses. For now, patrons can get 40 percent off two bottles with a food purchase.
There is a limited food menu available for curbside pick up as well which includes items such as pulled pork or brisket sliders ($8) served on Hawaiian King rolls with coleslaw and potato salad. There's also Mutiny's Jambalaya for two ($25).
Perry's Steakhouse and Grille
All Houston-area locations
While dining at Perry's contemporary steakhouses is a major part of the draw, right now the restaurant is having to rely on its faithful customers picking up its delicious steaks and desserts curbside. If you're thinking Easter is a good time to splurge on Perry's steaks or the famous Seven-Finger Pork Chop, then there are seven Houston area locations to help you out. It is offering an Easter three-course meal for $39 per person. There are three salad choices and entree choices such as the Signature Sunday Supper Pork Chop, a 16-ounce Caramelized Ribeye and eight-ounce Bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon, all served with whipped potatoes.
For a lighter dish, there's the Grilled Salmon with lemon-dill butter and cauliflower mousse.Choose one of three desserts: Orange-Vanilla Cheesecake, Butterscotch Budino or the Chocolate Crunch. Additional sides such as steamed or grilled asparagus, mac n' cheese or thick-cut chargrilled vegetables are $5 each.
Perry's is also offering its Reserve Wine and Mixology for 50 percent off. The Pork Chop Lunch is available on Wednesday and Friday for to-go from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it has 50 percent off specials everyday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on its Pork Chop Bites, Beef and Bleu and Colossal Shrimp Cocktail for its Social Distancing Social Hour.
Customers can order online or by phone for curbside pick-up. Delivery is available through GrubHub. Tax and a 15 percent handling fee will be added to take-out orders but gratuity is not necessary. Perry's will compensate its team. There is no handling fee on Wine-to-Go.
Sonoma Wine Bar
2720 Richmond (closed temporarily)
The Heights location of this wine bar and restaurant is open for curbside pick up of its food menu, bottles of wine and six packs of beer. Food items include salads, soups, empanadas, pasta pizza, desserts and entrees. Treat yourself and your quarantine sweetie to a Farm to Table Cheese Board ($29) and a nice bottle of bubbles. Pick-up is available Tuesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. There is free no-contact delivery within a three mile radius. The menu online provides photos so you can see what you are getting. Use the code SHOPSMALL to receive 10 percent off your entire order.
Chef Justin Yoakum has gone full-on take-out in response to the restaurant dining restrictions. He has cooking kits. He has Easter kits. He has brunch kits. He has margarita kits. He has grill kits. He has daily specials. He has Family Meal packages which can be added on to depending on the size of the family. He has a small list of grocery items, too. And, you can skip the trip to the store for beer and wine because he has singles and six packs for about the same price as you pay at the store without the weird guy who doesn't know how to social distance sneezing on you neck.
A look at some of the daily specials shows a Tuesday "Kids Eat Free" with adult entree purchase and a Wednesday Bucket of Smoked Wings for $8.32. On Thursday, service industry personnel, bartenders, first responders and medical field workers get 50 percent off their food orders. Check its Facebook page for all the deals. Sunday, they have chicken and waffles. See? Life is still good.
We reported here in the Houston Press that Ford Fry's Rocket Farm Restaurants was closing its concepts here in Houston temporarily. Now, we are happy to say that they are reopening La Lucha and Superica April 13 for pick-up only. As a precaution, the staff was required to stay home for 14 days, though no one had tested positive for COVID-19. The company just wanted to be extra-safe. Fry's other Houston restaurant State of Grace, however, will remain closed for now as the company focuses its resources on the more adaptable restaurant environments.
The new hours will be Monday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a .m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
This organization runs farmers markets around the city as well as educational classes on gardening and sustainability. The markets and farm stands are participating in the Double Up Houston program for April which matches $30 for fresh fruits and vegetables for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a 50 percent increase meaning recipients can get up to $60 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Additionally, these free "Double Up" food bucks can be used at Finca Tres Robles, 257 N. Greenwood, for Wednesday and Saturday drive-thru pick up at the urban farm. There will also be a couple of new produce pick ups this week, one at Finnigan Community Center, 4900 Providence on April 10 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and another at First Mount Olive Baptist Church, 5201 Pardee, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In a press release Janna Roberson, Executive Director of Urban Harvest, said,“This increase comes at a crucial time in our city. Through the Double Up Houston program, we are creating opportunities for SNAP beneficiaries to safely access fresh, healthy food, while also helping local farmers and the economy by keeping our community’s food dollars in Houston.The importance of access to fresh local produce has been our mission for the last 26 years and we appreciate all of our partners in the expansion of this project.”
The Urban Harvest Market, 2752 Buffalo Speedway, is still being held every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon. They have added a drive-thru service on the second floor of the parking garage from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Patrons can place their orders online with their favorite vendors. SNAP Double Up Houston produce boxes can be picked up in the drive-thru or at the Urban Harvest Greeters Booth.