• Steven Keith

Support your local restaurants like never before

Updated: Mar 27

This Corona virus crisis is tough on us all, but many of them won't survive without our help

Osso bucco at Noah's Restaurant & Lounge

Not unlike the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the Oklahoma City bombing and the horror that will forever be known as 9/11, I’ll never forget where I was the moment all of the state’s restaurants and bars where closed due to the growing Coronavirus.


I was sitting at the bar at Noah’s Restaurant & Lounge downtown sipping a luscious red wine when, BAM, the governor’s announcement hit us all in the gut.


And while our inability to dine out is nowhere near the national disaster those other tragic events were, the hardship it’s putting on millions of hospitality, retail and travel companies – and even more so, their workers – is devastating.


Small businesses are already closing, others are worried how long they can last and the James Beard Foundation announced Friday that more than 7 million restaurant employees had already been laid off nationwide as of last week.


That’s 7 million.


Worse still, with growing sentiment that we may be looking at a national shutdown of months, not just days or weeks, the impact this will have on those employees and our country as a whole is almost unfathomable.


It has, however, been inspiring to see how hard local restaurants and businesses are working to survive in the face of such adversity.


Tomato tart from Noah's Restaurant & Lounge

Within minutes of the announcement, chef Noah Miller came out of the kitchen – copy of menu in hand – and was quickly transforming weekly dinner specials into packaged meals couples and families could order to go. Across the street, a sign on the door at Black Sheep announced that they’d already closed that day to prep for opening two days later with a new take-out menu.


Just as our nation’s teachers and schools have had to quickly reinvent how they educate students remotely over the long haul, restaurants too have had to rethink their business models as well.


We must support them as much as we humanly and safely can.


Stop-gap measures like offering curbside pickup and meals to go can’t come close to replacing full houses in their dining rooms and bars several nights a week, and some simply won’t survive without our help.


My heart goes out to all restaurants during these trying times, but it especially aches for those new places that just opened or were about to. With so much capital invested – and few options now to recoup those costs – their road will be much tougher than most.


Hale House was off to the races, Barkada’s and Kita Modern Japanese had just opened to rave reviews, Soho’s was reborn under new owners and Mediterranean Breeze was generating strong buzz, among others.


I pray they’re able to make it so we can all enjoy their culinary gifts someday soon.

• • •

My Facebook feed is full of local restaurants promoting new carryout options and I’ll be sharing reviews of the best places to get grub to go in the coming weeks. As for my visit to Noah’s that night, I sampled several of the dishes that showed up on his new curbside pickup menu the next day.


There’s a nice pan-roasted halibut with mashed potatoes, asparagus and lobster cream; an airline chicken breast with roasted root vegetables and mushroom marsala demi; and a teriyaki beef and vegetable stir-fry with jasmine rice. Popular grilled Romaine and Greek salads are available, as are jumbo shrimp cocktail and a rotating soup of the day.


Current takeout menus and hours for Noah’s and other restaurants can be found on their websites or Facebook pages, or by giving them a call directly.


It’s nice to know we can still enjoy a taste of many of our favorite restaurants to provide much-needed comfort at home.


Even better, restaurants licensed to sell beer and wine can temporarily sell adult drinks to go (with limits) based on ABC laws that have been temporarily relaxed during the Coronacrisis. I’ll toast to that.


• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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