Although consumers might seem eager to get back to dining out these days, that eagerness is often tempered by an awareness that restaurants should be observing pandemic-related precautions.
Media and various digital platforms are responding to that need-to-know, providing information on what health and safety practices should be in place and whether or not particular locations are offering them.
For example the December 2020 “AARP Bulletin,” a publication the AARP distributes to its 38 million members in the U.S., carried a “restaurant safety checklist.” Compiled by freelancer Kelsey Ogletree, the article encouraged readers to focus on various aspects of a dining experience when making choices about where to go.
The listings discussed aspects of the tabletop (wrapped cutlery? no condiment bottles?) and the cleanliness of the restrooms “(if they’re clean, the kitchen is, too”).
Awareness that servers are gloved and that kitchen workers are wearing masks are other points on which the article focused. Ogletree additionally suggested that diners check a restaurant’s website in advance to see what safety protocols the establishment has in place.
Another indication of such heightened public awareness is the decision by Yelp to enhance the “Health and Safety Measures” portion of its reviewing process.
Algorithms will track individual Yelp user feedback on COVID-19 practices observed during visits. Based on a consensus of those user reports, Yelp will post either a green checkmark, signifying positive user feedback on the business’s efforts, or an orange question mark, an indication that reviewer data indicates lapses in practices like social distancing and mask wearing.
According to Yelp representatives, this health and safety data on individual operations will be updated daily.
The AARP’s “Coronavirus Safety Checklist for Eating at Restaurants” can be viewed at.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/coronavirus-dining-out-checklist.html.
Yelp’s reporting on health and safety practices are described at blog.yelp.com/2021/01/yelp-will-display-user-feedback-on-health-and-safety-practices.
Though many would think of roadside barbecue as a warm-weather indulgence, Pig Park BBQ in Ware plans to dish up its smoky, savory handiwork throughout the winter ahead.
An informal, drive-in style operation located at 97 East Street (Route 9), Pig Park BBQ is currently doing business on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Pitmaster and Pig Park owner Tim Barbiasz specializes in pulled pork, Texas brisket, Memphis ribs, and BBQ chicken served as either “plates” or sandwiches; he also offers traditional sides such as coleslaw, barbecue beans, and corn bread. Pig Park uses one of the largest mobile “smoker” in the Northeast to produce its barbecue.
Pig Park BBQ maintains a web presence at pigparkbbq.com; the operation also answers at (413) 544-4712.
For their part in what industry insiders are calling the “Chicken Sandwich Wars,” KFC locations have given the KFC Chicken Sandwich an upgrade. The breast cutlet is now 20% larger and breaded with KFC’s “Extra Crispy” breading formulation.
The reworked sandwich is assembled on a brioche style bun; it’s also garnished with three thicker crinkle-cut pickles and dressed with a choice of spicy or classic mayonnaise.
The suggested price of $3.99 of the newly made-over sandwich may vary with location.
For those who’ve grown a bit bored with delivery pizza and drive-thru fast food, The Federal in Agawam offers the option of indulging in more elegant take-home fare.
The Federal’s winter-season curbside pickup menu, which is available Tuesday through Friday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., presents an extensive sampling of that establishment’s New American cuisine.
Entree options range from seared Atlantic codfish and a red-wine-braised short rib “beef stew” to rosemary-roasted duck breast and grilled lobster “Thermidor.”
A “you be the chef” option provides mix-and-match main dishes, sides, and sauces, while those looking for more casual choices can indulge in a New Orleans style oyster po’ boy sandwich or a lobster and charred asparagus pizza.
Serves-five Family Packs are available, as is an assortment of desserts populated by the likes of fried apple pie ravioli and warm Nutella crepes.
Curbside pickup from the Federal can be ordered online at thefederalrestaurant.com or by calling (413) 789-1267.
The Villa Rose Restaurant in Ludlow has temporarily suspended serving its regular menu, having opted for a more streamlined culinary agenda that it plans to update on a weekly basis.
Open from 12 noon until 9 p.m. for socially-distanced indoor dining (as well as outdoor service when weather permits), Villa Rose is nonetheless offering plenty from which to choose, including butternut squash ravioli, baked stuffed haddock, boneless braised beef short ribs, and more.
There’s also a small selection of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers available, and all menu items can be packed for carryout.
For those looking for scaled-up carry-home option, Villa Rose is making available “1/2 pan” meal packages designed to serve six. Selections available in that format include pasta jambalaya, chicken parmesan with penne, baked meat and four-cheese lasagna, and beef short ribs.
The entire menu can be seen on line at villaroserestaurant.com.
Villa Rose answers at (413) 547-6667.
This month the UNO Pizzeria & Grill on Boston Road in Springfield is participating in a program to thank restaurant workers for their hard work during the Pandemic.
Along with other UNO locations in Eastern Massachusetts, the Springfield store is offering $5 pizzas every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in January. During a time when the hospitality industry and its workers have been impacted tremendously, participating UNOs want their fellow restaurant workers to feel the love.
To access this deal, which is available dine-in only, restaurant workers need merely ask their server for the $5 Restaurant Worker Pizza. The offer applies to restaurant workers only, not the entire party they are dining with.
For more details and to see a list of participating restaurants, visit unos.com/pizza 5.
Max’s Tavern at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has begun offering “South End To-Go Packs,” the restaurant’s particular take on carry-home dining.
The packs are designed to serve from four to six people and feature a baked pasta creation, Caesar salad, meatballs, and focaccia. Pasta options change weekly, but choices like amatriciana or butternut & baby kale are typical.
Smaller “Family Meal” packs are also available. Sized to accommodate two or three, they include a salad, an entree selection, three sides, and house-made biscuits. Typical main course possibilities are pan roasted chicken, NY strip steaks, or grilled salmon.
Both pack options are available on Friday and Saturday evenings and can be ordered on line at maxstavern.com or by calling the restaurant at (413) 746-6299.
Through January 23 the Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in Springfield is promoting a “German Street Food Pop Up” experience.
A selection of casual, eat-on-the-go German specialties, the Pop Up menu features “mains” like bratwurst & kraut in a hoagie roll, frikadellen (sweet & sour meatballs), and currywurst.
Starter-style add-ons include fried spaetzli balls and flammkuchen (German flatbread); dessert choices such as apple strudel and flourless linzer torte are on the agenda as well.
The Student Prince has also opened the reservation book for its traditional Hunter’s Dinners. Three dates are available – February 4, 16, and 25. Billed as the original and most authentic of wild game dinners in the region, the Hunter’s Dinner tradition date back to the mid-twentieth-century tenure of the late Ruppercht Schreff, longtime owner of the Student Prince.
This year’s six-course menu includes frog’s legs, game stew, elk sausage, garlic-lime mahi mahi, poussin, and buffalo ribeye. A Student Prince classic, strawberries Romanoff, will be served for dessert.
The dinner is priced at $70 per person, tax and gratuity included.
Reservations are essential and they can be made online at studentprince.com or by calling the restaurant at (413) 734-7475.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at OffTheMenuGuy@aol.com.