The last couple of months have been a challenging time for restaurants. After social distancing restrictions forced establishments across the country to close their doors, most shifted their efforts to focus on takeout and delivery, but some chefs and restaurateurs have elected to go above and beyond traditional models to provide food- and drink-lovers with something extra special.
From food trucks and drive-thrus to meal kits and marketplaces, here are some of the ways the Canadian culinary community has gotten creative during the pandemic.
Atelier Drive Thru (Ottawa, ON)
Acclaimed chef Marc Lepine will be serving an exclusive tasting menu with non-alcoholic drink pairings to diners that drive up to his award-winning Atelier restaurant on May 16. Upon arrival, guests will be treated to the first of Lepine’s five courses to eat in their cars. Once finished, guests can then drive back to Atelier to pick up each ensuing course. Lepine has said that the Drive Thru pop-up will most likely be a one-time event, but isn't ruling out the possibility for more in the future.
Food truck drive-thrus (various cities)
Food truck drive-thrus have seen a significant surge in several Canadian cities. The once-popular pastime offers a safe social setting for diners to enjoy food and drink from their favourite vendors without having to leave their vehicles.
YYC Food Trucks--which was one of the first to set the trend in motion--is holding a food truck poutine competition on May 12, featuring six local purveyors.
Gusto 501's marketplace (Toronto, ON)
We've seen larger companies like Earl's and Joey Restaurants pivot to an online grocery model, but more independent concepts are finding success with it too. Janet Zuccarini's Gusto 501 was a long-time in the making and opened shortly before the pandemic hit our country. In addition to ordering delicious Italian fare for takeout or delivery, Zuccarini's eatery has created an online marketplace that offers a robust selection of groceries including proteins, fresh produce, cheese, and wine.
Hearth Restaurant's weekly provisions (Saskatoon, SK)
Though they offer a regular takeout menu that has been quite popular, Saskatoon's Hearth first found success with their provisions. The weekly offerings are large-batch meals and other creations meant to last for more than just one meal. They're not quite meal kits, but all options require reheating and in some cases, simple preparations, such as grilling or roasting chicken skewers before topping them with supplied salsa verde.
JuJu's Drink Shack by Published on Main (Vancouver, B.C.)
A couple of weeks ago, Published debuted this fun takeout spin-off of their restaurant concept that boasts a mix of tiki cocktail kits as well as tropical-inspired dishes like coconut prawns and scallop crudo. Who knows, JuJu's Drink Shack might even become a bricks and mortor concept once these crazy times are behind us.
Lil Bird Sandwich Co. by Kafka's Coffee (Vancouver, B.C.)
Popular coffee shop, Kafka's Coffee has just launched a pop-up sandwich concept today. The Mediterranean menu consists of four sandwiches on housemade bread. We're digging the sounds of the Super Chicken Shawarma, made with brined free-range chicken, preserved lemon aioli, pickled turnips, fresh herbs and tomato.
“Even before COVID-19, I wanted to introduce more meals at my Main Street location. We've developed a phenomenal food program at our other locations, but this takes it all to a new level,” says Kafka’s Coffee owner Aaron Kafka.
MilkCrate's virtual cooking classes (Edmonton, AB)
Edmonton chef Steve Brochu has successfully–albeit temporarily–adjusted his cafe MilkCrate to offer weekly virtual cooking classes for Edmontonians, in addition to a "take 'n' bake" menu of batch meals people can reheat and eat at home. People wanting more information about his weekly cooking classes should email the chef directly.
Pastificio di Luigi (Vancouver, B.C.)
Originally developed in 2015 as an elevated takeout-friendly concept, Kitchen Table Restaurants’ Pastificio di Luigi recently launched as a temporary pop-up inside Pourhouse restaurant in Gastown.
Spearheaded by Kitchen Table executive chef Alessandro Vieanello, Pastificio di Luigi’s offers a full selection of Italian fare with a focus on fresh pasta made in-house. In addition to refined comfort classics like tortellini in brodo, ravioli con panna e prosciutto, and bigoli con l’anatra, the pop-up is currently offering a selection of sauces, fresh and dried pasta, wine, and cocktails to go.
“The initial idea behind this concept was to prepare homespun, delicious food that was designed to travel well and would still represent the same level of execution you would see if you were dining in,” says Vianello. “This project has been in the works for quite some time and given the current circumstances, we thought there was no better time than the present to launch. We can’t wait for people to see what we’ve got in store.”
Pluvio Restaurant and Rooms’ Side Door Fried Chicken Drive Thru (Ucluelet, B.C.)
The awarm-winning team at Pluvio in Ucluelet hosted a drive-thru fried chicken pop-up on May 3 that sold out in less than three hours. Patrons that were lucky enough to make it enjoyed a two-piece fried chicken meal with comfort food accompaniments like coleslaw, cornbread, potato salad, and of course, wine.
Pluvio is currently preparing for a second pop-up set to take place on May 17 and we're wishing we could drive out to the coast!
Real Fake Meats' BBQ bags and donair kits (Halifax, N.S.)
Popular plant-based "butcher shop" and deli, Real Fake Meats has become a staple in the Halifax area for chef Lauren Marshall's creative and delicious interpretations of classic dishes. Perhaps most famous for their vegan take on the Halifax donair, Marshall is now offering donair kits and, more recently, BBQ Bags for late spring and summer. All available for weekly pre-orders, the BBQ bags' contents change weekly, but typically include things such as vegan burgers, smokies and "ribz". Delivery is also available within a short radius around the shop's location in downtown Halifax.
Swallow Tail's Mushroom Feast To Go (Vancouver, B.C.)
Known for throwing creative, gourmet pop-ups in the British Columbia wilderness, Swallow Tail will be hosting one of its first post-pandemic pop-ups on May 23 in takeout form.
Chef Robin Kort and James Beard award-winning chef Bruno Feldeisen’s mushroom-centric multi-course menu features a grilled spring mushroom and orange salad, a roasted organic chicken leg with morel mushrooms and baby potatoes, and a porcini ratatouille with cauliflower puree, basil tomato vinaigrette, and rosemary focaccia.