Newport Restaurants Survive, Thrive and Give Back During COVID Crisis

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Chef Jessica Roy at Cafe Jardin with her blueberry lavender cake / photo by Chris Trela

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Those opening words from the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” certainly applies to Newport Beach and our current dining situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But perhaps a more appropriate version of that quote would be “making the best of times during the worst of times.”

Businesses small and large in Newport Beach are hurting right now, including restaurants. Many eateries have temporarily closed, while others are doing everything they can to continue serving customers, albeit in a limited capacity and on a to-go or delivery basis.

We have a list of 50 Newport Beach restaurants on our website (https://www.newportbeachindy.com/newport-beach-restaurants-offer-take-out-and-delivery-during-covid-19) that are still open for business, with more added as info comes in to the NB Indy. I checked in with several last week to see how they were doing.

Tavern House Kitchen + Bar open for takeout / photo by Chris Trela

Tavern House Kitchen + Bar

One of those restaurants added to our list this week was Tavern House Kitchen + Bar, which I have raved about since the restaurant opened last year. Tavern House had been closed for four weeks, but co-owner David Wilhelm, a longtime fixture in the OC dining world, has been posting his favorite recipes on his Tavern House blog (tavernhousekb.com/from-our-kitchen) and the Tavern House facebook page (facebook.com/tavernhousekb).

Tavern House fried chicken / courtesy of Tavern House

Fortunately for Tavern House fans, the restaurant reopened last week, albeit on a limited basis: Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. with a limited but satisfying menu.

“We were initially challenged staff-wise to be able to offer food to-go, but we had so many requests that we finally decided to start three days a week,” Wilhelm told me via email last week. “We may expand to other nights, probably Sunday next. We will be running a special each week as well—roast chicken, steaks, etc.”

Wilhelm told me that Tavern House, in conjunction with Sysco Foods and several of his regular local guests, is donating and delivering 50 box lunches three times a week to Hoag Hospital staff.

Tavern House cheeseburger. Cuisine by Tavern House, at-home plating by Chris Trela

I looked at the current Tavern House menu. It includes several Tavern House classics, including Wilhelm’s sensational buttermilk fried chicken, and also his Wagyu cheeseburger, which I ordered Saturday night, along with a piece of carrot cake.

Tavern House GM Carlos Godinez was manning the phones when I called, and told me he had been worried—Tavern House had been closed for a few weeks and he wondered if being closed meant people would forget about them. However, since they announced their reopening, he told me “the phones have been ringing off the hook.”

Check out the menu at TavernHouseKB.com or call (949) 673-8464.

Noah and Marin von Blom, owners of Arc Butcher & Baker / photo by Chris Trela

Arc Butcher & Baker

“I didn’t realize my three favorite things to do in this world were to touch my face, eat at restaurants, and do non-essential activities,” joked Newport Beach resident Noah von Blom about the current COVID situation when I popped in to Arc Butcher & Baker Restaurant on Friday to order lunch (spicy and delicious chicken and cheese enchiladas).

Noah and his wife, Marin, own and operate Arc Butcher & Baker on the Balboa Peninsula, and Arc Restaurant in Costa Mesa.

Right now, levity and an upbeat attitude are paramount to Noah and Marin.

“Our goal right now is to stay positive. Always,” said Noah. “The moment we look at despair, the business is despair, especially now.

Marin von Blom with chicken and cheese enchiladas take and bake at Arc Butcher & Baker

“A positive attitude brightens someone’s day,” added Marin. “People come here every day and they like seeing us still being positive, not doomsday.”

It’s not easy for them to be positive. They had to close their larger Costa Mesa restaurant and shift focus to Newport Beach.

“How can you pivot to what people are looking for right now?” wondered Noah. “Costa Mesa took a hit. We tried but—one night we were open, next night it was over and we had to let the staff go.”

Fortunately, Arc Butcher & Baker was designed as a to-go restaurant with only a handful of tables, so the von Bloms have not had to make many adjustments. Well, maybe a few to the menu, which has always highlighted such items as burgers and steaks. Now, chicken rules the restaurant roost, along with smaller portion dishes. There’s been one more significant shift.

“We always intended for this to be a West Coast bodega, so we recently decided to add a huge grocery menu, which is on our website,” explained Noah. “We have lettuce, produce, sliced turkey, specialty flour. We offer cooked food and take and bake.”

Enchiladas for lunch. At-home plating by Chris Trela

“We wanted to do take and bake in the beginning, but it never took off,” said Marin. “Now people want it. Almost everyone orders something to take and bake, from pot pies to enchiladas. People are not as rushed, they’re home more.”

Arc Butcher & Baker marked its one-year anniversary on March 29, but there was no time to celebrate.

“We will all remember what we did in March of 2020, and how we got there, but like the depression, we’ll define ourselves by how we move forward,” stated Noah. “We are as blessed as we can be. You make your own luck.”

Arc Butcher & Baker is open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (the kitchen closes at 8p.m.). 417 30th St., Newport Beach. ArcButcherBaker.com. (949) 877-0190.

Chef Jessica Roy talks to a customer at Cafe Jardin / photo by Chris Trela

Café Jardin

Chef Pascal Olhats and Chef Jessica Roy have been as busy as ever at Cafe Jardin, located at Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar.

When the mandate came to close dining room and shift to delivery and to-go orders, Pascal and Jessica created a new to-go menu as well as a small produce market set up outside Café Jardin’s kitchen door.

The menu offers diners such classics as chicken and mushroom crepe (I’ve had three already!), coq au vin, and even quail with truffle sauce. The market sells fruits, potatoes, vegetables, olive oil, bread, rice, and other necessities, as well as fresh cuts of meat and chicken, plus shellfish.

Blueberry lavender cake at Cafe Jardin / photo by Chris Trela

Pascal has been posting recipes on his Facebook page in between concocting daily specials and working on a plan to reopen the restaurant once the time comes.

“A lot of people do not want to go to the grocery store right now,” said Pascal. “Here we have one person in front, one in the back, and one customer at a time. We keep safety measures in place.”

“In addition to adding items to his menu, Pascal wants to add another important element.

“Jessica and I want to make sure we bring a smile beyond our masks. If you want to remember this crisis, we want you to have good memories—and the food will be the best part. I am creating dishes I have never done before, like stuffed quail with truffles. Octopus with yellowtail. And Jessica made blueberry lavender cake.”

Chicken and mushroom crepe. Food by Cafe Jardin, at-home plating by Chris Trela

Pascal is also thinking about what will be on his menu when he reopens, and what the restaurant will look like if social distancing is the new normal for a while.

“How will I set up the tables, how will we dress the staff—with gloves and masks?” wondered Pascal. “We will do whatever it takes. We will have a sanitation station, add tables out into the garden. And I want to stay in touch with customers but will not go from table to table—I will stand in the middle and thank everyone for being there.”

Pascal says his goal is to be ready by mid May in case restaurants “get the green light. When it comes, we want to be ready. The plan is to take it step by step. We will have a progressive menu, but reduced, and then ramp it up.”

Cafe Jardin is at 2647 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar (the take-out area is on Dahlia Avenue). (949) 673-0033. https://www.facebook.com/TraditionbyPascal.

Tru Bowl

Tru Bowl Superfood Bar

Martha Barbosa opened Tru Bowl Superfood Bar on Balboa Blvd. near the Newport Pier in February. Tru Bowl specializes in build your own craft super bowls, protein smoothies/blends, fresh juices, and wellness shots. Barbosa was planning a grand opening celebration when the order came in to close indoor dining.

“When we first opened on February 22, we were excited by the amount of customers coming in, it was very promising,” Barbosa told me this week via email. “We postponed our grand opening celebration twice, once for rain and the next due to the “stay at home” order.

Originally open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Barbosa has had to scale back her hours to Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“In an attempt to drive sales, we are ramping up our marketing by running ads and promos like Buy One Get One half off on Instagram, NextDoor.com, and Google, as those are the least expensive platforms for advertising,” wrote Barbosa. “We have also recently added delivery services with Doordash, Postmates, and I am finalizing Uber Eats, in addition to our direct Online Ordering. We are hoping that all this will bring customers and sales.”

Barbosa said she applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan but has yet to receive a response. She has asked for payment deferments on her equipment leases, as well as her property lease. She is looking into other financial assistance, but for now is hoping to get buy until things get back to normal—whatever that normal might look like.

You can find Tru Bowl at 2233 W. Balboa Blvd. #109. Visit https://trubowl.com/tru-bowl-newport-beach.

Florent and Amelia Marneau of Marche Moderne

Marche Moderne

Marche Moderne is back!

Southern California’s best French restaurant has been closed for several weeks while owners Florent and Amelia Marneau regrouped and worked on a new takeout menu.

Now, the restaurant is reopening beginning April 22. I received this email from the restaurant:

“We are excited to announce that we will be back open for Curbside Takeout beginning Wednesday, April 22. We’ve tweaked a few things with the hours of operation and a now weekly-changing menu. New additions include a family-style meal. And to help provide our guests with grocery essentials while also supporting our longtime farmers, we’ll be offering a Farmer’s Market Box (available Thursdays and Fridays) filled with an assortment of fresh produce and pantry staples, from eggs & butter to salad greens, avocados, potatoes, carrots, plus baskets of fresh blueberries, strawberries, apples and more! We can’t wait to get back into the kitchen to cook for all of you!”

New curbside takeout hours are 12:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Phone lines will be open at 10:30 a.m. for orders at (714) 434-7900. Menu will change weekly and will be posted online every Sunday at https://www.marchemoderne.net. Curbside Wine to Go will also be available.

This week’s menu includes Bordier Butter with Baguette, Steak Tartare, Amelia’s Chopped Salad Revisited, Between A Bouillabaisse & A Cioppino, Roasted Salmon Trout, Braised Lamb Shank Tagine, Garlic & Thyme Whole Roasted Mary’s Chicken, and other tempting items.

Restaurant Philanthropy

As I was finishing this column, Erin Rose, Senior Director of Communications for Visit Newport Beach and Newport Beach & Co., sent me information on what some Newport Beach restaurants have been doing on the philanthropy side.

  • Avila’s El Ranchito participated in the Frontline Foods OC, the orange county chapter of the COVID clinician meal support program. This initiative brings meals to frontline staff and Avila’s brought a feast to UCI Health’s medical team who are essentially working in wartime-like conditions.
  • Atomic Creamery teamed up with University High School Irvine’s #GirlUp chapter to launch their “Pay It Forward” campaign. For every three pints of ice cream purchased, Atomic Creamery will donate a pint of ice cream to support local woman-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19.
  • Bear Flag Fish Co. teamed up with Frontline Foods OC to bring a lunch of fish burritos and clam chowder to the front-line staff at UCI Health.
  • Buddha’s Favorite has joined forces with a wonderful idea from Jennifer Scheumann and her #drivetothrive campaign. Simply purchase a gift card at any price and the gift card will be donated to the Environmental Services (EVS) at Hoag Hospital. They encourage you to also provide a handwritten note to our unsung heroes of Hoag Hospital.
  • Juice Mi launched “JuiceMi Grams” (https://www.gofundme.com/f/mfntr-feed-the-front-line) for the public to purchase bundles of coffee, juices, wellness shots and acai bowls to send to frontline hospital staff. Or you can make a donation and JuiceMi will drop off free organic juices, ginger shots and acai bowls to health care professionals.
  • Pepperoni’s, Olea Newport Beach, Chronic Tacos, Miss Mini Donuts and many more local restaurants participated in Social Kitchen + Craft Bar’s program “Serving Those Who Serve (https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-local-social-restaurant-group) whose mission is to feed unemployed or furloughed hospitality workers for free.
  • OLEA Newport Beach partnered with Front Line Food OC to help feed the nurses and doctors at UCI Health.
  • Panini Kabob Grill is giving back with #PKGCares and donating and delivering fresh, healthy Mediterranean food to local hospitals and first responders.
  • Also, partnering with OC Feed the Frontline, a collection of local dining establishments including JuiceMi, Hook and Anchor, Z Pizza, Newport Rib Company raised over $3,500 in just four days to feed approximately 500 healthcare workers at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.

 

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