Restaurants reinvent themselves

The new normal is takeout, delivery and gift certificates

By Tamra Testerman
Posted 4/24/20

People still need to eat.

Right now in Taos there are restaurants, cafés and food carts facing financial challenges that could make or break them. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, dine-in is no longer an option.

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Restaurants reinvent themselves

The new normal is takeout, delivery and gift certificates

Posted

People still need to eat.

Right now in Taos there are restaurants, cafés and food carts facing financial challenges that could make or break them. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, dine-in is no longer an option.

Many local eating establishments are pivoting to takeout or delivery options with scaled-down menus and fewer staff. This is not a business model many would choose. The new normal for restaurants is reduced hours with a small flexible crew, unpredictable supply chain and an ebb and flow of customer traffic that causes many owners to question if they can continue to stay open.

Lambert's of Taos, on Bent Street, is one of the oldest restaurants in town. Sommelier Thijs Hoek now handles the takeout and delivery orders at the upscale eatery. His boss and the owner, Nathaniel Troy, makes the deliveries in his car. "We understand that Taos may not want fine dining right now, but what Taos needs is good fresh food made from scratch. We're all proud to be at this restaurant, and we want to continue. We have been here over 30 years. We're part of this community too," said Troy.

Lambert's is planning to cook meals for first responders with sponsorship funds from its beverage delivery service. The restaurant offers gift certificates, which allow people to pay now for later dining. The purchase of a gift card helps the person you gift it to, and the restaurant, so you're helping two at once.

Mark Geery of The Alley Cantina, at 121 Teresina Lane, said, "I've been in this business for over 20 years. We can't operate from a place of fear. We've had all kinds of challenges, including a fire, and never closed for more than 24 hours."

Geery said the community is rallying around the Cantina although he's had to furlough all of his server staff for now. Last week someone called in with a credit card and told him to "take care of his staff and give some meals to our first responders." He said the Cantina is offering gift certificates, which can be used however you like. "It's an enjoyable way to keep your local restaurant in business and take care of people on the front lines."

Janet Muniz works at Pizaños, on State Road 150. She said her boss accommodated the servers by giving everyone three shifts. "The good days now don't compare to before the coronavirus pandemic but there is a steady flow of familiar faces looking for comfort food." The only item not offered on their takeout menu are the sandwiches because they make the bread in house and need to be flexible in case they close.

Pizaños wait staff like all area restaurants are operating without tips, so they are taking a hard hit. Muniz said she is grateful to have a few shifts and to see her customers happy.

Linda Lamoreaux from the Chili Line Depot in Tres Piedras said business is slow but they can stay open for now and offer a full menu for takeout. The top seller is their legendary green chile cheeseburger and french fries. The crew include Sheila Roberts, and the owners Debbie and Gil Graves.

Lamoreaux said, "Until we get back to a new normal all of us cook. We offer gift certificates. You can call ahead or stop in and wait for your order on the patio. We have plenty of space. The community is very supportive and someone always asks when can we open up with the music on Saturdays. Everyone is champing at the bit. We are seeing a few fresh faces, people with quarantine fever who just want to get out and take a drive and a hike. Afterward, they are happy to find us."

Old Martina's Hall, in Ranchos de Taos, is offering a limited menu, according to Shara Martinez. She and chef John Lamendola are the staff answering calls for a "smothered in red or green, supreme burrito with chicken or beef, a burger grilled as you like it or some savory schnitzel with an ice tea or lemonade." She said they are planning to offer curbside service soon and the customers who visit are grateful to have quality food cooked for them and to get out of the house for a brief respite.

If you're looking for a farm-to-table option you may want to try the Farmhouse Café and Bakery, at 1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The owner, Micah Roseberry, offers a full range of options including freshly baked quiche and the café in El Prado also serves as a pickup point for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Additionally, there are a number of specialty Asian and other restaurants open for business. Donabe Asian Kitchen, next to Taos Inn, offers takeout and delivery; and Hunan Chinese, 1023 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, and Yu Garden, 1033 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, offer takeout. A La Cart World Street Food, 625 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, provides takeout and drive-through service with a changing menu.

If you want to help the Taos restaurant community stay afloat, you can pamper yourself with takeout or the luxury of delivery from your favorite eatery - or get adventurous and try something new. Buy a gift certificate for a friend, a first responder or yourself. Visit the Taos News website and search "Taos area restaurants" for contact information and hours of operation for what's currently open.

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