Restaurants had two choices in November, when they were shut down for inside dining for the second time: shut their doors or jump back into the takeout game. While some have shut down, either temporarily to wait out the pandemic or permanently, there is no doubt that the slim margins of to-go food can’t possibly come close to a vibrant, busy night of happy hour and dinner traffic under normal circumstances.
However, those who have decided to drive in a new lane have had to evaluate just what that looks like to be successful. A beautifully presented $25 scallop dish with three perfectly cooked morsels on a bed of exotic vegetables doesn’t translate to a Styrofoam box sliding around in the back of your SUV when it comes to a nice meal. To make it work, they have had to come up with delicious, somewhat elevated, family-style portions, or more predictable plates that can walk out the restaurant without losing their integrity. So, we have compiled a list of restaurants that are adapting to survive but doing it with their own bit of flair and style.
DOOR 222- LOVELAND
One of Loveland’s favorite fine dining establishments, Door 222’s pivot has been to create family-style meals that are easy to pick up and take home. Their Family Meals for Four feature chicken pot pie (also available for two), blackened chicken linguine or beef short ribs and a salad. And, for those who appreciate the one-stop-shop, their wines to go include Erath Resplendent Pinot Noir, $24, and Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert, $40. For those still doing the Monday through Friday hustle, this is a lifesaver.
JAX FISH HOUSE & OYSTER BAR- FORT COLLINS
Jax found their answer to the shutdown in pooling resources with other Big Red F Restaurant Group members to create ghost kitchens inside the Downtown Fort Collins favorite dinner spot. The Post Chicken & Beer and The Tender Project launched their ghost kitchens inside Jax at the end of November. The Post specializes in gluten-free fried chicken, southern sides and craft beer. The Tender Project focuses on double-dipped chicken tenders and ThighFries with hot sauce and dipping sauces. The menus are available daily for delivery or takeout.
However, if you (like many of us) can’t get past the oysters on the half shell, they are still available for pick up or delivery through Jax’ own WeDeliver service. (Which also allows them to deliver batched cocktails and bottles, along with their amazing food.) Also ask about their crowlers of cocktails (32 ounces) and their cook-at-home meal kits.
RARE ITALIAN- FORT COLLINS
Rare is another upscale restaurant to level up their takeout menu. In addition to many regular options, they offer up Family Style meals that feed 4 to 6 people, including their take-and-bake lasagna. Also, on the menu are take away steaks that can be prepared at home. But the Bistecca Dinner, which feeds two to four people, is the shining star, especially if you are looking for a special occasion meal. For $125, it features the 32 oz. Fiorentina steak, potato puree, broccolini, two salads and two servings of tagliatelle in marinara. Their wines by the bottle list for takeout is extensive, so you can pair the perfect red with that beautiful steak.
SOCIAL- FORT COLLINS
Another skillful pivot is happening at Social Fort Collins. Known for their cocktails and charcuterie, the favorite date-night spot is now offering their craft cocktails in single servings or as bottled cocktails to-go. Staying at home doesn’t have to be boring if you have these cocktails to keep things interesting. We are eyeing the Trust From a Distance bottle, $14, with bourbon, passionfruit liquor, fresh lemon, pineapple and habanero tincture.
EL CIELO MEXICAN RESTAURANT- LOVELAND
If you are looking for something more casual, and cost effective for feeding the family on the go, look to El Cielo’s Family Dinner. The meal includes a pound of your choice of meat, a pint of rice, beans and green chile, two orders of tortillas and chips and salsa. This feast is a very reasonable $28. Tamales by the dozen and half dozen are also available.
These are some of the highlights, but if you have a favorite restaurant in Northern Colorado, contact them and see what they are offering—you might be surprised by some of their innovations, and takeout from these establishments can make what might seem like another day on repeat just a little more special. —A.G.