DFW food service pros hustle to keep their doors open

Community favorites doing their best in ever-changing crisis

Photo: Courtesy Deli News/Dallas
Danny Nava, right, has worked at Deli News Dallas since he was 15 years old, said that he never imagined sterilizing pens between credit card signatures. “It’s everything. We’ve always been on top of it but now, we’re on top of what we were on top of!” He’s pictured here with Juan Zavala before social distancing measures.

By Deb Silverthorn
The tables are turning in the food service industry, literally by the hour as the severity of the COVID-19 virus makes its way through North Texas. For the community’s restaurateurs, there’s no reservation, literally, in how they are trying to survive.

Woodlands American Grill
“There are many employees hurting, but we’ve gotten lots of calls from people who want to help. I encourage everyone to support your favorite restaurants and support all of the hourly workers around our community,” said Jack Baum, who, with his wife Janet, owns Woodlands American Grill.
Woodlands is still serving lunch and dinner for pickup and delivery; the Baums, and managing partner John Nikolas, are also supporting the Woodlands’ 45-plus employees by selling gift cards for dining-in in the future, with 100% of those gift card dollars being distributed directly to his team.
Baum is also credited with the advent of his company Ziosk’s Tabletop Technology. Usage of the tabletop tablets, which allow customers to pay for their meal tableside, was on the rise just as the virus started to dominate the news.
“This is a horrible time for both aspects of our business but we have to pull together, we have to be there for each other and we have to come together,” said Baum. “Everyone is scared and everyone is trying to do the right thing.”
Metroplex restaurant owners are carrying the concern of their work from suppliers and cooks to the janitors and servers who are hurting. They are doing whatever they can to keep their doors open. Most are providing takeout, pickup and delivery.
All of the vendors are following CDC guidelines and then going beyond. Masks and gloves, sanitation and extra concern, are their top priority.

Spice of Life to Go
Jeffrey and Melinda Kollinger, whose Spice of Life catering has nearly 200 events under cancellation or postponement, have opened Spice of Life To Go, offering chef-prepared bistro-style meals for pickup or delivery ($5 flat fee). On Friday, March 20, their first day running, they had 27 orders and they hope the numbers rise.
“We’re cooking and handing off with gloves and masks, with instructions on heating, and guaranteed good taste,” said Jeffrey Kollinger, who has been in business in Dallas for more than 25 years, serving fresh and frozen meals. All orders need to be placed before 5 p.m. the day before needed. Spice of Life To Go has most of its regular offerings, including Shabbat dinners available, with a Passover menu also now online at (www.spiceoflifetogo.com) . “We are dedicated to our craft and dedicated to the community we have served for so long.”

Catering by Larry
Larry Goldstein, of Catering by Larry, was prepping for his busiest April in 20 years with more than 750 Passover meals ordered. Instead, “it’s all gone and this will be our worst year by far,” he said.
“We had a bris on Sunday that was supposed to be for close to 70 people, with servers but, instead it was 15 — just the immediate family and we came in, dropped off and left,” said Goldstein, who is taking orders for 15 or more — in this time of distancing, a very limited clientele. Passover, Shabbat and other fare available, Goldstein says many of his items freeze well, so ordering for 15 would allow people to put away for later. “Our menus are on the website and me and my two employees can make whatever people want happen, but we’re missing our crew and our clients.”
Sea Breeze (Closed Temporarily)
As of Monday, at Sea Breeze Fish Market & Grill in Plano, the doors are closed — for now. Like all other restaurants, owner Rick Oruch’s sit-down business had ceased and, while his clientele has been dedicated, the drop was significant.
“I wanted people to come in and get the quality and product we’ve always provided but at the same time, there’s something about asking people to come out in this time when everyone says stay home,” said Oruch, whose Sea Breeze Lobsta & Chowda House at Legacy West closed at the beginning of the month, a decision unrelated to the current situation.
“For us, there’s just not enough business from the fish market alone to sustain us,” said Oruch. “Each day we’re making the decision, in everyone’s best interest, to close the doors and wait it out.”
While he hoped to continue his offering of his family’s gefilte fish recipe, bringing tradition to the homes of his customers, Passover 5780 will have to be without his flair. “People are supposed to be in their homes and my gut just says that two weeks from now, it won’t be better.”
Many restaurateurs have had to furlough great numbers of employees so that their workers can receive unemployment. Hoping the crisis ends sooner than later, but realizing that not likely, cuts everywhere are being taken.

(5 locations, 214-739-0918, Northaven; 972-248-0608, Campbell)
Anh Vo, who has owned Cindi’s Deli for more than 30 years, is — at press time — keeping all five of her stores open, only closing the downtown store on weekends. The stores at Northaven and Central Expressway and Coit and Campbell in particular are frequented by many in the Jewish community. Vo was honored in September by the Southwest Jewish Congress with its Lifetime Achievement Award at its Texas-sized event.
“Many of our employees live paycheck to paycheck and there’s been lots of tears. Some days I can bring in more people, but servers, bus boys and the number of cooks – I just can’t pay everyone. This is very hard and very sad,” said Vo, whose business is more than 60% dine-in. Keeping her menus whole, but dropping her lunch specials, customers can still pick up their favorite flavors from baked goods to full meals. “We’re doing all we can to stay open and hope that soon we are all back together again.”

(972-233-3354, Campbell; 469-731-1006, Frisco )

At Michael Adamovsky’s Deli-News in Dallas (Preston and Campbell), the dining room is closed and the regulars are missing, both servers and customers. In Dallas almost 30 years, this is a first for everyone and, while third-party delivery is welcome, the restaurant is encouraging their own delivery service — which allows employees whose hours have been cut a way to make money.
“Many of our regulars are seniors and they’re staying home and we miss them, we miss everyone who isn’t coming in and it’s because we are a family. The business part is devastating but it goes beyond that to the normal, for all of us, greeting and serving ‘our people,’” said Danny Nava, for whom Deli-News was his first — and only employer. He started working at the restaurant when he was 15, and these are uncharted waters.
Nava noted that they, like everyone, are meeting guidelines posted, never having thought he’d be sterilizing pens between credit card signatures. “It’s everything, we’ve always been on top of it but now, we’re on top of what we were on top of!”
Zorik Adamovsky’s Deli-News in Frisco is providing to-go, pickup and delivery orders through their reduced hours.

Yogi’s Deli & Grill
Yogi Florsheim, like most restaurateurs, hasn’t weathered such a crisis since he opened Yogi’s Deli & Grill in Fort Worth 23 years ago. Like the rest, he closed his dining room but is making to-go, pickup and delivery happen.
“We’re trying to keep things normal, but there’s nothing ‘normal’ about this situation and the ‘normal’ keeps changing,” said Florsheim. “Like so many, we’re selling gift cards and we’re selling delicious food. In hard times, comfort comes through the familiar and, for as long as I can, we will provide that.”

Kenny’s East Coast Pizza

While Kenny Bauer’s Kenny’s East Coast Pizza remains open for curbside carry-out and delivery, his Kenny’s Burger Joint in Frisco and Plano, Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill, Kenny’s Italian Kitchen and Kenny’s Smoke House are all temporarily closed.
“We’re doing our very best to help feed as many people as possible, employ our team as for long as possible and get through this on the other side with our heads held high,” said Bauer, in business for almost 30 years. “We are anxiously awaiting this crisis to pass and we’re so ready to take care of all our wonderful guests. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy.”

Blue Mesa
(Addison, 972-934-0165; Fort Worth, 817-332-6372)

Jim and Liz Baron have been helping people host fiesta simchas for 32 years, but for now they have closed Blue Mesa in Plano and TNT/Tacos & Tequila in Uptown. The Addison and Fort Worth locations and the Blue Mesa Taco & Tequila Bar franchise at DFW Airport remain open with the company stretching to deliver, anywhere in the Metroplex without fees.
On Saturday, the company did less than a tenth of its regular business but the queso is flowing and the company is doing what they always have. Part of an industry that is the epitome of entrepreneurship, their gumption and spirit is keeping them intact for now.
“We are consolidating our resources and, while we’ve had to furlough many, also our employees and we’re doing our best to stay busy. Still, what’s coming in is just a fraction of our normal,” said Jim. “Our hope and goal is that the government’s grants get here soon because there are people to pay, leases to meet and we need solutions for everyone.”
The Barons, like everyone, are having conversations with lenders and suppliers, with their employees and those conversations are almost all the same.
“There are people who can hold off for months, and others who need to be paid — and we get that,” Liz said. “The restaurant business is one of the biggest employers around the world and there are millions of people out of work. The ripple effect is unfathomable and the impact enormous.”
The hours of operation for each restaurant, and format for pickup and/or delivery are changing constantly. For current information visit each agent’s website.

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