Editor’s Note: Some things have changed since this story was reported, in particular, orders from both Gov. Wolf and Mayor Kenney regarding the closing of all restaurants in the city and state. Some businesses are keeping hours or are offering take-out service. Be sure to call businesses first to verify their level of service and check in with the Chestnut Hill Business District’s coronavirus information page at chestnuthillpa.com/covid-19
By April Lisante
This week has been a trying week for everyday life, and for everyone.
Schools are closed, community events and even the major professional sporting events are cancelled due to the spread of corona virus. It has also been a trying week for local restaurants.
Life is changing quickly as we battle this unseen threat, and our most basic need, food, and how it is served, is changing by the minute.
While everyone decides which train they might take, which flight they might avoid, and where not to go, local restaurants in Chestnut Hill and the surrounding area are feeling the corona virus scare big time.
The High Point Café on Carpenter Lane was one of the first local eateries to post a corona virus update on Facebook, stating it was working to ensure all was extra clean, and that additional cleaning measures were being taken. It said it and other businesses in the community rely on customers to survive.
“Local independent businesses rely on our community to survive as much as you rely on us to provide you with goods and services that improve your quality of life,” it read in part. “We do not want to put anyone at risk, but we hope that you will feel good about coming to High Point Café.”
As I subsequently began to speak with food establishments on the Hill, more than half a dozen businesses, I learned extra cleaning is just the tip of the iceberg. Some places are faced with dwindled crowds already, and cancelled catering orders for this past weekend. One local caterer was holding off for another week or so on creating an Easter menu, unwilling yet to commit to it if there would be no orders.
Karla Salinas, of Karla’s Kitchen in Flourtown, was nervous about the long-term effects of the virus on sales but can only do what she can do right now, taking added measurements of cleanliness and praying for the best.
“Just keeping calm,” Salinas said. “We are being more careful with everything.”
Salinas has worked her way from the Flourtown Farmer’s Market into the shopping center beside Acme. She spent years working hard, making her dream come true. She is the place where locals come for fresh crab cakes, tuna cakes, veggies, empanadas, and pastas. Now, she, like others, worries what will happen if the pandemic is around for months, or years.
“We are washing hands every time we have a customer,” she said. “My crew is doing the same.”
Still others are trying to make those who come to eat more comfortable by moving seating around to distance customers from one another, while offering additional sanitary soap in bathrooms.
After decades as the cozy, neighborhood bar and cafe, McNally’s in Chestnut Hill is removing several tables “so the customers do not have to sit as close to each other as usual,” said co-owner Meg McNally. “We will lose some dining space, but the sacrifice is worth it.”
The table cloths are “switched out as soon as someone leaves,“ Meg said. And “We are washing hands more often than usual.”
And in a move that may be mirrored repeatedly by other restaurants in the next few weeks, Cake, the local greenhouse brunch and lunch destination, will be offering delivery for those who want to eat at home. I spoke with Cake chef Jameson O’Donnell, who said they are now delivering lunch from Tuesday through Friday.
“Call in orders we are going to deliver to the 19118 zip code and also to Wyndmoor,” he said.
For now, it’s just Tuesday through Friday at lunch, not at breakfast or on the weekends.
“We are trying to be here for the community in any way we can,” said O’Donnell.
Paris Bistro & Cafe, as well as Campbell’s Place, put out statements later in the week stating both restaurants will be offering curbside pickup, and both will offer delivery, with Paris using the Caviar app and Campbell’s up and running shortly on Door Dash, according to Rob and Vanessa Mullen, owners of both restaurants.
Over the weekend Governor Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants in Montgomery county to restrict business to take out. Philadelphia did the same on Monday.