Restaurants Surviving

Coral Pompei helps a take-out customer with an order at Walla Walla Bread Co. on Thursday afternoon. The Main Street eatery has expanded its Thanksgiving meal options to help serve customers amid tightening pandemic restrictions.

Local restaurants are once again crafting a new recipe for business as tighter restrictions were enacted this week by Gov. Jay Inslee across Washington state to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Under the new edict, restaurants, wineries, bars and taverns can’t serve anybody inside their businesses, although patio service is allowed.

Even as leaders of the Washington Hospitality Association made a formal plea to Inslee to withdraw the restrictions on dining, local restaurateurs said they would roll with the punches, just like they’ve done all year — and this time, Thanksgiving is thrown in the mix.

“We’ve had to restructure our business model every three months,” said Walla Walla Bread Co. co-owner Coral Pompei. “I think we’ve been very inventive.”

Adding to-go options, additional menu items and subscription services for meals and breads were all added to the table.

Walla Walla Bread Co. was one of several restaurants opting to not only upgrade their takeout options this year, but also adding a timely addition — Thanksgiving meal foods.

“We’ve always done Thanksgiving stuff, but this year we’ve expanded all of that,” Pompei said.

Walla Walla Bread Co. is also unique in that it is one of a few restaurants that did not fully open its dining room during the pandemic.

The restaurant, rooted in desserts, bread and coffee, is building the savory side of dishes, in hopes that a strong turnout for Thanksgiving can help keep the restaurant afloat financially.

Still, there will be some sweets, such as a newly added chocolate bourbon pecan pie and stollen, a traditional German holiday sweet bread.

Customers have responded well to the restaurant’s offerings.

“Our phone’s been ringing off the hook this morning,” Pompei said Wednesday.

Not far away, Clarette’s Restaurant found itself giving thanks as a Thanksgiving meal plan had already been cooked up.

Early on in the first round of restrictions, the restaurant had been doing similar options.

“We started offering some family style meatloaf and turkey and spaghetti,” dining room Manager Lynnette Ciarlo said. From there, she said, the natural step was to add a Thanksgiving dinner when the time came.

Little did they realize it could be a lifeline for them. She said they’d already sold 32 dinners — each large enough to serve a family of four — in just a couple of days.

“We’re all very upset we had to quit the dine-in,” Ciarlo said. “(Customers) are not mad at us. They understand, but they’re upset.”

The food-centered holiday could be a help for food establishments that can serve dishes indoors and consumers encouraged to stay home for the holiday.

At Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing, a special Thanksgiving takeout package is being offered.

In Dayton, the Weinhard Cafe and Bakery sold out of its Thanksgiving options, the eatery announced on social media.

In addition, special to-go menus and items are billed by Yamas Greek Eatery, Maple Counter Cafe and Mr. Ed’s, just to name a few of many across the Valley.

Still, others may have found the restrictions too daunting or too cumbersome.

At the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center — where a Thanksgiving buffet has long been part of the holiday tradition — food services at The Marc restaurant and Vineyard Lounge were announced to be shut down entirely during the four-week mandate from Inslee.

Owners and managers said the long year of 2020 prepared them for this moment, regardless of how business would be conducted.

“We survived the first shutdown,” Pompei said at Walla Walla Bread Co. “And we’ll do it this time, too.”

Jedidiah Maynes can be reached at jedidiahmaynes@wwub.com or 509-526-8318.

Jedidiah Maynes is the managing editor of Walla Walla Lifestyles magazine. He also writes about business news in the Valley and covers a variety of others topics on occasion. He enjoys making music and puns.