In this time of uncertainty, many restaurants have turned to takeout and delivery as a way to keep staff employed, while still feeding guests as safely as possible. I've been stopping by restaurants I've profiled in the past, to see how they're adapting to this new reality. I'm calling it Takeout Check-In.
"It was very good alliteration. One of our managers came up with [the name] and it was definitely a homerun. No pun intended," said co-owner Sara Knowles, with a smile.
Knowles owns Homer with her husband, executive chef Logan Cox, a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: Northwest. Now, they're serving the restaurant's celebrated Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine out of their walk-up window, an area that used to be reserved for serving soft serve.
"Obviously we didn't expect to use [our walkup window] in this way, but it's been really nice for us to protect our staff and our clients, and to be able to serve them in a safe, friendly way," said Knowles.
Homer already had online ordering built into its system, so Knowles and Cox were able to pivot the restaurant to a takeout-only operation fairly quickly. One of the biggest challenges they faced was adapting the menu for to-go orders. Knowles likened it to launching a brand-new restaurant in a matter of just days.
"You have to think of what works for takeout and what people are hungry for," said said. "That's where we thought of our pantry items. We can do cookie dough balls you can bake at home or loaves of bread, things that are more comfort food and can maybe help save on one more trip to the grocery store."
The takeout menu also features Homer staples like hummus, Labneh and carrot pecan dip (available in dinner and pantry sizes) served with fresh pita from the wood-fired oven, stuffed pita sandwiches, lamb ribs and their signature soft serve.
"It's a way, a small way to stay connected with your neighbors, even if that means through a window for just a couple seconds a day," said Knowles.
Knowles acknowledged it's likely their hotly anticipated fried chicken and soft serve restaurant, Milk Drunk, won't open in June as she and Cox had previously hoped. But, during a time that has become increasingly difficult for restaurants and other small businesses, they are grateful for the support Homer has received from the community, and happy to offer a delicious reprieve from the realities of daily life.
"I think people, obviously being cooped up for a long time, are looking for simple pleasures," Knowles told me. "If that means being able to run down to get some food and you don't have to do dishes, or you're overwhelmed with kids and work. Stress levels are so high right now, so just to be able to take a breather and enjoy something is - if we can do that for people, that's awesome."