With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the country and government restrictions constantly evolving, restaurants are once again having to get creative in how they serve their customers.
“This will be the fourth time that we’ve had to change how we do business this year,” says Everette Haselow, owner of the Northwoods Family Grille in Silver Bay, in reference to the changes that he has again had to make as a result of the pandemic and the government’s most recent moratorium on onsite dining.
Like many restaurants during the initial spring shutdown, Northwoods Family Grille first adapted by offering curbside take-out and delivery options to its customers. They also began offering take-and-bake family meals as a way to “make it easier for families to have good home-cooked meals during the pandemic.”
Then, when things began to open up again in the summer, Haselow shifted back to offering on-site dining at limited capacity in addition to take-out, enforcing strict social-distancing measures and instituting rigorous sanitizing protocols in order to protect both his guests and hard-working staff.
“In my 30 some years of living on the Shore, never in my life have I experienced anything like the number of tourists that we saw this summer,” remarks Haselow, expressing a sentiment felt by many North Shore businesses this summer.
“It was overwhelming at times,” continues Haselow, “but we managed just fine.”
Thankfully, because of the Northwoods Family Grille’s manageable size and its hands-on ownership, Haselow and his team were able to tightly control the number of people in the restaurant at one time and keep up with the extra cleaning precautions despite increased demand. They look forward to emulating the success of the summer season this winter, once they are again allowed to open for indoor dining.
“With the most recent shut-down,” says Haselow, “we’re back to doing curbside take-out, delivery, and the take-and-bake family meals again.”
“We know take-out and the take-and-bake family meals aren’t for everybody,” continues Haselow, “but we’re trying to make it convenient, because in the end that’s what eating at a restaurant is all about.”
Updated information on the Northwoods Family Grille can be found by visiting their website at: northwoodsfamilygrille.com.
Another North Shore restaurant that is gearing up for the unusual winter is the Gun Flint Tavern.
Located in downtown Grand Marais, the Gun Flint Tavern managed to stay safe throughout the busy summer by keeping customers outside. They were able to accomplish this by setting up a tent and socially distanced tables on the sidewalk outside of their restaurant, as well as offering a limited food menu at their open-air rooftop bar, the Raven’s Nest.
Keeping operations out-of-doors won’t be an option this winter for obvious cold-related reasons, so the Gun Flint Tavern is instead planning on welcoming back customers indoors once the government’s ban is lifted.
“Once restaurants are given the go ahead for onsite dining again,” says Paul Gecas, head brewer and taproom manager at the Gun Flint Tavern, “our plan is to move back indoors, safely and at limited capacity.”
In addition to limiting the number of diners allowed in the restaurant at one time, the Tavern will be implementing a number of new safety precautions, such as plexiglass barriers between tables and a new HEPA air filtration system.
“Obviously no one knows when we’ll be allowed to open again for indoor dining,” says Gecas, “so in the meantime, folks are always welcome to order curbside take-out, either ordering in person, over the phone, or on our website.”
“We can sell packaged beer and wine with any food order,” continues Gecas, “and for anyone missing our famous Bloody Mary’s, we are selling ‘Bloody Mary set-ups’—our standard mix with all of the garnishes, packaged up nicely and ready to enjoy. All you need to do is take it home and add the booze!”
More information on the Gun Flint Tavern is available on their website, gunflinttavern.com, or by following them on Instagram @gunflinttavernandbrewpub.
Up the Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais, the Poplar Haus is another Cook County restaurant that plans to open its kitchen for the winter season.
“Our original plan was to be closed through Christmas, opening again with our same summer programs on December 30,” says Bryan Gerrard, one of the owners at Poplar Haus.
“If we are allowed to open for indoor dining this winter,” continues Gerrard, “then we plan on doing some semblance of that, but realistically we just don’t know. We’re waiting for directives to know what we can and can’t do before making any big decisions like that.”
Despite the uncertainty, Poplar Haus does plan on opening its kitchen in some capacity around the beginning of the new year, possibly with limited hours depending on demand.
Poplar Haus will for sure be offering food and beverage deliveries to its cabins as part of its focus on the lodging portion of the business this winter, and, according to Gerrard, there is slight chance that they might offer pizza delivery along the Gunflint Trail.
“We have a lot of ideas, but honestly we’re still waiting to see what we’ll be allowed to do, and what we can do safely,” says Gerrard. “We have to put this giant cap on our inspiration right now because we’re not sure what we’ll be able to do, you know? If we’re told that we can’t do indoor dining until March, then we will do whatever we can do to get food into people’s hands.”
To stay current with the Poplar Haus’s winter plans, follow them on social media @poplarhausmn or visit their website: poplarhaus.com.
Elsewhere along the Shore, the larger resorts and their dining facilities have their own set of creative solutions for managing the winter season.
Like so many other resort restaurants on the North Shore, Grand Superior Grill in Two Harbors is doing all that it can to safely serve its guests through the challenges of the pandemic.
“Right now, we are offering a limited to-go menu, and our bar is still open to give our guests the opportunity to stop in for a drink,” says Nicole Scoggin, restaurant manager at the Grand Superior Grill. “We’ve reduced our hours a bit for the time being, but we’re one of the few restaurants that are still doing breakfast.”
Despite the uncertainty, Scoggin and her team are taking this time to look towards “the light at the end of the tunnel” by getting inventive and brainstorming ways to come back stronger than ever once the ban on indoor dining is lifted.
“We’re in the process of planning a fresh reopening,” says Scoggin, “with plans to add a couple of signature items and getting back to doing our burger of the week.”
“It’s obviously been a challenge operating through a pandemic,” continues Scoggin, “but I want to be sure to thank all of our guests for their support. We’re doing everything that we can to stay open and keep everyone employed with hours, and we’re just grateful for anybody that chooses to dine with us.”
Stay up to date on the Grand Superior Grill by visiting their website: odysseyresorts.com/grand-superior/grand-superior-grill.
Bluefin Grille is another North Shore resort restaurant that is going above and beyond with their COVID-19 game plan.
Located in Tofte, Bluefin Grille has been doing everything that it can to stay open and stay safe throughout the pandemic.
“The plan, as always, is to follow whatever the government says,” says Jessica Huppler, grille manager at Bluefin Bay, “so right now we’re sticking with takeout and on-site delivery, and keeping up with all of our COVID protocols to make dining with us as safe an experience as we can.”
Bluefin Grille’s COVID-19 protocols include plastic dividers between all of the booths, requiring masks for all guests and employees, limiting seating capacity in the restaurant to 50 percent, sanitizing tables, seats, and menus in between uses, and installing HEPA filters in each of their dining areas that exchange the entire rooms air every 30 minutes.
“We also have plans to offer wine promotions throughout the winter,” says Huppler, “regardless of whether or not we are able to do indoor dining.”
“Our hope,” continues Huppler, “is to offer something like a ‘wine of the week’ type promotion and to offer wine pairings with certain to-go menu items, both as a way to boost sales and give people something fun to do this winter.”
Up to date information on the Bluefin Grille can be found on their website at: bluefinbay.com/dine/bluefin-grille.