Steveston’s Restaurants Cook Up Creative Ideas to Stay Afloat
The ability to dine at our favourite restaurants was something many of us took for granted until mid-March. It was at this time restaurants and bars across British Columbia were ordered to close their dining rooms and only offer takeout and delivery to build a firewall against the spread of the infectious disease COVID-19.
COVID-19 has taken its toll on so many industries and has affected our lives in countless ways. Restaurants across Canada have been deeply impacted by the loss of in-house dining and Steveston village is no exception.
The village has a reputation for slowing down during the winter and returning to a busier pace when spring arrives. With the onset of the pandemic coinciding with the start of the busy season, our beloved local restaurants have had to find creative ways to adapt during this state of emergency.
The opportunity to access our favourite foods from our well-loved establishments offers a sense of normalcy and a connection to our community that we are missing.
Carol Janeczko, the owner of Little Mexico Cantina, is grateful for all of the support she has received from regular and new customers. She has had to pare down her operations and has let go of the majority of her staff. Carol is doing all of the cooking, taking orders, and managing the front of house when customers come to pick up their food. She has assistance in the kitchen from a dishwasher and another employee assists with food preparation.
Carol is no stranger to adversity. An early morning fire ravaged Little Mexico Cantina in March 2018 and three months later Carol was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer that she has overcome.
Amidst the uncertainty and stress, Carol is always an optimist. She says, “I am finding the support amazing.”
While business is being conducted on a takeout basis, there are a number of ways to get your Mexican food fix. Walk-in customers can phone in their order at the door and expect a 20 minute wait; they are requested to wait outside while their food is prepared. When picking up orders there are numerous safety precautions in place including adhering to three metres of space between others, staff wear gloves and masks and regular sanitization takes place. Carol also provides hand sanitizer and hand lotion for her customers’ use.
“This pandemic is scary, but the community is pulling together,” says Carol.
She shares heartwarming stories of customers who have come in to pick up food for their neighbours or surprise their friends with a birthday meal so they don’t have to cook.
Pre-ordering by phone is preferable to reduce customer waits and allows Carol ample time to prepare meals.
While Little Mexico uses delivery services it is worth your while to order by phone and pick up your meal, as you will save yourself and the restaurant added charges. Visit www.littlemexicocantina.com to browse the menu and plan your next ‘stay at home’ Mexican fiesta.
Carol’s goal is to make the altered experience of picking up or ordering your meal in person as positive as possible. She keeps the lights on and has music playing, but finds it sad to see all of the chairs up and misses the social interaction.
She says, “It’s an interesting time for everybody. We have had to adjust. There’s been a greater sense of community. I love what I’m seeing; it has taught us more empathy. It’s too bad it’s under these circumstances, but we’ll get through it.”
Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant owner Jim van der Tas is never short of creative ideas. Commenting on the current situation he says, “It is not ideal, but you have to do what you can.”
Jim’s new motto is “We’ve Got This, Steveston.”
Blue Canoe had to lay off the majority of its loyal staff and carries on operating with a staff of five.
Jim has adapted the restaurant’s takeout menu to highlight comfort foods, which he has discovered is what people are looking for during this turbulent time. Some of the top items include burgers, fish and chips, beef chili and seafood stew.
As well, the kitchen has created a second menu with a slightly lower price point. The dishes on this menu are prepared by Blue Canoe’s chef and are ready for you to reheat or bake at home. With many of us having plenty of free time on our hands, this has become a popular option.
Pesto prawn linguine, chicken cacciatore, lobster macaroni and cheese, and Nonna’s meatballs are just a few of the dishes to enjoy at home – so put on your chef’s hat and take full credit for a gourmet meal that you toiled over. The restaurant also offers beer and wine to go when ordered with food, and you must be 19+ to order alcohol. Visit www.bluecanoerestaurant.com to view the full menu.
To assist the community and help avoid trips to the supermarket, Blue Canoe is working with their supplier, Gordon Food Services, to allow people to “Skip The Grocery Store” by offering a selection of meat, fish, baked goods, rice, and canned goods.
Jim points out that many of the items are Costco sized which may not work for everyone, however, he suggests splitting an order with a friend or neighbour if you do not have the fridge or freezer space.
Blue Canoe also recently added a variety of produce boxes full of fresh fruit and veggies; Jim thanks his partners at Central Fresh Foods for putting this together.
To order any of the Skip the Grocery Store items, simply phone the restaurant between noon to 2:00 p.m. to place your order. You will be advised what day (generally 1 to 3 business days) and time it will be ready for curb side pick up adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Blue Canoe is posting regularly on Facebook, so be sure to follow their social media to view some of the delicious meals that could be sitting on your dinner table.
Always one to work on behalf of the community, after all, Jim is the president of the Steveston Merchants Association, he looks for good news wherever he can find it. He mentions that the Steveston Men’s Support Group recently raised $5,000 for local families in need of groceries.
Jim is aware that many people are spreading their support between different businesses, and he is extremely appreciative of his customers who continue to support Blue Canoe during these tough economic times.
Ember Kitchen is another Steveston restaurant hard at work in their kitchen. Saleema Sunderji comments, “It’s great we can offer takeout.” Her mother Farida is working as the sous chef alongside Ember’s head chef, while her father Amin and the restaurant’s manager are overseeing orders and pick ups.
The family is grateful for their loyal kitchen team who are continuing to work and deliver tasty food and deal with the rushes they encounter.
Located near the Fraser River and the south dyke trail, new customers are discovering the restaurant when they stroll or cycle by. Paying attention to this marketing opportunity, a large sign has been installed outside of the restaurant displaying Ember’s menu.
Ember’s loyal clientele is offering support by picking up their orders (delivery services are also offered). The Sunderji family is grateful to everyone who has thanked them for continuing to be open so they can enjoy their favourite Indian meals.
Their customers frequently tell them they want to support such a great addition to Steveston.
“It is encouraging to hear there is so much support out there, especially during this time of crisis.” Amin Sunderji
Customers care deeply about Ember; some of them will pop their heads in the door just to check in and say hello.
For a limited time, a 20% discount has been applied to takeout orders. In addition, a special Friday and Saturday a la carte menu has been created. Visit Ember’s website (emberkitchen.ca) or Instagram site to learn more about their special Friday and Saturday with three course meals that also includes an appetizer, naan, rice, and dessert for only $28.
Mother’s Day is traditionally one of Ember’s busiest days of the year; Amin promises there will be an exciting menu offered to celebrate this special day.
On behalf of the Ember team, Amin says, “Stay safe and healthy. We thank you for your continued support.”
In an effort to support an industry that employs millions of people across the country, Wednesdays have now been declared ‘Canada Take Out Day.’ It’s a chain reaction; fishers, farmers, and suppliers depend on restaurants’ business as well. If you have the means, take a break from cooking and order a takeout meal from one of our many great local restaurants.
We at Steveston Insider share the desire to support our local businesses. This time of isolation has given many of us a chance to reflect deeply on what is important in our lives. Good health is at the top of many of our lists, along with family, friends, and the ability to enjoy all of the things we love in our community.
We extend our gratitude to our well-loved businesses, and to the community, which is doing its best to patronize Steveston’s restaurants. More than anything, we can’t wait for the day to see our favourite establishments filled with happy customers, who will raise their glasses in celebration of having gotten through this together.