Elizabeth Blau is not only one of my favorite restaurateurs, but we’ve been good friends for more than two decades; so when I decided to dip my toe, once more, into the world of dining (or lunching, as the case may be), I knew that Honey Salt—the New American farm-to-table restaurant she opened in 2012 with her husband/partner Chef Kim Canteenwalla—would be perfect; because I knew that it would be following the strictest of protocols for onsite-dining, and therefore would be the easiest on my nerves.
I’d been wanting to speak with Elizabeth about Delivery with Dignity—the program that she's recently co-founded with Punam Mathur (Executive Director, Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation), Julie Murray (Founder/CEO, Moonridge Group, and the Moonridge Foundation), and the technological logistics platform Copia, in conjunction with Marilyn Kirkpatrick (Chair, Clark County Commission) and United Way of Southern Nevada—so, we decided on noon this past Friday (Honey Salt’s first day, welcoming guests back into its dining room), and before I’d even hung-up, Elizabeth had emailed me a reservation confirmation; because, as part of our new normal, reservations are required for onsite-dining (read: no walk-ins).
I’ve always been a big fan of accessories, but even by my standards the combination of gloves, mask, sunglasses, jewelry, etc., was a bit much. And while I was initially worried that I was unrecognizable, Chef Kim knew it was me, because “What other guy in Vegas would wear rings on top of his gloves?”
So, what can you expect when eating out, in Nevada, these days? Well, I can only speak to Honey Salt; but it was eye-opening, even with my glasses on. Per Nevada’s guidelines, the dining room was operating at a considerably reduced capacity—with a menagerie of stuffed animals wearing surgical masks seated at the unused tables and occupying the stools at the bar—following social-distancing standards. As mentioned, reservations are required, with a maximum party size of five (5) guests. Masks are worn by everyone working at Honey Salt. And while guests are not required to wear masks, they are highly encouraged (and appreciated), though obviously not while eating or drinking. Bonus: Any guest who does come wearing a mask is offered a brown paper bag by their server, in which they can store their mask during the meal.
Having already implemented a number of health and safety protocols for its curbside-pickup and delivery services, Honey Salt has expanded these—including the frequent and timed sanitization of contact surfaces (and the facility as a whole), hand-washing, and regular changing of gloves and masks— to encompass the restaurant’s serving-staff and dining room.
Furthermore, every employee receives a temperature and wellness check before each shift; while the steps of service have been adjusted to ensure less contact without losing any of the hospitality for which Honey Salt is known. As the letter that appears on the restaurant’s website from Blau, Canteenwalla, and the Honey Salt team states: “From our host stand to our bar, from the way we take your payments to the way we receive product from our beloved vendors and farmers, we are approaching everything with a detailed eye to your safety. We are excited to reopen and are taking every step possible to ensure everybody’s wellbeing.”
So, how was lunch? I can summarize it for you in three syllables: De-li-cious! I was pretty hungry, so by the time Elizabeth had arrived and joined me at the table, I’d already wolfed-down an order of Calamari with shishito peppers and sriracha aioli. Chef Todd Harrington came over to the table, and while suggesting some entrées, recommended the Chicken Parmesan with linguini pomodoro, fresh mozzarella, and broccolini. I mentioned (half to myself, to be perfectly honest), that the Chicken Parmesan sounded yummy, but that I wasn’t really in the mood for a big plated entrée. The next thing I knew, Chef Todd was excitedly explaining that he’d been toying with the idea of converting the dish to a sandwich for the lunch service, and would a Chicken Parmesan Sandwich be more to my liking (all uttered through the de rigueur mask)? It was, and I said so. Well, before you could say Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, I was face-deep into a succulent Chicken Parmesan Sandwich with a parmesan chili flake crust, topped with mozzarella and pomodoro sauce and it was terrific. Finishing things off, Elizabeth and I shared a Strawberry Shortcake, that—with its warm shortbread and fresh strawberries—tasted like summer.
And while I still recommend staying home whenever possible, it’s nice to know that—with the proper PPE and adherence to safety protocols—we can begin resuming a semblance of what we remember as normalcy.
Onsite Dining, Lunching, and Brunching
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