With new closure orders issued this week for most California counties (including Orange), our Laguna Beach restaurateurs are “watchful.”

“It’s great that we still have outdoor dining available to us, but I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Cary Redfearn of Lumberyard, The Yard Bar and Slice Pizza.

“If this spike continues, and if people continue to refuse to wear masks, I think it’s only a matter of time before we’re back to ‘square one’ with take-out only,” he finished. Apparently, other restaurateurs are feeling the same as this week saw a new spate of creative flourishes in alluring to-go meals and family-style take-out innovations.

Lumberyard recently introduced this awesome Seared Ahi on Forbidden Rice – for dining outside at the Yard Bar or for take-out or delivery.

Redfearn’s Yard Bar (the outdoor extension of Lumberyard) introduced two summer specials, a Seared Hawaiian Ahi with forbidden black sticky rice and a 16-ounce Grilled Ribeye with garlic mashed potatoes. Already favorites at the Yard Bar, these new meals can be packaged easily for take-out and ordered in duplicate for an outdoor dining event of your own.

Meanwhile, Redfearn’s four family-style dinners on his take-out menu have increased in popularity in recent weeks, too. I recently ordered Lumberyard’s BBQ Rib Dinner and it arrived with still-steaming cornbread, sweet potato fries and cole slaw. (The added fresh-baked apple cobbler is a must, too.) The meal was a giant hit.

Expanding the Family

Ever on the side of innovation, Nirvana Grille’s Chef Lindsay Smith just announced “Dine Out at Home” with the addition of Nirvana porcelain plates with every order.

Nirvana Grille adds a touch of class to its take out with optional plating on ceramic plates.

Available for all of Nirvana’s individual and family-style orders on their to-go menu, you simply re-warm your plated dinner in a 200-degree oven (on the plate, sans plastic wrap please), or pick up your assembled food hot and ready to eat.

“No more boxes to eat out of,” quips Chef Lindsay. “It’s just a much nicer presentation.”

The plate inclusion requires just a $20 refundable deposit. Simply return the plates washed off and the Nirvana team will sanitize. 

Mexican Food, Family Style

Carmelita’s popular fajitas for 3 or 6 people

Four of Carmelita’s most popular single items are now being packaged for parties of three or six. Their family-style grilled chicken or steak fajitas deliver a significant pile of marinated, freshly grilled proteins, roasted peppers, grilled onions and house-made tortillas.

While I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this yet, I have friends who are devout fans. They say the helpings are so generous that they bake and cook with the leftovers for a couple more days.

Meanwhile, El Ranchito Laguna Beach has expanded its party and family packs for beach goers and backyard dinners. They’ve also recently added large, family-style salads including the popular Azteca Chicken Salad.

Avila El Ranchito’s family-style Azteca Salad

“We probably get more family-style orders than individual orders and that’s great with us,” said Co-Owner Michael Avila.

“We grew up with my Grandma Avila always making food fresh in her kitchen and serving it in large platters. It was so healthy and delicious. She cooked with love and that’s the way we still do it every day here.”

Pasta, Anyone?

Harley’s Wild Boar Bolognese

Adding to that heapin’ summer lovin’ spoonful, Chef Greg at Harley has added Wild Boar Bolognese and Cacio E Pepe handmade pastas to his cadre of family meals. Chef Greg chose not to open for the short season of indoor dining and has no outdoor dining area available to him, so everything on his menu is available for take-out.

Chef Craig Connole introduced Ristorante Rumari family meals just this week. Loosely coined “value dinners,” Chef has five new family style treats, most of which are hearty one-pound servings and all of which are accompanied by large salads.

Ristorante Rumari has debuted a number of “value family dinners, including this awesome Beef Ragu with Polenta

Try his fresh take on Short Rib Ragu, Rigatoni Bolognese with Italian Sausage, Slow-Cooked Beef Brasata (beef shank an oxtail in red wine), Spaghetti & Meatballs or the all-vegetable Caponata con Spaghetti with eggplant, zucchini and peppers.

If You Have to Cook Something …

And, of course, if you want to pretend you had something to do with the cooking of your take-out meal, GG’s Bistro gives you the option of uncooked chicken or steak filet kabobs.

GG’s Bistro Grill-Em-Yourself kabob kit

The kit debuted for the Fourth of July Weekend but it proved so popular that the Gundogars chose to keep it on the menu through summer’s duration. In addition to the ready-to-grill kabobs, it includes giant Mediterranean salad and rice sides and all the sauce and dressing fixings you need to look like you worked yourself to the bone in the kitchen. I’ve ordered it twice – absolutely delightful with plenty of leftovers.

Every Single Restaurant is Participating

Remember, even if you don’t feel comfortable eating out, our Laguna chefs have your back. I’ve only highlighted a few restaurants here, but every restaurant in our city limits is offering significant take-out menus for both individual orders and family-style dinners.

As has been mandated, if you are enjoying outside dining, wear a face mask as you approach the host, as you are seated, and as you exit the restaurant’s place of business.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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