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Last Best Plates

Takeaway: Community closeness nourished from a distance

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Takeaway food is satisfying the Billings community appetite. With the current closure of restaurants except for takeout orders, hungry diners are venturing out with enthusiastic caution to show support.

My husband and I have been socially distancing ourselves since he returned from recent travel. But on this sunny Saturday we wanted some fresh air so we literally ran downtown to pick up items from Le Fournil (https://www.facebook.com/LeFournilBillings/) and The Sassy Biscuit Company (https://www.thesassybiscuit.com/). I texted the order to Le Fournil and paid over the phone, and while doing a run-by at The Sassy Biscuit Company, I called the number on the sandwich board outside. Both exchanges were made on the sidewalk, keeping space between us.

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“The shutdown has been hard on everyone. We saw it coming but it came a lot faster than we thought. We didn’t know what to expect," said Executive Chef William McCormick of The Sassy Biscuit Company. "I think all of the restaurants around are scrambling to pay bills and be able to reopen once this is all over. I am sure that some won’t make it. We had to lay off most of our workers or limit them to minimal shifts. We are trying to stay as positive as possible. The community support that we have received so far has been amazing. I know there are a lot of people out there that are just coming in, not necessarily out of need, but just to give us support and for that we are truly grateful. It does make it really feel like a community.”

I know I didn’t need the half-dozen biscuits I put in my freezer that morning, but I wanted to know comfort was right there in my home.

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Around the corner, proprietor Marmee Connell Morin greeted us through Le Fournil’s window. With her nose and mouth covered in a surgical mask, she humorously waved two peace signs to us before she brought out our order of croissants, baguettes and a country loaf to the curb.

Her husband, baker and co-owner Francois said, “We are grateful for the amazing support for our small business from Billings customers. I really felt that people were concerned and made extra effort to come downtown to support us.”

In the afternoon I drove out towards Duck Creek near Laurel to Swanky Roots (https://www.swankyroots.com/) aquaponics produce. Over the phone I had arranged my order of greens and texted co-owner Veronnaka Evenson when I arrived at their door. She came out with my box of lettuce and put them into my opened trunk. The greens from this operation have been so fresh I have found lettuce in perfect shape weeks later in my refrigerator.

“The support for local food is so vital and events like this really drive that home. We are seeing people make the extra effort to get fresh, healthy products. It makes the long days worth it," Evenson said.

My final sojourn of the day was to pick up a takeout order at Bistro Enzo, (https://www.bistroenzobillings.com/) believing it was Executive Chef James Honaker’s last night in the restaurant’s kitchen. The restaurant has been sold, and he was hanging up his toque to make way for new owner Tyler Samson. My order of Airline Chicken and Vegetable Panini with Bistro Fries, a Caesar Salad and Crème Brûlée from their limited menu was made by phone.

According to Bistro Enzo’s Day Chef, Paul Reitz, the overwhelming support of the community allowed them to offer takeout into early April with Honaker at the helm. “It’s day by day, hours by several hours," Reitz said of the takeout system. Call ahead or check their website for availability.

The last best plates are now savored in my own kitchen. With foods produced and created locally, we can feel closer to our community, even at a “safe” distance.

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Stella Fong, author of 'Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food' hosts 'Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region' for Yellowstone Public Radio.

TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.

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