By Rachael Thatcher.

Restaurants Quickly Pivot!

As restaurants along the South Shore and South Coast were forced to resort to takeout-only and contactless pickup options due to the coronavirus shutdown in early 2020, many of them got creative with how they adapted to the safety measures and uncertainty.

Just a year ago, terms like “curbside pickup” and “cook-at-home meals” might have caused some confusion. Though they’re easy enough to interpret, they simply weren’t commonplace. In today’s new normal these phrases are a regular part of our vernacular and have served as necessary solutions both in keeping restaurants in business and keeping people safe.

Along with curbside pickup options and their usual to-go menu items, family-style meals became quite popular at local eateries. Often presenting more affordable pricing than individual plates for the whole family, not to mention the convenience factor, this concept quickly swept through virtual menus across the state.

Here’s a small sampling of the many local restaurants offering family-style meals!

The Tinker’s Son in Norwell started offering family-style at the beginning of the shutdown in March 2020. While The Tinker’s Son has always offered party portions to-go, they shifted to family-style meals as a way to adapt. The shareable meals would be well suited for families celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Although celebrations may look different this year, it doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

The restaurant took a break from these offerings over the summer and then started offering family-style meals again when school started, the thought being that stress levels would rise and time would be cut short, as happens every school year, but particularly in 2020. Being able to provide dinners made for sharing helps both the restaurant and the families coping with school, in any educational format.

“We took some of our popular dishes from all of the restaurants [in our Eat Local Group] and just increased the size to feed six to eight people. We chose items that lend themselves better for to-go,” said Brian Donovan, manager of The Tinker’s Son. Brian said there’s been great feedback on the family-style meals, and favorites include the Bolognese and the build-your-own taco kits which come with either pulled pork or beer can chicken.

When selecting which meals could be made larger to feed a family, he said they focused on “heartier” meals, so you’ll find mac ‘n cheese and shepherd’s pie on the menu, plus a couple of salads for good measure.

The Tinker’s Son
707 Main Street

Norwell, MA 02061
(781) 561-7361

Over at Little Red Smokehouse, which has been serving Southern comfort food from scratch for 10 years, they’re now offering what they call family bags. The family bags feature their beloved barbecue offerings in five different options. There’s the crispy Southern fried chicken bag, the in-house-smoked pulled pork, in-house-smoked pork ribs, smokehouse baked mac ‘n cheese, and Southern catfish fingers. They each come with sides and fixin’s.

The Little Red Smokehouse
145 South Main Street

Carver, MA 02330
(508) 465-0018

Little Moss in South Dartmouth intends to start serving family-style meals to-go this fall after seeing success with their pop-up collaborations with Cuttings’ Table, a catering company based in New Bedford. Their dinners, which are family-style barbecue and include options like a roast chicken dinner with sides and a dessert, sell out each time they are offered at Little Moss.

“We love the idea of family-style meals as an easy, healthy dinner option for busy families who want to take a night off from cooking,” said Lisa and John Lofberg, owners of the restaurant.

“We use local seasonal ingredients on our menu, and plan to do the same for our family-style options. We are planning to offer locally sourced meat and seasonal vegetable side dishes, as well as seasonal homemade desserts,” said the Lofbergs. They plan to offer family-style options at least through spring 2021.

Little Moss
6 Bridge Street

South Dartmouth, MA 02748
(508) 994-1162

For many families, cooking dinner is an added stress. A to-go family-style meal helps to alleviate that. It’s not just about stress or time, however, though those factors certainly rank high on the list. In a time where social distancing is required and many of the activities and hobbies families are accustomed to are closed or canceled, getting a special meal from a local restaurant feels like far more than just getting fed. It’s also a way to make a regular night an “event.”

The past year has taken a tremendous toll on the resilient local restaurants that remain. With shifting business models and challenges in regard to both financial issues and public health, the success of these restaurants is a testament to their ability to adapt.

Now more than ever, it’s so important to support local restaurants. Give your favorite restaurant a call to ask about their specials. Whether you’re celebrating a memorable occasion or just not feeling up to the task of making dinner for everyone, takeout family-style meals are a win-win solution.