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At Shrimp Heads and everywhere regular customers save the day

Making take out work, even when it’s crab legs in a plastic bag

Two pounds of snow crab legs, a take-out order from Shrimp Heads, served at home
Two pounds of snow crab legs, a take-out order from Shrimp Heads, served at home

With only a few weeks left in the year, San Diego restaurants are back to take-out and delivery only for effectively all of them. A new stay-at-home order went into effect on Monday, December 7, shutting down even outdoor dining and adding to the incredible strain felt all year by restaurant and bar owners, and especially hospitality workers once again losing their shifts, this time in the thick of the holiday season.

Place

Shrimp Heads

2832 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

While the winter shutdown brings echoes of a dark spring, if there’s a silver lining, it’s that this time we’re not so caught off guard. Our restaurants have hard-earned experience in operating under a take-out only model, whether it means taking online orders, working with a third party delivery r̶a̶c̶k̶e̶t̶ operation, or offering family meal combos to give isolating households more bang for their buck.

A small Cajun seafood restaurant on El Cajon Boulevard in North Park

And we customers know the drill. We know to prioritize curbside pick-up when we can, because those delivery services charge exorbitant fees and take a chunk of eateries’ profits. We know pre-payment reduces contact at the point of pick-up (though this time around, we’re more likely to wear a mask, and less likely to wipe down to-go boxes with antiseptic wipes).

A snow crab leg boil, served in a plastic bag

And we head into the home stretch to Christmas knowing that, not only do restaurant gift cards make an excellent gift, but this year they could make the difference whether that favorite restaurant is still around when the pandemic ends.

We know that, while we don’t get to experience the camaraderie and conversation of full service dining, there are few food options we can’t enjoy during the shutdown. At my house, we’ve already taken advantage of an option I didn’t anticipate when the pandemic hit last March. Boiled crab legs, made for take-out.

Fried pork chops

I picked them up from Shrimp Heads, a Cajun seafood spot that’s been doing business in North Park the past couple years. Two pounds of snow crab legs, with garlic butter, loaded into a clear plastic bag.

At 30 bucks per pound, this 60-dollar meal was probably the most expensive I’ve seen in a plastic bag. Though it definitely didn’t look fancy, it got the job done. We transferred the crab legs into a nice looking pot at home, and enjoyed them with rice, corn on the cob, and a small tub of Shrimp Heads’ ultra spicy “atomic sauce” on the side.

Fried chicken tenders and fries

There are several more affordable meals to be found here: 12-dollar entrees including fried pork chops, fried catfish, fried chicken tenders, and shrimp & grits. But the restaurant’s best work is found in its assortment of market price seafood boils — which include shrimp (of course), king crab legs, whole Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, lobster tail, and even crawfish (California crawfish season is over, but Louisiana crawfish season starts back up in January).

No diners allowed inside Shrimp Heads for now, but regular customers ordering take-out can keep it afloat.

I asked the family who operates Shrimp Heads how business has fared through the pandemic, and like most they’ve been just getting by. But they’re optimistic about making it through this next wave of takeout-only business, thanks to a small legion of loyal regulars who consistently come back.

I expect it’s going to be the same story all over the county: regular customers are going to have to save the day of the restaurants we love. In whatever packaging we can get our hands on.

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Two pounds of snow crab legs, a take-out order from Shrimp Heads, served at home
Two pounds of snow crab legs, a take-out order from Shrimp Heads, served at home

With only a few weeks left in the year, San Diego restaurants are back to take-out and delivery only for effectively all of them. A new stay-at-home order went into effect on Monday, December 7, shutting down even outdoor dining and adding to the incredible strain felt all year by restaurant and bar owners, and especially hospitality workers once again losing their shifts, this time in the thick of the holiday season.

Place

Shrimp Heads

2832 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

While the winter shutdown brings echoes of a dark spring, if there’s a silver lining, it’s that this time we’re not so caught off guard. Our restaurants have hard-earned experience in operating under a take-out only model, whether it means taking online orders, working with a third party delivery r̶a̶c̶k̶e̶t̶ operation, or offering family meal combos to give isolating households more bang for their buck.

A small Cajun seafood restaurant on El Cajon Boulevard in North Park

And we customers know the drill. We know to prioritize curbside pick-up when we can, because those delivery services charge exorbitant fees and take a chunk of eateries’ profits. We know pre-payment reduces contact at the point of pick-up (though this time around, we’re more likely to wear a mask, and less likely to wipe down to-go boxes with antiseptic wipes).

A snow crab leg boil, served in a plastic bag

And we head into the home stretch to Christmas knowing that, not only do restaurant gift cards make an excellent gift, but this year they could make the difference whether that favorite restaurant is still around when the pandemic ends.

We know that, while we don’t get to experience the camaraderie and conversation of full service dining, there are few food options we can’t enjoy during the shutdown. At my house, we’ve already taken advantage of an option I didn’t anticipate when the pandemic hit last March. Boiled crab legs, made for take-out.

Fried pork chops

I picked them up from Shrimp Heads, a Cajun seafood spot that’s been doing business in North Park the past couple years. Two pounds of snow crab legs, with garlic butter, loaded into a clear plastic bag.

At 30 bucks per pound, this 60-dollar meal was probably the most expensive I’ve seen in a plastic bag. Though it definitely didn’t look fancy, it got the job done. We transferred the crab legs into a nice looking pot at home, and enjoyed them with rice, corn on the cob, and a small tub of Shrimp Heads’ ultra spicy “atomic sauce” on the side.

Fried chicken tenders and fries

There are several more affordable meals to be found here: 12-dollar entrees including fried pork chops, fried catfish, fried chicken tenders, and shrimp & grits. But the restaurant’s best work is found in its assortment of market price seafood boils — which include shrimp (of course), king crab legs, whole Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, lobster tail, and even crawfish (California crawfish season is over, but Louisiana crawfish season starts back up in January).

No diners allowed inside Shrimp Heads for now, but regular customers ordering take-out can keep it afloat.

I asked the family who operates Shrimp Heads how business has fared through the pandemic, and like most they’ve been just getting by. But they’re optimistic about making it through this next wave of takeout-only business, thanks to a small legion of loyal regulars who consistently come back.

I expect it’s going to be the same story all over the county: regular customers are going to have to save the day of the restaurants we love. In whatever packaging we can get our hands on.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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