Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro doubling as a local grocer during difficult times
Last night, I placed an order for delivery from the restaurant Tender Greens. Dinner was good, but what will help sustain me in the week to come was the grocery box I ordered. For $33, the box included strawberries, bananas, apples, blueberries, oranges, lemons, grapes, and an entire pineapple. It’s great to know I have fresh fruit, well over a week into social isolation, and smoothies ahead. The coup de grace, though, was the roll of toilet paper.
2400 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego
2145 Fern Street, San Diego
Tender Greens is not alone in this. During these uncertain times, a growing number of restaurants are selling groceries as a means of getting by and helping their communities. Grocery inventories were decimated by the first round of coronavirus panic shopping, and have been playing catch up ever since as supply lines adjust to the spike in demand. But at the same time, restaurant vendors have seen demand plummet, leaving their warehouses relatively full. So for a restaurant such as Tender Greens, produce is relatively easy to come by. In addition to fruit, it’s offering boxfuls of vegetables, breakfast ingredients (including coffee), pantry items (including grains, pastas, and tomato sauce), and mixed boxes, some featuring wine, all featuring a roll of double ply.
A box of fruit delivered by Tender Greens
One of the first eateries to embrace this model was South Park’s Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro. When restaurant dining rooms were abruptly closed in the middle of March, the scratch restaurant and chocolate manufacturer started selling off its own inventory, and chef/owner Will Gustwiller noticed the neighborhood had a need. “On Monday we realized people were having trouble getting staples,” he tells me, “Tuesday morning I started buying stuff I didn’t ever think I would for the restaurant.”
Canned goods, bottles of milk (and plant-based milk), bags of bagels, and sliced deli meats are a few of the things now arranged on Eclipse’s dining tables and bar. You’ll spot sriracha among other condiments. Two or three people may shop at a time, in person. But Eclipse also created a grocery section on its website for curbside pick-up: order and pay online, and an Eclipse staffer will run out and drop the supplies right into your car’s trunk.
Soup cans are among items the Eclipse restaurateur never thought he'd buy for his restaurant.
Fitting for a prolonged public health crisis, many of the items are bulk quantities — remember they’re intended for restaurant wholesale. So you’ll find a 25-pound bag of flour for 16 bucks, 2.5-pound boxes of rice for $6, and bags of locally roasted coffee beans in bags up to five pounds each. Gustwiller notes customers have purchased roughly a thousand pounds of flour. But I keep coming back to the produce.
Plenty of space for socially distant shoppers
One of Eclipse’s vendors is restaurant supplier Specialty Produce (which remains open to shoppers, in its warehouse at 1929 Hancock St #150, Mission Hills). This means plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables now roll through Eclipse daily, including onions, brussels sprouts, blueberries, mangos, shallots, honey, broccoli, and here once again, pineapples. There are also $6 bottles of wine, and $5 cans of local tuna from Morena District fishmonger, Cataline Offshore.
Among the most popular items have been 10-dollar palettes of 30 eggs. Eclipse gets eggs from Ramona’s Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch, and in its first ten days as a grocery, Gustwiller says, it moved five thousand eggs. Whereas most eggs have been in storage over a month before we see them on shelves, he adds that Eclipse has burned through the supply so quickly, “Now we’re getting eggs from them almost as fast as they’re being hatched.”
Other restaurants offering grocery service right now include: Gaslamp’s Pushkin Russian Restaurant (750 Sixth Ave.) a French bakery Le Parfait Paris (555 G St.); Liberty Station’s Moniker General (2860 Sims Rd.); La Jolla’s El Pescador Fish Market (634 Pearl St.).