The COVID-19 crisis has turned just about every aspect of daily life on its head, but at the same time, has shined the spotlight on selflessness, charity, and the ability for people to mobilize with unprecedented speed. Amidst his pandemic, an unlikely partnership has formed, one which exemplifies all three of the aforementioned attributes. LA Family Housing (LAFH) is a nonprofit dedicated to helping people out of homelessness. Redbird and its adjacent event space, Vibiana, represent upscale Modern American fare and lavish happenings, bringing more than 1,000 of LA’s finest under one roof in a single evening [remember those days?].
Now, Redbird is using its kitchen and staff to cook up more than 1300 meals each day for LAFH’s clients. With event operations suspended and a culinary infrastructure built for high volume, this fine dining establishment is seizing the opportunity to do some good in the world.
“The second it became clear about how serious this [crisis] was, we immediately thought about how we could take care of our employees and contribute to the community,” said Amy Knoll Fraser, Co-Owner of Redbird and Vibiana. She runs the restaurant and event space with her husband and Executive Chef, Neal Fraser.
Knoll Fraser was introduced to Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, President and CEO of LAFH, through foodie event host Billy Harris.
“It was a Wednesday, and I was talking to one of my board members. We knew that with their kids being home and loss of employment, access to food was going to be challenging for our clients,” Klasky-Gamer said. LAFW refers to the individuals and families they serve as clients. “He said let me make a call. 90 minutes later, I was talking to Billy [Harris] and he put Amy on the line.”
“By Friday night, we had 1300 meals. It was amazing.”
Logistics came together at breakneck speed. LAFH’s long-term food partners came through with ingredients fit for nutritious meals, alongside other food suppliers bringing inventory from restaurants that couldn’t make use of it. Redbird hit the ground running, preparing hundreds of meals at a time with whatever made its way into the kitchen.
“We do 600 events a year. We’re set up for volume,” Knoll Fraser said. With her calm demeanor, you’d never guess she’d handled such a massive undertaking in such a short amount of time. “To be able to pull this off for our culinary team is not as challenging as it sounds.”
A 10-person kitchen crew churns out meals as efficiently as a NASCAR pit crew changes out a car, with a facilities manager responsible for packaging everything as it comes off the line. Meals are packaged in double portions where possible to save on plastic. Most of this work is completed by 11am.
Two trucks ship the food to LAFH’s main campus in North Hollywood. By 2pm, it’s loaded up in cars that drive out to clusters of clients sprawled across LA. The goal is to have every meal delivered to some 450 clients and their families by 4:30pm. And while the operation runs like clockwork, it’s perhaps an even bigger shift for LAFH as it is for Redbird.
“We’ve never delivered food to [clients] before, and it’s the same families we’ve worked with for years,” Klasky-Gamer said. “This is something we want to keep up. They’re not getting access to healthy meals, even in the best of times.”
The benefits are tallying up for LAFH. They’ve increased their engagement time between clients and their ‘housing navigators,’ or those responsible for helping individuals and families secure permanent housing. They also opened three new shelters in less than two weeks, with a forth coming as of the time of this writing.
“We’ve never done anything like that in that time frame. Developing protocols and staffing structures is a very different operation that we’ve had in the past,” Klasky-Gamer said. “We’ve brought all these people inside that we’ve been looking to do for years. We had washing stations outside encampments within 3 days…we were never able to do that before.”
For LAFH, the COVID-19 crisis has been a catalyst for swift movement. For Redbird, it’s another example of the team’s ability to handle just about anything the times throw at them, as well as a chance to give back to the community in a new and different way.
“Homelessness is something we’ve been trying to figure out how to help with for a long time. We were in talks with the Mayor to create a chefs collective and a fundraiser,” Fraser Knoll said. “We want to figure out how to keep a program like this going. It’ll be challenging once we’re back at full speed, but having it in some capacity would be great.”
For more information on how you can help or to donate, please visit LAFH.org.
Restaurants at The Point, an iconic shopping mall in El Segundo, have responded to Coronavirus-related limitations by converting to takeout and delivery. Fitting to The Point’s chic and modern appeal, these eateries and drinkeries represent several of SoCal’s favorite new hautespots, as well as timeless brands that are in the same boat as far as retaining business amidst the pandemic.
For those in the South Bay looking to get a Taste of The Point during their quarantine, here’s a way to enjoy high-end pasta, farm-to-table sandwiches, organic bowls and even margaritas to-go:
Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Born in Austin, Texas with new life in California, Hopdoddy serves angus and American grass-fed Kobe beef, chicken and sushi-grade tuna, baked-from-scratch buns, hand-cut Kennebec fries, farm fresh salads, and handcrafted milkshakes. They’ve created a series of meal kits for those looking to replicate their meal with the freshness of dining in, as well as offered up their standard menu--including signature drinks--for takeout and delivery. Website here
Tocaya’s is bringing its signature ‘Modern Organic Mexican’ to households. Patrons frequent Tocaya for its tacos, burritos, bowls and salads that are rooted in traditional Mexican recipes and incorporated into versatile dishes that accommodate vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dietary needs, among others. Tocaya is now offering prepped ingredient kits, family meals, as well as their standard menu for takeout and delivery. Website here
This celebrated eatery features scratch-made pizzas and pastas, as well as other decadent Italian favorites. They’re continuing to push their mission for guests to ‘savor every bite, sip, and moment’ by offering their menu for takeout and delivery. Website here
Known for fresh sandwiches, family-owned Mendocino Farms is offering its menu for takeout and delivery. Please note that during Coronavirus-related limitations, Mendocino Farms has modified its standard hours to close at 8pm. Website here
With culinary temptation a lot less accessible than usual, now may be as good a time as any to go on a juice cleanse. Pressed Juicery’s premium juices are available for takeout and delivery. Website here
The ‘Original Craft Coffee,’ Peet’s has been brewing since 1966 and seeks to continue providing a daily pick-me-up for regulars who have made their shop a home away from home, those meeting with other online vs. at one of their tables, and anyone who would otherwise stop by. Patrons can enjoy Peet’s to go, via mobile ordering. Website her
Restaurants across the country are getting creative to continue doing business during the Coronavirus pandemic. And while people are already yearning to return to the comforts of restaurant dining rooms, there are many unique opportunities that those seeking ‘a meal out’ should take advantage of.
Here’s a few notable eateries around town that are showcasing special menus for patrons to enjoy at home:
Ayara Thai, Westchester
This famous family-owned Thai restaurant has enhanced its takeout and delivery menu with meal kits for families, as well as special kids menus, that showcase its age-old family recipes. AyaraThai.com
The Butchery; Brea, Costa Mesa, Crystal Cove and San Diego
As grocery stores are routinely running out of meat, The Butchery’s shelves are fully stocked with a variety of high-quality beef, pork, poultry, pre-marinated meats, locally-made sausages, ground beef prepared in-house, and a full deli case of charcuterie meats and artisan cheeses. Their selection also extends to specialty grocery items like marinades, spice blends and seasonings, deli accompaniments, and a curated assortment of hard-to-find craft beers and wines. ButcheryMeats.com
Coastal Kitchen, Dana Point
Coastal Kitchen is offering take-out menu options from 4 – 8pm nightly. Starters and salads, entrees and sandwiches, and famous desserts can be ordered by calling (949) 449-2822. CoastalKitchenDanaPoint.com.
Five Crowns, Corona Del Mar
Part of the illustrious Lawry’s group, Five Crowns is offering a family-style prime rib dinner for parties of 4 – 6. Meals can include the Five Crowns’ famous prime rib, Atlantic salmon or roasted turkey, as well as creamed corn, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and bake-at-home Yorkshire pudding. Customers can also order high-end wines by the bottle. Five Crowns’ standard menu is available as well. As an added bonus, all take-out orders receive 20% off, with valet pick-up available. TheFiveCrowns.com
Gabi James, Redondo Beach
This South Bay eatery has added cleverly-named family meals to its takeout and delivery menu. “Netflix and Grill,” “Forking Cabin Fever” and “Cluck Indoors” feature specialties such as skirt steak and filet mignon, chicken and ribeye, Gabi James potatoes and chocolate bread pudding. GabiJamesLA.com
Georgia’s Restaurant, Anaheim & Long Beach
This spectacular Southern soul eatery is offering family packages at both of its locations, featuring everything from 8-Piece fried chicken dinners to smothered pork chops, catfish and blackened chicken pasta, all with soulful sides and their legendary cornbread. Georgia’s Long Beach is offering Curbside Pickup all day until close, and delivery through Grubhub. Georgia’s Anaheim is available for delivery through DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats. Georgias-Restaurant.com
Here and Now, Downtown LA
This beloved neighborhood bar Here and Now will be offering delivery of its full food menu through Postmates. Favorites include their Here and Now burger with signature Boyle Heights sauce, roasted shishito peppers and Habanero Chicken Wings. HereAndNowDTLA.com
Il Pastaio, Beverly Hills
This Italian fine dining establishment will allow guests to order many of their favorite Drago Family dishes to go. To place a take-out order directly, please call Il Pastaio at 310-205-5444 and feel free to utilize Il Pastaio’s curbside pickup as the City of Beverly Hills has made it possible for guests to pull right in front of Il Pastaio during this time. IlPastaioBeverlyHills.com
Little Dom’s, Los Feliz
Modern Italian restaurant Little Dom’s and adjacent Little Dom’s Deli will be offering breakfast, lunch and dinner takeout and delivery via Caviar. Aside from everyday classic Italian favorites, new items have been added such as a daily $25 three-coursePanDOMic menu that includes soups, sauces, jams, and bottles of wine and beer. LittleDoms.com
Mama Terano, Palos Verdes
Specializing in rustic, homestyle Italian dishes, Mama Terano is offering its entire menu for curbside pickup. Customers simply need to submit their payment information when ordering and call the restaurant at 310-377-5757 when they arrive. MamaTerano.com
Old Vine Kitchen + Bar, Costa Mesa
Old Vine Kitchen + Bar is now offering “Heat and Serve” meals to-go that consists of everything from cinnamon rolls and chile verde quiche to lasagna with fresh baked focaccia. Old Vine’s six for sixty wine packages are also available for pickup, and come complete with tasting notes and suggested food pairings. All menu items serve six people, and orders must be placed 24 hours in advance by calling (714) 545-1411, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. OldVineKitchenBar.com
Piccalilli, Culver City
Cali-Asian restaurant Piccalilli will now be offering takeout Monday – Saturday from 11am - 8pm. Menu items include favorites such as brussels sprouts with Korean chili, corn nuts and scallions, whole shrimp and sweet potato with Japanese curry salt. Modified menu favorites include the confit pork shank sandwich and the bangkok chicken katsu sandwich. PiccalilliLA.com
SHU Sushi House Unico, Bel Air
Guests will be able to order many of SHU’s favorite Japanese-Italian fusion dishes to go from 4 – 9pm. To place a Take-Out Order directly, please call SHU at 310-474-2740. ShuSushi.com
Tacos Tu Madre; Westwood, Larchmont, Los Feliz, West Hollywood
Guests can treat themselves to a variety of twisted Mexican favorites, for both takeout and delivery. Breakfast burritos, Korean BBQ tacos, fried chicken tacos and vegan bahn mi bowls are just a few of the items offered up. TacosTuMadre.com
The Raymond, Pasadena
The Raymond 1886, Pasadena’s beloved craftsman cottage, is offering take-out and delivery for families to share at home for lunch and dinner during the week, and for brunch and dinner on the weekend. They’re offering a 10% discount on all takeout orders when calling the restaurant directly 626-441-3136. The Raymond 1886 will also offer delivery through DoorDash and Grubhub, and they’re working on becoming available via Postmates. TheRaymond.com
The Side Door, Corona Del Mar
This cozy gastropub, also part of the Lawry's group, is offering 20% off takeout orders from their seasonal comfort food menu, with dishes such as chicken pot pie and prime rib sliders.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.