Local restaurants adjust to virus social-distancing

CUSTOMER VEHICLES line up for drive-thru service at the Madison DQ restaurant late Wednesday. The local Dairy Queen and many other eating establishments have turned to drive-thru and carry-out services for customers to promote the social-distancing advice given by health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many local restaurants have closed their indoor dining facilities.

Closed dining rooms, curbside food deliveries and ordering via smartphone -- the majority of the dining and eating establishments serving Madison-area customers have adjusted to the social-distancing advice that health experts have given to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Nicky's, a Madison restaurant located on the west side of town, closed its indoor dining service on Monday.

"We decided that we would just offer carry-out orders," said Shelby Skinner of Nicky's.

Skinner said the restaurant is providing carry-out orders from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m. with customers phoning 256-3791. Customers are ordering Nicky's menu items such as the cranberry-spinach salad, Reuben and french dip sandwiches, and Red Baron burgers.

According to Skinner, customers are ordering carry-out family meals from choices such as goulash and enchilada dishes, posted on the restaurant's Facebook site. Skinner added that Nicky's continues to cater meals to some local businesses.

Los Tapatios, a downtown Mexican restaurant, continues to schedule dine-in service from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Synthia Iraheto, a restaurant staff member, said the Los Tapatios staff has focused on washing down tables and other fixtures, and they have paid special attention to cleaning condiment containers, such as sauce bottles and salt and pepper shakers. The restaurant also closed its buffet bar.

Iraheto said Los Tapatios has seen an increase in takeout orders.

"Recently, a majority of our sales have been to-go orders," Iraheto said.

The staff at the 2nd Street Diner in Madison still serves customers in its dining area, but the visitors to the restaurant are spacing themselves out among the tables and booths.

Shari Eliason, the diner's owner, said 2nd Street has recently served more take-away meals of dishes such as lasagna and chicken and dumplings.

"We're preparing take-away meals that people are serving for dinner," Eliason said.

Customers start picking up the meals at about 5 p.m. each day. Eliason said her staff has typically served takeout breakfasts to diners.

When warmer spring weather arrives, Eliason said the 2nd Street Diner could start offering drive-in service to customers in which food is delivered to the diner's parking lot.

Customers can find daily specials on the 2nd Street Diner's Facebook page and its website at www.2ndstreetdiner.com. They can also call 256-4441.

The Office Bar & Grill in downtown Madison continues to serve dine-in customers, but owner Carson Stemper said the staff is limiting the customer capacity. A sign posted on the restaurant's north side encourages takeout orders by calling 427-0810.

The grill's service staff will provide curbside service to customers. The kitchen at the Office Bar & Grill continues to serve carry-out and take-and-bake pizzas.

The bar and grill's hours are from 4:30-10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. The Office Bar & Grill is closed on Mondays.

The Country Cafe remains open to customers under its regular hours, but Debbie Hollingsworth at the downtown cafe said that business was slower than usual.

The Country Cafe's takeout business has remained steady.

"We've always done a ton of takeout meals," Hollingsworth said.

The management at Sundog Coffee in downtown Madison has removed about half of the inside seating and changed operating hours to 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

The coffee house has placed more emphasis on serving takeout orders. The Sundog Coffee staff has removed customer self-service items and switched to disposable plates and eating utensils.

Coffee house customers can order by calling 556-1020 or going online to www.sundogcoffee.square.site.

The Stadium Sports Grill, another downtown Madison eatery, continues to offer dine-in services, but the grill has discontinued its lunch buffets.

Stadium Sports also serves takeout food to diners, and the restaurant's staff reported those carry-out food orders have recently increased. The staff will take food orders over the phone at 427-9521. The sports grill has recently closed earlier in the evenings -- at about 9 p.m. -- but Stadium Sports continues to open at 11 a.m.

A sign posted on the entry door to Hillside Steakhouse Resort, located on the south side of Lake Madison, said the restaurant is closed to dining but the establishment continues to provide carry-out orders. Customers are asked to call 256-9558 to place orders.

Another sign posted on Hillside Resort's door promotes the eatery's prime rib and chicken club sandwiches, Not Your Mama's BLTs, Big Kahuna burgers and chicken.

El Vaquero Mexican Restaurant, located near Dakota State University, continues to serve dine-in customers throughout the week, but the staff has started closing the eatery at 8 p.m.

El Vaquero's management continues to offer all of restaurant's menu for takeout, and customers can place orders by calling 427-0084.

Kyle Ackerman, owner of Sportsman Steakhouse & Lounge in central Madison, said his restaurant continues serving some lunch diners but overall, business is slower. According to Ackerman, the Sportsman was "...doing a little more takeout business."

The Sportsman Steakhouse opens at 11 a.m Monday-Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Ackerman said his closing time is usually 10 p.m.

The Sportsman has closed its salad bar, so Ackerman said he's increased his menu offerings of individually-ordered green salads such as chef salads and crispy-chicken salads.

The listing of Madison-area eateries that have adjusted to the virus' social-distancing requirements includes:

-- Madison's DQ announces on its marquee sign that the restaurant's "Dine-in closed, call to order" for food on the DQ menu. The display tells customers that the drive-thru is open and curbside delivery is available. Dairy Queen food orders are available by calling 256-4042. DQ's display also encourages passers-by to "Learn the facts, CDC.Gov/COVID19."

-- The Pizza Ranch in Madison has closed its buffet service and dine-in areas. Its outdoor display sign advertises Pizza Ranch's pizza and chicken available for delivery or customer pick-up by calling 256-3333.

-- Taco John's continues to serve drive-thru customers breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the restaurant's display sign announces that the business has temporarily changed its closing hour to 9 p.m. Before closing its dining area, Taco John's had removed the restaurant's help-yourself salsa and taco-sauce bar.

-- Pizza Hut continues to offer its menu to carry-out customers and delivery orders. Diners can order online at www.pizzahut.com and by phone at 256-9139.

-- The McDonald's in Madison has placed on its marquee display that the restaurant will only provide drive-thru service.

-- Subway's street display sign announces "mobile app and takeout available" and "order online" to diners. The sandwich shop's staff has closed the dining area, and the restaurant is currently closing earlier, at 9 p.m. Subway customers are encouraged to order by phone at 256-0075 or use the Subway App through their smartphones.

Sunshine Foods, Madison's grocery store, organized a menu for this week, March 23-27, that its delicatessen planned to follow to serve takeout lunches from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

On the deli's menu for Thursday were dishes of shepherd's pie with one side dish, a brisket sandwich with two sides, and a two-piece chicken meal. The Sunshine deli was also selling rotisserie chicken.

Earlier in March, Sunshine's management had posted a sign on the entry door saying they would close each night at 11 p.m. until further notice.