On Tuesday night, we dined on a fabulous meal of rib-eye steak, roasted asparagus, slivered baby carrots and zucchini, mashed potatoes and a beet and goat cheese salad with a citrus vinaigrette. It was all from Cypress Restaurant. And we never stepped inside.
We called Cypress, paid for the meal in advance with our credit card, and picked it up within a half hour outside the door.
Cypress co-owner Elizabeth Gwynn brought the meal to us while her husband David was cooking inside. The couple, about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cypress on April 4th, is doing what they can to keep their business alive.
They’re among many restaurant owners now offering curbside and takeout service, doing whatever they can. William Lawson, owner of Mimi’s Table Tallahassee, may even make some deliveries and Jeri Bradley Madden, owner of Jeri’s Midtown Cafe is personally delivering to parties of 10 or more. Check with your favorite restaurant and chances are it’s offering curbside service, even if it’s upscale.
David Gwynn isn’t sure how long he’ll offer curbside service.
“It’s day-to-day.” For now, Cypress is offering a limited menu that’s changing daily. On March 17, the menu featured two appetizers — a meat and cheese board or bouillabaisse — for $13 each; five entrees served with soup or a choice of salads; and a choice of desserts for $5.50 each.
The dinner, packaged in a plastic container, arrived home with all items intact. No spillovers.
We dished out the food and served it on our own humble dishware and the dinner was wonderful. While we missed the attentive service and fine dining setting, we were grateful to still be able to devour a Cypress dinner.
The steak was cooked perfectly, nicely seasoned. Mashed potatoes were stellar, as well as the vegetables and salad, with plenty of sliced yellow and red beets. We only shared the one dinner and it was plenty for us both.
The Gwynns had 27 curbside orders on Tuesday night, compared to the dozens of dishes they would serve on a Tuesday prior to the coronavirus. David said on the four Mondays before this week they had 65 reservations. On March 16, they had four.
“This is a colossal collapse,” said David. “I don’t know where to begin.”
He and his wife are juggling three restaurants — Cypress, Grove Market Café and Vertigo Burgers & Fries — with 70 employees.
“These are the people who helped us create the three restaurants we have today,” said David. “This is having a devastating effect on all of us.”
Gwynn said he and other restaurant owners “are trying to figure out what to do to salvage something. Sometimes cutting your losses is all you can do.”
Keith Baxter, owner of longtime restaurant Kool Beanz Cafe had been planning to offer curbside service but decided to close temporarily. He posted in Facebook today (March 18) that “In order to keep my employees safe, because of the inevitable decline to nearly zero in sales, I am temporarily closing Kool Beanz.For the many posts of encouragement and support, we all thank you. We ‘ain’t going nowhere.”
David said that while he understands the reasoning for the regulations due to the virus “there are a lot of questions” about what small businesses and employees can do.
Customer reactions are also pretty varied. David talked about two scenarios at Vertigo this week — in one case, a woman came in to order and broke down crying, “devastated and unsure what to do.” Another customer came in, grabbed food off the counter in a “dine and dash.”
While Cypress dine-in is closed until April 1 for now, Vertigo and Grove Cafe are open. Both restaurants have patios (though the Grove Market one is bigger) and seating for social distancing.
Grove Market is open with patio dining, pick-up. 1370 Market St.; 850-894-5060. Vertigo is open, with patio dining, pick-up and Ubereats (you need to download the app). 1395 E. Lafayette St.; 850-878-2020.
“I have to say we have a wonderful community that’s been incredibly supportive of all three restaurants,” said David. “As dire as all this seems, we’re going to get back on our feet. As a municipality, we’re resilient.”
Info: For curbside pickup, Cypress is at 320 E. Tennessee St. from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Call in orders at 850-513-1100. Credit card or cash; sales tax included. Allow about 20 minutes preparation. Check the latest menu at cypressrestaurant.com/
Here’s the menu for March 18
APPETIZER – $13.00 each
● 3 Cheeses & 2 Cured Meats (Chef’s Choice) with Crackers, Cranberry Chutney and Pickled Okra
● Mixed Seafood Bouillabaisse (Gluten-Free)
ENTREÉ – $27.00 each
● Choice of Pecan Crusted Grouper or Bacon-Wrapped Scallops, Bradley’s Grits, Collards (Gluten-Free)
● Choice of Grilled Hanger or Ribeye, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus & Baby Carrots and choice of Green Peppercorn-Mushroom Gravy or House-made Steak Sauce (Gluten Free)
● Braised Grass-fed Beef Short Rib Stroganoff with Local Mushrooms & Cipollini Onions
☆ ☆ All entreés come with a choice of cup of Mushroom Soup, House Salad with Herbed Vinaigrette or Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette ☆☆
DESSERT – $5.50 each
● Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream (Gluten Free)
● Pecan Turnover with Cane Syrup Ice Cream