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Restaurant Carry-outs During the Quarantine: Winners and Losers

I have done a LOT of cooking during the past three months, but my Silver Fox and I have also taken advantage of a number of carry-out opportunities in our area. All of them did an admirable job, and I was grateful for the reprieve from the stove and the clean-up. Here are some thoughts about 8 different ones we tried.

THE FREIGHT HOUSE in Hartselle offered a delicious lunch menu on Easter Sunday. I made a reservation several days in advance, paid over the phone and waited in a reasonably short line while the food was brought to my car. The food was very good -- hot foods hot and cold foods cold, etc. I was glad to support this local business but must admit that dining in (especially with the unique atmosphere of The Freight House) is vastly preferable. Just a note. This is one of the few places where you can consistently find Poulet de Normandy on the menu. Yummo!

OLIVE GARDEN in Decatur offered meal deals where you could choose 2 entrees and get salad and breadsticks. I ordered and paid on-line, and the food was brought to my car. It's so much better to be IN the restaurant surrounded by the aromas of Italian seasonings and to have the meal brought to the table piping hot, but the taste was good and we enjoyed it.

PIZZA ED in Hartselle. I ordered over the phone, parked, went inside to get my pizza and pay. Pizza Ed is accustomed to carry-out orders, so this was a piece of cake for them. They make very good pizzas.

BIG BOB GIBSON'S BBQ in Decatur has been doing carry-out for years. They've got the process down to a well-oiled machine. You just order in the drive-through line. Quality is consistent. This is a Pearson favorite that goes back for generations.

CAHOOT'S CAFE in Hartselle is such a fun and eclectic place to visit in person, it's almost a shame to have to get a carry-out plate. But, this was an easy way for my daughter and me to enjoy a quiet lunch at my house with no interruptions and neither of us having to cook or clean. One negative -- WAY too much mayo.

COMMERCE KITCHEN in Huntsville offered a Mother's Day meal. Steve and I love dining at Cotton Row and Commerce Kitchen on the square in Huntsville, so we thought this would be a nice splurge. It was far too much food, so I asked to order a half portion. The person taking my order said the "deal" only came as advertised, so I reasoned that I could freeze the leftovers and we'd have several more meals in the future. When we got the food home and ate while it was fresh, it was very good. But, the negatives were that the leftovers didn't freeze well, and the whole deal was overpriced. Commerce Kitchen is much better as a dine-in restaurant.

APPLEBEE'S in Decatur reopened for carry-out in mid-May, so we decided to take a couple of plates to Rhodes Ferry Park by the river for a nice picnic. Again, we ordered and paid on-line, and our meal was delivered to our car. We had a very pleasant outing, and the food was good. Applebee's did an admirable job of packaging, but as with most every restaurant, the dine-in experience is much better.

BENTLEY'S AT THE OUTHOUSE in Hartselle offered carry-out at first, then closed for a while. Now, it is open for dine-in or carryout. Their burgers (which come in a dozen varieties) have stayed consistently good. They also offer plate lunches, but I have yet to try one. We ordered over the phone and went inside the back door to pay and get our food. I still say I wish I'd been on the naming committee for this restaurant. :) As with all of these restaurants, the dine-in atmosphere is a key factor. When I'm inside Bentley's, memories flood my mind. I remember the original owners, Sam and Lurline Minor, and always enjoyed buying furniture from them and having time to chat.


1) I have to applaud the restaurants who normally don't offer carry-out service for stepping up and providing meals for those desperately tired of their own cooking.

2) In the case of Cahoot's Cafe, Freight House, Bentley's at the Outhouse and Pizza Ed's, ordering carry-out was a way of supporting local businesses during the crisis.

3) Except for Big Bob Gibson's, I'd say that it is extremely difficult to offer equal quality in carry-out form as restaurants can offer to in-person customers.

4) The environment was possibly the biggest loser during these efforts. Just as everyone was trying to be more conscious of sustainability and using less plastic, styrofoam and single-use condiments and utensils, along came Covid-19 where sanitation, cleanliness and providing a sterile experience became the utmost concern.

5) I gained quite a few unwanted pounds during the pandemic.

6) I really enjoy going OUT to eat. I love cloth napkins and tablecloths, high-quality dishes and attentive service. I'm a spoiled American.

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