Navigating the NoDa restaurant scene amid COVID-19


On March 17, 2020, my husband and I let go of 85 team members. It still hurts. It still kind of feels like a bad dream, and like I’ll wake up and everything will be back in place — the bustling restaurants, the nearly 100 teammates who have become like family, the busy NoDa streets, everything we’ve built.

It’s all a little hard to believe.

Jeff and I opened our first restaurant, Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub, 11 years ago, at the bottom of the recession. It was April 2009. We’ve built our family restaurant businesses here, in NoDa, for a reason. We love the community. We’ve loved it since we first started as an 11-table restaurant. And we’ve loved watching it grow into a regionally-loved treasure in North Carolina. Together, our community has built something really special.

As difficult as it has been pivoting into a new business model of take-out, we’re lucky. We’re lucky to be in this neighborhood. We’re lucky to be able to hold onto the dozen jobs we have. Our kitchens are staffed with fewer people, but they’re doing a great job putting out favorite menu items our guests have come to love. There’s a lot to be proud of.

To make it through, we’ve opted to take different strategies with each of our restaurant concepts.

We’ve had to temporarily close Reigning Doughnuts. We don’t want to encourage face-to-face transactions, and that little walk-up window relies on foot traffic. Someday, our mint green shutters will reopen and a smiling person will happily serve you up a fresh made-to-order doughnut. That will happen again.

With Haberdish, we’ve rolled out the majority of our regular menu as take-out options, and have added Cocktail Kits that our Head Mixologist, Colleen Hughes, has whipped up. All pick up is “contact free” and on our covered patio.

Separately, we’ve decided to merge the Crepe Cellar and Growlers Pourhouse menus into a pop-up concept called Bring the Queen. It has items like the Growlers Pourhouse wings (in five flavors), the Crepe Cellar Burger, hand-cut twice-fried French fries, and fish & chips. There are dessert options too. People can order online and then pick up their food at the front window of Crepe Cellar.

Our team has been tremendous at staying nimble and continuing to improve our processes. We now have new handmade face masks for all staff in front- and back-of-house positions, made by one of our managers. We keep researching and watching for best practices to keep the safest environment for guests and staff.

We’ve been so grateful for the support of our local community. We know that is a huge part of our business — it always has been. And now it’s what will keep us afloat as we get through this pandemic. It is our lifeboat. If you’d like to support us, here are a few things you can do:

  • Order online from haberdish.com or BringTheQueen.com
  • Follow us on social media: @haberdish, @bring_the_queen, @crepecellar, @growlersph
  • Support our GoFundMe campaign where we are raising money for our staff (we recently sent out 32 $150 checks to some of the neediest on our team).
  • Consider supporting the nonprofit Feed the Front Lines Charlotte — they’re making large-scale orders with us and we’re delivering them to local hospitals.
  • Keep yourself healthy! If we all practice good social distancing, we can be through this difficult time sooner.

Jeff and I are hopeful this vibrant community will retain the majority of what it has built, so one thing we’re doing is hosting Take-Out Tuesdays each Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. Join us on the Haberdish Instagram account, where Jeff and I will be enjoying take-out food with you. We chat about our restaurants, about the Supperland build-out, and about any questions people have. Mainly though, we’re doing this to encourage take-out business in our city. Every open restaurant in our NoDa neighborhood will gladly cook you up some delicious food — Boudreaux’s, Cabo Fish Taco, Billy Jack’s, Heist, and Oh My Soul.

Wherever you order take-out from, you’re playing a BIG part in pulling local businesses across a finish line — whenever that finish line comes into sight.

We look forward to someday celebrating with grand re-openings at all of our places, but until then, we’ll keep passing bags out of windows and patios with gloved hands and face masks. Just know that underneath that mask, there’s a smile. Thank you NoDa!