Belted out with vigor and a smile, the words “Let’s go for a ride” have launched many a wonderful open road adventure, one which often concludes with dinner at a favorite restaurant. Such an afternoon escape, not long ago ranked in the higher echelon of simple pleasures. Who could have foreseen that restaurants, especially “your” favorite restaurant would be an endangered species. It appears that the pandemic has placed many favorite eateries in the cross hairs of potential extinction before the new normal arrives.


We took the Drivin’ News 1972 VW Westfalia out to get dinner and answers at some of our favorite local restaurants. What we found revealed the strong bond between communities and their restaurants and the profound impact that that relationship would have in shaping the character of our communities when the new normal arrives.


TAKE-OUT – A lifeline to the future

With the present pandemic restrictions, our VW Westfalia affords what can only be described as the pinnacle of present day dining out experiences. Supplementing the fold-out table, refrigerator (cooler with a door), sink (yes, running water) and pop-up top to allow for standing, our dining experience featured VW themed designer cutlery and place settings. Proper social distancing is no problem. There is only room for two.

All the restaurants visited functioned with an almost military precision. Cell phones alerted customers to pull up as the food came from the kitchen. Payment was either done by card in advance or with mobile hand units at pickup.

Many restaurants had canopied seating, some with music for patrons who wished to dine out on site. All food does have to be served in take out containers.

Survival stories on the road to the “new normal”

It has become painfully clear that many fine and favorite eateries which have delighted our palates before the pandemic could well be gone when better days return.

For the many quality restaurants not mentioned in this story it can be accepted that all share similar challenges and concerns as expressed by the restaurateurs quoted here.

With a shared voice they all spoke to the critical importance of TAKE-OUT as the lifeline that will bridge this crisis and allow for a future in the “new normal.”

While facing this uncertain and difficult time, all proprietors made a point of expressing their profound gratitude for the support of the surrounding community that has risen to sustain them. The quality of their words reflected those of a farmer whose neighbors rallied to sandbag a river to save his crops from being lost.


Click on the Restaurant’s name to go to their website.

Chris D’Eletto (Jack’s Café – Westwood)

I have owned Jack’s Café for almost 14 years. Presently TAKE-OUT is everything. We are at a fraction of our normal business but we are holding on. I miss the people. I am so thankful that I am going to be allowed to have some seating on June 15th though it will only be half capacity. Before Covid-19 It was already hard to make a living in the restaurant business so TAKE OUT will remain critical to our survival.

This community is awesome. I love Westwood. I live in Westwood. I am proud of my community. The people have been incredibly faithful. We have people who order every week. Sometimes twice a week. They are great.

I am going to make it. Absolutely. This is my life.


Malissa Wright (Peppercorn’s – Park Ridge)

I have owned Peppercorn’s for a year. I never saw this coming. They say tough times make you tougher. So be it. Right now if it wasn’t for TAKE-OUT I would have my doors shut.

Peppercorn’s has been around a long time. I am humbled by how Peppercorn’s customers have responded to our situation with their support and loyalty. They are making a concerted effort to support us. It’s been very, very humbling.

We have started our outside seating which will make a great difference. Still TAKE-OUT remains so important.

Peppercorn’s will survive.


Thomas Davey (Davey’s Locker – Montvale)

Davey’s Locker has been in my family for 46 years. My dad bought it in 1974.

TAKE-OUT is all we have. It isn’t a long term solution but it is sustaining us as we bridge to the future “new normal.” Opening up outside is going to help. We are planning for inside where  we will have socially distanced seating. If we are lucky we will be doing maybe half of what we used to do. TAKE-OUT will remain fundamental to our continued existence.

I can’t say enough about the community. Incredible. After St. Patrick’s Day we shut down. Everyone was locked down. After about 4 weeks I set up a little tent outside and sold Davey’s digital gift cards. People came in to say hello and buy gift cards. Talk about faith. People didn’t know if Davey’s was ever going to open up again. We sold thousands of dollars in gift cards. What can I say? We opened up.


Ralph Colantuono (Granita Grille – Westwood)

I’ve owned the Granita Grill for 22 years. TAKE-OUT is everything. I do not have a lot of space for outside seating so until people can come indoors, TAKE-OUT is my lifeline to the future.

I cannot express my gratitude to the community for their support. Our traditional regulars as well as surrounding community members have made all of the difference in the world.


Frank Hernandez (Cornerstone – Hillsdale)

Cornerstone has been in business 14 years, Frank Hernandez has been manager for one year.

TAKE-OUT is the lifeblood of our business. That is all we have going at this point. Thankfully the community has been fantastic in supporting us from the day this all started.

Clearly we are eager to welcome people back inside in a reconfigured socially distanced layout. We hope people appreciate that the restaurant business is in the best position to do things properly as constant Health Department oversight ensures that proper procedures are in place.


Randy Carson (Park Steakhouse – Park Ridge)

I have owned Park Steakhouse for 15 years.

It is only because of the tremendous support from the people of Park Ridge and the surrounding community for our TAKE-OUT business that we can stay afloat until we get the new normal sorted out. Right now we are creating a sheltered outdoor dining area.

Park Ridge has been wonderful to us. Everybody has really pulled together to help us through this. In having the community there for us now will allow us to be there for them in the future.


What then can each of us do to ensure that we don’t find ourselves yearning for that favorite entree with no recourse but a taunting and flavorless memory? Clearly, to the Covid-19 mantra of “wear a mask” and “wash your hands” we must add ORDER TAKE-OUT!

Share with us your favorite restaurant after a drive. Give them some recognition in the comments section. It just may make the difference.