As we spoke, Koval was driving to pick up the produce that he, chef de cuisine Matt Crutchfield and sous chef Fabio Pinto would need to cook the same rustic, farm-to-table dishes they'd been making since Deer and the Dove opened last June. But, instead of plating quail, duck confit, or red snapper on risotto for sit-down diners, they'd be putting it into to-go boxes, which Koval called "heartbreaking."
“We all want to cook great food without sacrificing our standards,” he said.
As Koval breathlessly ticked off his Saturday schedule, he periodically stopped to laugh. Since COVID-19 came to town, life for Koval, his wife Jenn, their family and their employees has been surreal.
Until this week, the Kovals had kept just three other people employed, as they tried to keep their two restaurants afloat with takeout service.
“I make the bagels,” he said. “I am not a baker by trade at all; I just had to learn how to do those things.”
During the day, Jenn handles the register and phone, while he makes sandwiches. Since he is unable to pay wages, the volunteer barista at B-Side works for tips only. When the barista leaves, Koval takes over. “I learned how to make lattes and cappuccinos. My artwork is terrible,” he said, laughing again.
Sunday was not going to be any easier. “Tomorrow, I am completely by myself in the kitchen,” Koval said. “I give both my chefs Sundays off. I come in at 4:45 a.m. and do the bagels and work the station. It’s brutal.”
It hasn’t been much fun for the Kovals’ two kids, either. Their 16-year-old daughter has to watch their 6-year-old son. “She’s with her little brother from the time she wakes up till the time she goes to bed, because we’ve been at the restaurant the entire time,” Koval said. Despite being closed Mondays, the babysitting routine is no different. That’s when the Kovals do paperwork.
But, the situation is improving. They recently were approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. Under the loan terms, they must bring 75% of their 32-person staff back full time. However, since they’re doing takeout, and don’t need servers, he’ll have to “be a little creative,” having some of them help do the bagging. Some also are cross-trained with the barista schedule, and he is able to bring back one of the dishwashers.
Since Deer and the Dove and B-Side switched to takeout only, furloughed lead bartender Matt Watkins has come in every day, bringing a six-pack of beer, to lend a hand without being paid. “Every day, he shows up with this awesome beer from somewhere,” Koval said.
The beer is special, but Watkins’ dedication to the operation is what really touches Koval. Watkins is coming back on the payroll, too.
Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
DEER AND THE DOVE / B-SIDE
Menu: full menu at B-Side, including various house-made bagels and schmears; sandwiches, such as egg on a roll, pimento cheese, fried bologna, pastrami, turkey and bacon club, and grilled veggies; full coffee program. B-Side online marketplace offers supplies, including select house-made smoked and cured meats, and prepared foods, such as chicken liver pate and pimento cheese. Dinner menu at Deer and the Dove changes daily; includes a la carte shared plates, entrees and desserts; also, a daily special (such as fried chicken, steak, fish or pasta) that feeds three to four, and includes a protein, one or two sides or salad, and rolls.
Alcohol: wine and beer (call to inquire about available selection)
What I ordered: Pasta Night special (slow-cooked lamb shank ravioli, weekly salad pickings, salted yeast rolls); quail; risotto with Arctic char; split pea and house-made boar sausage soup. Pasta Night was, indeed, special. The large ravioli squares were stuffed with meaty lamb shank and tossed in a creamy mushroom sauce. The flourish of herbs on top, and even a speck or two of yellow flowers, gave it the special touch we've come to expect from Koval and his crew. The rolls were divine; more so when you spread on some of the compound herb or honey butter. The quail is one of the restaurant's calling cards; it remains impressive as a takeout dish. The risotto is among the restaurant's bestsellers during takeout-only times. It, too, traveled well. Sitting atop the bed of creamy rice was a superbly fresh and flaky Arctic char filet. If you are going to order from the restaurant, be sure to include a quart of soup. You won't find a better, heartier, or more affordable ($14), split pea and boar sausage soup around — if you can find it at all.
Safety protocols: adhering to all COVID-19 safety protocols; no more than three guests permitted inside B-Side at a time; social distancing maintained with red-tape markers; doors are propped open for contact-free entry and exit; order and prepay online, or via phone; curbside pickup available
Address, phone: 155 Sycamore St., Decatur, 404-748-4617Hours: B-Side: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; Deer and the Dove: 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
Website: deerdove.com, deerdove.com/b-side.
Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition
Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.