The responsibility that restaurant owners bear in ensuring the safety of their employees and guests is not new, but they have felt it more acutely since COVID-19 came to town.
Noble Fin owner Cliff Bramble, a 40-year hospitality veteran, recounted how alarm bells rang in his mind in mid-March when he got a phone call from a customer who recently had eaten at his Peachtree Corners restaurant.
“He said, ‘I need to let you know that I believe I have coronavirus and was in your restaurant two nights ago. I went to the doctor, had the test and will call you back as soon as I get (the test results).”
After hanging up, Bramble shared the news with the server who had waited on the customer’s party of 10. The server replied, “I don’t want to get sick.”
Over several days, Bramble weighed the public health risk in keeping the business open. His restaurant is located near hotels, and it sees a lot of international businesspeople. “If one gets sick, they all get sick,” he reasoned about the potential of his employees contracting the deadly virus. Bramble held a staff meeting the following Monday to inform the team that he would be shutting down for two weeks. He put 35 of his employees on temporary unemployment.
Although Noble Fin has been closed to dine-in service since mid-March, it is open for takeout. Six days a week, a skeleton staff — Executive Chef Evan Rope, a manager and another employee — joins Bramble in preparing food, filling to-go orders and setting them out for contact-free pickup.
Besides a limited a la carte menu and two- and four-person family-style dinners, he is able to offer alcohol, including spirits. Last week, he launched an online marketplace, selling fresh food as well as paper products and disinfecting products.
“Yesterday, the No. 1 seller was paper towels,” Bramble said Friday. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to go to the supermarket.”
Prior to the pandemic, Noble Fin specialized in offering guests an upscale sit-down-dining experience. Even though the restaurant switched to takeout-only, Bramble is trying to encourage his customers to re-create that experience at home. A sheet attached to every order offers tips, including using nice plates, arranging the food so that it looks pretty, using nice silverware and napkins, dimming the lights, eating in courses and playing music.
“You are now in charge of your own dining experience,” the sheet reads. “Make it as great as the food that you ordered to go, and take your time.”
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Menu: limited a la carte, as well as ready-to-eat family-style meals for two or four; special heat-and-eat Mother’s Day menu for two or four; also, online marketplace for perishable grocery items, paper products and cleaning items
Alcohol: beer, wine, spirits, cocktail kits and prepared cocktails
What I ordered: crab cake, quart of New England clam chowder, salmon dinner for two. I stuck to an order of fish and seafood, because that’s what I like most about Noble Fin. The crab cake with remoulade was delicious. It held up well to travel. There’s no filler; it’s pure crustacean meat. I thought the clam chowder could be held for the next day, but my clan scrambled to try it. There was maybe a cup left in the plastic quart by the time we cleaned up from dinner. The salmon dinner ($47 for two, $92 for four) includes either two or four 6-ounce salmon fillets, seared asparagus, an Italian salad, and a mini dessert. The fillets were cooked to medium. When I saw the mega-sized asparagus spears, I was worried they would be woody and stringy, but they were absolutely fork tender — from end to end. The salad was a huge tray of greens and garden goodies, with a tangy Italian vinaigrette. The dessert was left out, but what made up for the omission was a zip-top bag of focaccia dough that came with baking instructions. We popped it into the oven and enjoyed it with dinner.
Service options: no-contact curbside pickup; order via website; call upon arrival and order will be placed at the entrance. Patrons cannot enter the building. Safety protocols: kitchen and staff adhering to COVID-19 health and safety precautions; no-contact curbside pickup; all payments taken prior to pickup
Address, phone: 5260 Peachtree Parkway, Peachtree Corners, 770-599-7979
Hours: order by noon for same-day pickup; pickup 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays
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