Another day, another challenge. That’s how Nancy Goodrich and her husband, Colman Goodrich, approach the running of Southern Bistro, their Sandy Springs restaurant, during this current public health crisis.
“I’ve been here 15 years, and it’s been a challenge the whole time. It’s just another hurdle for me,” Goodrich said. They navigated their eatery through the recession, and rebranded it a few years ago. “In the restaurant business, you never know what’s going to happen from day to day. Every day … the challenges are there. They are always going to be there.”
Goodrich started in the food service industry when she was 16. “It’s all I’ve ever done my whole life,” she said.
Southern Bistro’s down-home Southern comfort fare was a hit with the neighborhoods near the Fountain Oaks shopping center on Roswell Road prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. “Last year was the best we ever had,” she said.
The restaurant’s financial health is the reason Southern Bistro was able to keep its 24 employees on staff when dine-in service ceased, and it switched to a takeout-only model in March. After six weeks of takeout service, Goodrich said, their team is getting pretty good at it.
Like other metro Atlanta restaurants, they also have been offering items that range from paper goods to fresh chicken and fish. “Anything we have in the restaurant, we sell,” she said.
About three years ago, they began offering family meals to go, which were popular enough to stay on the menu. During the pandemic, those meals — a three-meat meatloaf, roasted whole chicken, chicken marsala — have remained popular. Priced between $49.50 and $70, they feed up to six people and include an entree, green salad, biscuits and, often, a side dish or two.
When Gov. Brian Kemp allowed Georgia restaurants to reopen for dine-in service, with restrictions, Southern Bistro was among the few metro Atlanta restaurants to do so, but they took a measured approach, opening only the patio. “We wanted to give the option to people that wanted to come out,” she said.
The state guidelines require all employees to wear masks, and limit the number of customers in the restaurant and per table. In adherence with the guidelines, the Southern Bistro patio can accommodate up to 28 people at one time. Tables have been spaced to enable social distancing, and the restaurant is permitting only four diners per table. A sheet that outlines patio policies is placed at each table.
After guests leave, their table is sanitized, including salt and pepper shakers. The staff is reminded of the guidelines at the start of every shift, and guidelines are posted where employees can refer to them.
Southern Bistro will adhere to the guidelines until told otherwise. “The guidelines are going to be the same — until they change again,” Goodrich said.
Since the reopening for on-premises dining, traffic at Southern Bistro has been slow. The first few nights, only two tables were occupied. Late Wednesday afternoon, three tables were occupied. “There’s still a lot of people that are not coming out,” Goodrich said.
As for the lasting impact of the pandemic, “It’s going to be a whole new dining experience,” she said. “It’s going to change the restaurant industry.”
In the meantime, she said, they’ll just forge ahead, like always. “We’ll just have to get through it.”
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Menu: condensed lunch and dinner menus; family-style to-go dinners, including special Mother’s Day menu for four to six people (choose between Lowcountry boil, salmon, chicken and waffles, or pot roast for entree, plus salad, biscuits and bottle of wine)What’s new: general store grab-and-go (prepared foods, locally made breads, dry goods, raw proteins, dairy, beverages, toilet paper, latex gloves)Alcohol: beer and wine
What I ordered: spring onion soup; salmon BLT; blackened fish tacos; North Georgia rainbow trout; three-meat meatloaf. The soup was a satisfying French onion; oodles of onion slivers were deeply caramelized from low, slow cooking. The salmon BLT was piled with a healthy heap of arugula, but I would have preferred more salmon. The fish tacos on flour tortillas were our favorite, with lots of good crunch from the pickled cabbage; the pico added a comfortable level of heat. An order nets two tacos. Sandwiches and tacos both come with sides. We wolfed down the sweet potato fries; order slaw if you like yours extra creamy. The rainbow trout was an entire fish, the fillets separated. The trout and meatloaf both were full dinners. The former was rounded out with blistered red potatoes and green beans — basic, but solidly executed. The meatloaf was the hungry man’s pick: a couple of (not dry) slices with a side of red wine gravy, whipped potatoes, and collards on the sweet side. I was impressed with the packaging. Every entree and sandwich was nestled snugly within the container, to keep items from sliding around. There was no spillage of the soup, dressing or sauces.
Service options: order via phone; pickup only; call upon arrival for no-contact curbside
Safety protocols: follows standard safety protocols; prepay via phone for no-contact curbside takeout; staff wears masks and gloves
Address, phone: 4920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-705-8444
Hours: noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. Sundays
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