The Food Guy: Restaurants gear up for gradual reopening

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Could it be?

After finding ourselves in a long, dark tunnel since all West Virginia restaurants and bars were closed six weeks ago, the governor this week announced that restaurants across the state can start the gradual reopening process as early as next week.

That is, if COVID-19 cases stay at or below current levels and only with special guidelines in place to help ensure the safety of restaurant workers and customers alike.

As part of Gov. Jim Justice’s “West Virginia Strong: The Comeback” plan, restaurants could reopen outdoor dining areas next week, unless there is a spike in new virus cases.

Then, the week after next, restaurants could reopen indoor dining areas under restrictions that would likely include limiting indoor capacity to 50% or less, allowing no more than four or so diners at one table, making sure servers and cooks wear masks and gloves, and only using disposable menus, utensils and canned drinks.

I’ll take it.

I know we all have to take very cautious, very slow, very small steps on the road back to recovery, but it sure is exciting to see a possible light at the end of this very long, very dark tunnel.

Can I get an amen?

•••

After last week’s discussion about the surprising lack of takeout-friendly Chinese restaurants remaining open during this pandemic, there were some welcome developments on that front.

Kanawha City’s popular Chin’s Restaurant has announced it will reopen Friday offering takeout only during new temporary hours, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Food must be ordered in advance (no walk-in orders will be taken) and credit card payments are requested to limit contact.

Chin’s is located 4114 MacCorkle Ave. SE in Kanawha City. For more information, call 304-925-1080.

•••

Pinch reader Carol Marsh also tipped me off to another Chinese option I didn’t know about.

“I too was shocked that Chinese restaurants had closed since, like you said, they are mainly takeout anyway,” she wrote. “I guess they take this pandemic extremely seriously, as we all should.”

She said her teenage granddaughter absolutely loves Elkview Chinese — a place I’d never heard of — and that she tried to order dinner there two weeks ago, to no avail.

“But I called again the next day and their recording said they were opening back up that Wednesday, so I guess I’ll be ordering again by the weekend! Our favorites are the Sweet & Sour Chicken [enough for three people], Pork Fried Rice, Lo Mein and the Crab Rangoons!”

Sure enough, Elkview Chinese opened back up last Wednesday and I’ve since had a few other readers sing their praises.

Elkview Chinese is located at 5113 Elk River Road North, near Elkview Middle School next to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. For more information, call 304-965-3800.

•••

Speaking of Asian food, Sushi Garden was also planning to open a new location in Cross Lanes, adding to those at Capitol Market and Riverwalk Plaza. Those plans now may be delayed or changed given the coronavirus curveball we’re facing.

On the topic of other restaurant openings, the West Side’s popular Gonzoburger and Mi Cocina de Amor resumed takeout and delivery last week, while Kanawha City’s Baskin-Robbins started scooping ice cream again on Friday.

•••

Finally, this week’s takeout spotlight shines on Kita Modern Japanese, a new restaurant at Southridge Center I praised just weeks before all restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms for indoor service.

Kita was just starting to pick up steam, so the timing couldn’t have been worse. Still, they’ve been hustling to offer takeout and were fairly busy when we stopped by Friday night to satisfy our sushi fix.

We sampled pillowy bao buns stuffed with braised brisket and a sweet-and-savory slaw, plus tangy glazed short ribs with kimchi, before diving into four different types of sushi.

Our choices ranged from a simple shrimp tempura roll and Kita’s popular “BFF” with tuna, avocado, scallion, tempura and salmon, to the “Black and Yellow” with salmon, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese, mango and eel, and a “Tempura Bagel” roll with salmon, cream cheese and avocado fried inside a tempura shell.

That tempura shell “steamed” in its takeout container to become a little soggy by the time we got home, but the remaining rolls were all hits with the family.

Kita Modern Japanese is located at 2815 Mountaineer Blvd., across from Panera Bread. For more information, call 304-205-5200.

Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WV Food Guy.” He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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Bias, Mary - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Bsharah, Mary - 11 a.m., St. George Orthodox Cathedral.

Burkhart, Charlotte - 11 a.m., Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens, Glasgow.

Cain, Dennis - 1 p.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation, Grantsville.

Holcomb, William - 10 a.m., Sunset Cemetery, Bickmore.

King, Ruth - 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home, Nitro.

McLeod, Julius - 3 p.m., streaming live, see obituary.

Null,  Virginia -11 a.m., Haven of Rest Memorial Gardens, Red House.

Parsons, Olivia - 5 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Pauley, William - 2 p.m., Kelly's Creek Community Church, Sissonville.

Surratt, Carol - 11 a.m.,  Tyler Mountain Funeral Home, Cross Lanes.

Webb, Betty - 3 p.m., Loudendale Freewill Baptist Church.