There’s no denying that many of our city’s restaurants are feeling the effects of the current economic downturn; fewer people working downtown – indeed, fewer people working altogether, and so looking to save money by eating out less means many bricks and mortarrestaurants are having to get creative with ways to fully utilise their kitchens and staff.

High rents exacerbate the situation, so it’s time for Calgary restaurateurs to think outside the box and, proving to be the innovative entrepreneurs that we’re known for, many are diversifying their offerings to include take-out options, both raw and cooked.

Catch & The Oyster Bar launched their “Buy Catch” program, where you can pick up fresh Ocean Wise seafood to take home and cook (complete with recipes), along with house-made clam chowder and sauces, nearly two years ago. There are big savings to be had over dining in, with no costs for linen or staff, and no expectation to tip.

Here are four Calgary eateries also getting clever with take-out programs that are not widely publicised – and may open a few eyes!

Story by Linda Garson and Diana Ng                                   Photography by Ingrid Kuenzel 

Centini Restaurant

It’s not a cookie cutter program, but the magic of Centini’s take-out is that you can ask the kitchen for ideas of what you should have for dinner. People even text the servers for suggestions, and to order! Loyal customers, mostly busy businessmen, were asking if they catered, but without the staff for such a service, Centini started offering to prepare dishes for them to cook themselves. 

Now you can get your favourite restaurant dishes (from rack of lamb with red wine demi-glace, AAA Alberta beef tenderloin with Gorgonzola pan sauce, and sea bass with ginger cream sauce) ready to cook at home.

“We’re not going to open a bricks and mortar restaurant down south, but our food is going there,” says Chevonne Centini. She said they’re seeing pick-ups for people at home with a new baby, and even 40 people for a funeral.

People take home uncooked homemade pasta with sauce separately – and sometimes bread doug – then freeze to cook later, or pick up on a Friday evening so everything is prepared for Saturday dinner. When buying from a restaurant, you’re getting top quality, perfectly trimmed meat; everything is done for you – there’s no shopping around, and even the parsley is chopped. And as everything is custom-made, all allergies are catered for too.

Centini gets fish delivered once or twice every day, and it may come as a surprise, but with a chef garde manger that spent 15 years in Japan, they have customers coming just to take out sushi!

Located at: 160 8 Avenue SE, Calgary

Boxwood

It’s hard to believe that the quality of food coming from the sister restaurant to River Cafe can be had at home, and we are not talking about leftovers. When you go home to an empty fridge, it feels like the only options you have are fast food or pizza. Not so. 

Boxwood’s fresh and seasonal fare is also available to take home. While you won’t be able to enjoy the quaint atmosphere of the restaurant, you can order anything on the menu for take out, with its special offering of a whole rotisserie free-range chicken, which serves two to four people for $40.

You will need to call a few hours ahead (the website states before 2:00 p.m.) to give notice for the chicken, but the rest of the selection – like soups and sandwiches – you can simply look up the menu online and call to place an order. For a perfect night in, may we suggest starting with its bison tartare, then moving onto the porchetta, and another main before finishing off the meal with a slice of pie?

Located at: 340 13 Avenue SW, Calgary

Safari Grill

The marinated, thinly sliced BBQ short beef ribs at Safari Grill are already a must-have for those in the know, but we suspect even regulars will be surprised to discover that you can pick up uncooked ribs, with your choice of seven marinades, to take home and BBQ yourself. 

With none of the associated costs of dining in, $65 buys you enough ribs for 10 people, and customers actually drive from Saskatchewan to take away 10-15 lb bags of these uncooked, marinated ribs. Some people call and ask for them to be marinated and frozen in 5 lb bags to enjoy later, as just five to seven minutes on each side with a high flame has the raw ribs ready to eat.

And it’s not only ribs that people BBQ at home. Mishkaki are skewers of marinated chicken, beef and prawns, and for as little as $3 each, you can have a very inexpensive BBQ feast. Marinated raw lamb chops are also available or ask for Samaki – a marinated whole tilapia that comes with a basting sauce to brush on. You can even get uncooked samosas to cook at home.

All Safari Grill’s regular menu can be ordered for take-out, but there is no published price list for uncooked dishes, so people call to order and ask. When you’re picking up, look out for the new jars of house-made mango and lemon pickles!

Located at: 255 28 Street SE, Calgary

Gaucho

For most people, the elaborate setup of Brazilian barbecue is one of its biggest attractions. You may not know this, but while you may not be able to take home the lively decor of Gaucho, you can take the meal home. 

The spit packed tightly with freshly roasted meats, the sign at the table signals you’re ready for more, and the roasted and caramelized pineapple that tops off the meal all contribute to the atmosphere. But if all you want are the meats and sides for a hefty dinner, you can certainly order the meal as a take-out.

Order any of the four options (top sirloin, pork loin, chicken wings or mild sausage) and add three sides from the list of eight, which includes a variety of salads, black bean stew and rice. And because you can’t just have one kind of meat when it comes to Brazilian barbecue, you can choose additional meats for $4 each.

Finally, choose the sauce you’d like to accompany your meal. Orders for over five people will come in a big white box, and individual orders come will in regular take-out containers. For big parties, do call a few hours ahead. All you need to make at home is the caipirinha.

Located at: 5920 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary

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