This isn’t how longtime Steinbeck’s Ale House chef Andy Gonzales expected to open the Companion this spring — amid a COVID-19 pandemic that shutdown Atlanta’s bars, and limited its restaurants to takeout only. But here it is, opening day for the northwest Atlanta bar and restaurant in Bolton, and Gonzales is trying his best to take it all in stride.
Until the restaurant can open for full-service in the dining room, Gonzales says the Companion offers takeout family meals in half and full portions. The opening day menu focuses on Southern comfort food, and includes fried chicken served with collards, mac and cheese, cornbread, a Brussels sprouts and kale Caesar salad, and smashed potatoes. Menus are posted nightly on the restaurant’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
Takeout is run from the garage door of the Companion’s patio. Hand sanitizer is available there, along with a remote credit card reader to limit contact between staff and those picking up their food.
While other restaurants are taking advantage of the city’s temporary COVID-19 ordinance allowing to-go sales of wine and beer, the last hearing to approve the Companion’s liquor license in mid-March has been postponed indefinitely.
Gonzales calls the Companion the sister bar to Decatur’s Steinbeck’s. He began converting the old Adams Hardware store on Marietta Road last summer into what he refers to as a “convivial bar with restaurant tendencies.”
The plan was (and still is) for the Companion to be an inclusive neighborhood hub, where residents and families gather to enjoy burgers and sandwiches, entrees, and soft serve ice cream. Once fully operational, the bar will eventually include 16 beers on tap, craft cocktails, frozen drinks, and wines by the glass
“We have almost no staff. I had a sous chef sign on early, because his notice for his previous job was cancelled due to labor savings in the face of the pandemic,” Gonzales tells Eater Atlanta. “For the most part, the people you see running the show [at the Companion] are partners.”
The chef and his small staff are taking every precaution to keep themselves and diners safe. All employees are required to have their temperature taken upon arrival. Anyone running a fever or presenting cold or flu-like symptoms is immediately sent home. Frequent hand-washing and gloves are mandatory, and surfaces are constantly sanitized throughout the day. Beyond the use of a thermometer, the latter safety precautions are typical requirements for commercial kitchens, regardless of a viral outbreak.
“We have had a few setbacks [opening the Companion] and some things that turned out to be poor timing, but were really no one’s fault,” say Gonzales of the extraordinary circumstances of opening a restaurant during a global pandemic.
For now, Gonzales plans to take operating the Companion day by day. He asks people to follow the restaurant’s social media pages for daily updates to the menu and hours.
“We will work and do our best to take care of the people who rely on us. That’s the people who work for us, and the people we hope to serve.”
316 Marietta Road NW, Atlanta.
*Please practice safe and respectful social distancing measures via CDC guidelines by maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people, not gathering in groups, and not sitting on restaurant patios to eat. Stay home if sick.
NOTE: The novel coronavirus situation in Georgia is fluid and ongoing. Follow Eater Atlanta for continuing coverage on COVID-19’s impact on Atlanta’s restaurant industry. Additional stories are forthcoming.
Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and twice-daily updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.