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We are all feeling “whelmed,” an apt new term coined by B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry.

None more than restaurant owners as they scramble – yet again – to get food out the door while adjusting to the constantly shifting matrix of new health measures, restrictions, weather patterns and consumer tastes.

Weariness tinged with long-haul panic is the sound I’ve been hearing in most of their voices, as they race to open patios while often laying off staff and devising new menus.

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This time last year, many restaurants found success with high-end, multicourse takeout dinners. The appetite for such extravagance has waned. Now, it’s all about comfort food. Restaurants are largely pivoting to familiar, value-conscious fare that is suitable for dinner on the sofa and picnics in the park.

Well, we did have a glorious stretch of picnic weather in Vancouver until Mother Nature had a change of heart.

The restaurants will no doubt adjust, as they’ve been doing all along.

Douce Diner

The Douce Coop Dinner from Douce Diner, which includes fried chicken, shoestring fries, buttermilk biscuits, coleslaw, potato salad, gravy, zucchini pickles and hot sauce, in North Vancouver, on April 16, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

  • 1490 Pemberton Ave., North Vancouver
  • 604-980-2510
  • doucediner.com
  • Patio and pickup, Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Chicken dinner, Thursday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (online ordering opens at 3 p.m.)
  • Delivery (coming soon through doordash.com)

Prepare to be amazed. Douce Diner makes the crispiest, tastiest, most travel-friendly fried chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of wolfing down. And wolf it, you will.

More than an hour after being picked up, the thick, golden, deeply creviced batter still crackled and crunched, giving way to moist meat and a gush of warm juice.

The secret, says chef-owner Dawn Doucette, is a 24-hour buttermilk brine, a double-seasoned flour batter and fryers set at different temperatures for thighs, drumsticks, wings and breasts – a time-tested method borrowed from Thomas Keller.

The picnic-perfect chicken, available Thursday to Saturday nights, comes in generous family packs (in various sizes, starting at $22) with fluffy buttermilk biscuits, tangy slaw, creamy potato salad, hot sauce and pickles. Skip the shoestring fries; they are best eaten straight out of the kitchen.

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Ms. Doucette first began offering the Douce Coop takeout when the pandemic hit last spring and her daytime breakfast diner shut down. She stopped when restaurants reopened, but then brought them back a few weeks ago when the new indoor restrictions were announced.

I missed this chicken immensely and am selfishly glad it’s available again.

St. Lawrence

Tarte au Citron with Grand Marnier flambé at St. Lawrence restaurant on July 1, 2020.

Jackie Dives/The Globe and Mail

  • 269 Powell St., Vancouver
  • 604-620-3800
  • stlawrencerestaurant.com
  • Rotisserie chicken, Wednesday and Thursday; three-course dinner, Friday and Saturday, from 5 p.m.
  • Prepaid pickup, order at exploretock.com

The original plan for spring was a series of regional French dinners that transported guests to the countryside of Lyon, Burgundy and Provence. But after extending Lyon, pivoting entirely to takeout and laying off 20 staff members, chef-owner J.C. Poirier just “didn’t have the heart” to continue the fanciful tour de France.

Last week, he shifted to a weekday rotisserie chicken dinner, inspired by Quebec’s beloved St-Hubert restaurant chain. It’s a great deal at $30 for a half chicken with fries, rolls and coleslaw. The organic chicken, rubbed with St. Lawrence’s new spice mixes, is crispy-skinned, succulent and flavourful.

Beginning next week, he will be offering a new three-course pre-fixe ($49 a person) on Fridays and Saturdays with lighter, farm-fresh flavours than the classic cuisine usually served in the restaurant.

There will be leek tartine with spring greens, braised lamb shoulder with mustard greens and young turnips and rhubarb financiers. And, on Saturdays only, whole venison tourtière and sugar pies.

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Burdock & Co.

A leek terrine prepared by chef Andrea Carlson at Burdock & Co. restaurant in Vancouver.

The Globe and Mail

  • 2702 Main St.
  • 604-879-0077
  • burdockandco.com
  • Patio (opening soon)
  • Wednesday dinner to-go, from 5 p.m.; Sunday pop-ups and burgers, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Prepaid pickup, order at exploretock.com

While waiting out a scheduled patio renovation, chef-owner Andrea Carlson is letting her kitchen staff take the reins for the new Sunday afternoon pop-ups that feature nostalgic comfort foods from around the world.

First, it was a Peruvian grill with beef hearts on skewers and chilled mussels on the half shell. Then, Korean fried chicken. Next week is Hong Kong sandwiches, followed by Japanese tonkatsu cutlets. And eventually, Burdock & Co. will reprise its famous dry-aged beef burgers.

The restaurant will continue offering its weekly changing Wednesday night meal to-go and excellent CSA harvest bags, which don’t require a subscription and come stuffed to the brim with the freshest organic greens and veggies from a variety of small farms.

“The pop-ups get our staff involved and bring in a small amount of revenue, but it is better than nothing,” says Ms. Carlson, who hopes her newly lush, outdoor oasis will be open mid-May. “We’ve run out of money so fast, especially the second time around. It’s shocking.”

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill

Apple wood smoked white king salmon with horse-radish and creme fraiche wows at Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill in Vancouver.

The Globe and Mail

  • 1133 Hamilton St.
  • 604-688-7466
  • cioppinosyaletown.com
  • Patio (opening soon)
  • Takeout Tuesday to Saturday
  • Pickup from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Daily menu: IG @cioppinosyaletown
  • Call to order after 11 a.m.

“Everyone wants lasagna!” says chef-owner Pino Posteraro, who shifted from fine dining to family-style takeout as a way of cleaning out his fridges.

With the way things are going, he plans to continue takeout through the summer, in addition to opening for lunch as soon as his patio renovation is finished in a couple of weeks.

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His daily changing takeout is a simple system with a limited number of dishes and no online ordering platform. Customers can find out what he’s cooking that day by checking his Instagram account. He begins taking orders by phone at 11 a.m. It’s first-come, first-serve, there are no substitutions and pickup is staggered throughout the afternoon.

Regular items include trays of luscious ravioli ($35) and large lasagnas ($50).

But the dish to keep your eyes peeled for is the full leg of spit-roasted lamb ($120). It comes with potatoes, vegetables, a crackling crust and jus on the side. It reheats well in the oven and could easily feed a family of six.

This is premium Te Mana lamb, the pasture-raised wagyu of New Zealand, cooked the way it is meant to be and worth every penny.

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