Eating in your car in a parking lot likely conjures up images of burgers, fries and malted milkshakes, but one St. Louis restaurant is turning the concept of carhop food on its head.
Bulrush, the Ozark-centric restaurant from chef-owner Rob Connoley, is now offering a version of his tasting menu for drive-up service. This is in addition to restaurant offering its menu for pickup and delivery.
Currently, there are nine slots available every Saturday night for diners to enjoy Connoley's tasting menu in the comfort of their own vehicles. This serves multiple purposes, Connoley says. For one, because they are in their own space, diners are more inclined to be relaxed amid the anxieties of the pandemic. Interaction is also limited between staff and diners to keep everyone safer. And to top it off, as opposed to pickup or delivery, the dishes are coming straight from the kitchen to diners' plates.
Connoley says that, after a COVID-19 scare that came from two infected persons dining at the same restaurant as him, it became clear that continuing Bulrush's dine-in operations was still too risky of a move for everyone involved.
"I just feel like we shouldn't be dining in anymore," Connoley says. "It's just not safe, because regardless of what we do, there are people who are not taking this seriously and are putting us and other guests at risk."
And although Bulrush experimented with different menus during the pandemic, including a finish-at-home family meal, Connoley and his team weren't getting excited by the offerings. The innovation of a drive-in tasting menu brought some of that passion back to their cooking.
"It allowed us to do the food that we enjoy doing," he says.
The five-course tasting menu is brought out dish by dish, accompanied by a QR code. Diners can scan the QR code to watch a video of Connoley himself explaining the dish they are eating and telling the stories behind it. For those who want to see the behind-the-scenes of their meal, the Bulrush kitchen is broadcast via Zoom, and diners can tune in to watch the team make and plate their dinners. Starting this weekend, a Spotify playlist of what music would usually be playing in the restaurant will also be available to drive-up diners. All of these are efforts to recreate the interaction you get from a dining experience without any of the new risks.
"It's just trying to create a new plan A in a world that none of us would choose to have, but in a way that really excites me and the staff and keeps everyone safe," Connoley says.
Bulrush, 3307 Washington Ave., Grand Center, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.449.1208, bulrushstl.com