Nirvana Grille adapts its innovative co-op and expands takeout as doors open for dine-in

By DIANNE RUSSELL

It’s been three months since the stay-at-home order, when everything ground to a thudding halt, grocery store shelves emptied, and we experienced a strange uneasiness with regard to food shopping. 

However, it didn’t take long for Lindsay Smith-Rosales, Nirvana Grille’s owner (along with her husband Luis) and executive chef, to start those gears back up again and in a most innovative way. Practically overnight, her co-op and takeout service took shape and have been life-savers for many residents. Fortunately, it’s evolving and expanding.

Nirvana Grille Lindsay

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Nirvana Grille Owner and Executive Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales

With restaurant restrictions lifted, Nirvana Grille opened for dine-in both inside and out on the patio on May 28, with safety restrictions in place. Smith-Rosales has minimized the dining seating and placed distance between tables, added exterior patio dining, and is having guests access the menu through a QR code that can be changed at a moment’s notice. 

Smith-Rosales says, “It has been amazing to add and delete as needed – based on availability. We also have staff using iPads for the orders and a chip reader to pay so that the guest only touches their credit card with no need for pens, checkbooks, etc. This eliminated so much of the sanitation challenges we were looking at! 

Nirvana Grille scanner

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

QR scanners are used to access menu

“Dine-in has been great on the weekends. We are really enjoying being back to it and it is so great to have that revenue back!” Smith-Rosales adds. “We see that while adding lessor priced options, we can adapt to the more casual and fine dining model seamlessly and have a larger demographic audience because of it and not just be reliant on the festival and playgoers any longer as the bread and butter of business.” 

In previous articles I’ve sung the praises of Nirvana’s dine-in cuisine. It’s unbelievably creative and fresh – the tomato burrata salad, salmon, mushroom ravioli, tofu – pretty much everything I’ve ordered (or sampled from a friend’s plate) is extraordinary.

As good as the restaurant already is, Smith-Rosales is constantly updating the menu. “I did not do a rollout like past years but have not ruled it out. We are working on the upstairs with adding two new wooden gazebos and when that is done, maybe we will do a cool night of dinner to release with a tasting. Not sure. The nice thing is we get an R&D restaurant that people want to support while we find a model that works and they get a much-needed chance to get out!” 

Nirvana Grille co op

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Co-op

As for the co-op, Smith-Rosales says, “We are doing all we can to offer as much variety and make sure that the best products can be made available. Since our menus only are an example of the quality we can get, our customers are the direct benefactors of this access. It has been great to be able to share with them this service and convenience.”

Now I will sing the praises of the co-op and takeout, which remains a convenient, fast way to grab from a variety of produce, meat, seafood, pasta, sauces, and household items. We’ve ordered takeout twice, the first time stocking up on staples from the co-op, olive oil, etc., and ordering a couple of hot entrees – the vegetable risotto (my fav), the salmon, the mushroom ravioli, and a baguette. They all traveled well and were up to the same standards as dine-in. 

Nirvana Grille swordfish

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Frozen Australian Wild Swordfish from Nirvana Grille’s co-op – all cooked up

However, the new and surprising discovery was the frozen fish. We ordered a pound of Wild Australian Swordfish and stuck it in the freezer, unaware of what a fantastic treat it would be. A week later, we decided to defrost it (it comes in one piece, and once sliced, serves two with ample portions and some leftovers), pan-seared it, and then popped it into the oven for five minutes. Top it with a sauce of melted better, chives, garlic, and lemon juice. Beyond description. It’s so flavorful, it doesn’t need any accompaniment except for the light sauce – hold the tartar sauce! 

So enamored were we that we ordered five more pounds over the weekend to keep in the freezer.

Smith-Rosales has more creative ideas in the works for co-op and takeout. “We will do it until we feel the need no longer exists. Although it has decreased, we are thinking of ways to adapt and change to find out what people are looking for to continue to order.”

Nirvana Grille tables

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tables distanced for safety

“We are expanding with more family kits soon and entertaining size meals to-go and pulling a bit back on the grocery variety to be mainly the produce, dairy, meats, and seafood we carry plus in-house made options. We’re trying to focus on easy-to-make and bake options or hot pick-up ready-to-serve items to allow people entertain with ease at home for groups.”

How Smith-Rosales fits anything else into her schedule is a mystery, but she says, “I started doing catering in-home again too! We will be adding Zoom cooking demos twice month – on Wednesdays – starting next week, too, with delivery of groceries from us for class as an option.

“We will have guest chefs who are local and others who are colleagues cooking alongside. A nice way to get out of our restaurant, visit, chat, and let people be entertained. I may end up doing the demos every week if popular enough! We will be also providing all the items we will be cooking through the market side, so all is portioned and ready. We unpack and start cooking together and then dinner is ready by around 7 p.m. to eat. We have done a few and they were a blast.”

Nirvana Grille exterior

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Nirvana Grille 

“We still will do all the to-go as well daily from 3 to 9 p.m., excluding Mondays.”

For those who don’t want to cook on Father’s Day, here is your answer.

Smith-Rosales says, “We are back open starting this Sunday for to-go for Father’s Day. We will see as Sawdust does its pop-up if we continue to do dine-in service or add to-go service on Sundays but will close in-house dining on Wednesdays and only do to-go for now.”

There are all kinds of options to enjoy the fare at Nirvana Grille – dining in, cooking at home with a meal kit, picking up a ready-to-eat meal, or buying fixings from the co-op; in any case, you’ll be delighted.

Ordering couldn’t be easier – input it online, and then pick it up curbside.

Nirvana Grille is located at 303 Broadway, #101. 

For more information or to order for pick-up, go to www.nirvanagrille.com or call (949) 497-0027.