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By Randy Youngman
Saturday was my wife Cathy’s birthday, so we celebrated with a night on the town in San Clemente. OK, to be accurate, it was an hour on the town.
Because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we had canceled our planned trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico weeks ago. And as those in an age group that has been designated as particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, we have been staying at home in San Clemente ever since our governor made that safety-first recommendation more than a week ago.
But I made an exception on Saturday to try to make it a special day for my better half. I ventured downtown to take advantage of curbside restaurant service being offered by Brick and other local eateries still providing take-out and delivery in accordance with local restrictions.
It turned out to be a wonderful and seamless process, as well as a good way to support local business during this time of crisis.
At 3:30 p.m., when Brick opened that day, I called the restaurant to place our order from the special delivery and take-out menu posted on its website (brickrestaurantgroup.com).
An hour later, I took the scenic route, as I call it, to drive downtown, passing the most people enjoying a walk I had ever seen in the area, as well as numerous bicyclists getting exercise and fresh air. All were practicing social distancing guidelines, except for couples walking together.
Upon arriving at the restaurant on North. El Camino Real, there was parking on the street in front of the entrance marked by orange- and white-striped construction sawhorses emblazoned with a city emblem and this description: “City of San Clemente Official Notice: 10 Minute Parking Only. This parking space is designated for take-out and food services only.”
As directed to do while placing the order, I called the restaurant when I pulled up in front and identified myself. Moments later, Samantha came out with a credit card slip to sign—as always, I brought my own pen and hand sanitizer—and popped my trunk so she could load our dinner containers.
After I thanked her, Samantha smiled and said, “Thank you for your support. We really appreciate it.”
And we appreciate local restaurants for staying open during this public health crisis.
On the drive home, I encountered a group of eight young individuals in beach attire leaving Poche Beach together and crossing PCH at Camino Capistrano. Regrettably, they weren’t practicing social distancing. They were laughing and seemed not to have a care in the world. I was also surprised to see the parking lot at Shorecliffs Golf Club was full. (As of Wednesday morning, March 25, the course was still open for play, “with safeguards in place to protect customers and staff,” according to the voice recording greeting phone calls.)
Back at home, we plated the Brick specialties and opened a bottle of our best red wine from France. The appetizers (squash blossoms and prosciutto-wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with sausage) and entrees (Brick Meatballs and rigatoni, plus Buttermilk-Fried Mary’s Half Chicken) were outstanding. And the Molten Lava Chocolate Cake—I added and lit the candle—was worth every calorie.
It wasn’t Santa Fe, but it was the next-best thing: “a night on the town” to celebrate my wife’s birthday in San Clemente, our incomparable Spanish Village by the Sea.
Randy Youngman currently is a copy editor for Picket Fence Media and a freelance writer for several publications. He has worked in the newspaper, magazine and TV industries for more than 40 years, including 28 years at the Orange County Register.