Like most towns, Burbank, California virtually shut down for almost a year during the Covid-19 pandemic. After an outing last night to popular Burbank restaurant, Granville, I am positive that the city's night life is back in full force.
I headed out last night, armed with hand sanitizer and a mask, around eight o'clock to meet a friend for dinner. I had no idea what to expect. I had not been out to dinner since before March of 2020 and I wasn't sure what to expect. After I parked my car in one of the (free!) Burbank parking lots in its adorable downtown area, I realized that everyone else was feeling brave to head out and about as well.
When I approached Granville, I saw my friend and about fifteen other patrons standing in front of an outdoor hostess podium. (Granville doesn't take reservations ahead of time.) We waited and watched folks strolling down San Fernando boulevard, hand in hand, enjoying the cool night air. It felt…almost…normal. We smiled with a new appreciation of the joy that is the energy of other humans.
After a pretty extended wait, we were ushered into the restaurant that was operating at, it seemed, about 50% capacity. Now, here's what's cool - Granville is now using virtual menus. You hold your phone in camera mode up to a code and a menu link pops up. I know that this is probably old school for most of you, but I was pleasantly surprised to see this whole no menu thing in action and super easy to do.
My dinner was lovely but not overwhelmingly amazing (Granville's food never has been - pre- or post-pandemic). But the rosemary on the sweet potato fries, Burbank's tartestly tasty homemade lemonade, and the company of a friend I hadn't seen in a while made up for my overcooked salmon and marginally flavorful side dishes.
Here's the thing - I didn't care that the food wasn't perfect. I was grateful. I was grateful to eat food that I hadn't prepared and I was grateful to be out and about. The server seemed extremely grateful as well - he was caring, attentive, and just plain made me feel good. A manager even popped by to apologize for the wait. Aaahhh, a little step toward a return to normalcy.
And maybe an even more efficient normalcy. After I finished sipping my double espresso, the server dropped our checks which offered us a chance to pay on our phones. No app download or preexisting app was needed. I looked at my buddy. Whaaaat?!? We decided to try it.
Again, we grabbed our phones, faced them toward the codes on the receipts, and voila. There were our itemized checks, an option to split them, and a prompt to enter our credit card numbers. We did. It was easy as pie. Wham bam. We didn't have to wait for a server to "run our cards" and bring them back to us. I waited a few tables in my college days and I realized - this little step alone meant that the servers could focus more on giving more attention to the other aspects of our experience. What a great idea.
Granville is a lovely lunch restaurant if you want to take a load off in Burbank. The food isn't life-changing, particularly for dinner. But what the restaurant lacked in tastiness, it made up for in making us feel cared for and in creating a safe and much more efficient environment.
As we walked out of the restaurant, we could hear someone singing with a guitar across the street. Lights were strung all around and people seemed to be smiling. I couldn't see their mouths, obviously, but I was pretty sure that Burbank had taken a big step toward life post-Covid. And maybe, just maybe, this pandemic might have spurned a few more innovations that will make the world afterward a little more efficient.