Summer is the time for celebrations, right? Whether graduations, weddings and subsequent anniversaries, or just your average cookouts, gatherings are often what make the season memorable — but not in this strange pandemic year. Big parties are out. That Fourth of July parade is canceled. In many cases, people won’t even be able to go see Dad for Father’s Day. Though shelter-in-place rules have loosened for now and social-distancing recommendations are in flux, it’s clear that the safest choice is to keep your distance with low- to no-contact events.
So, how do you make a Zoom summer birthday party or a distanced barbecue feel festive but also keep your friends, family, and self as safe as possible? Eating and drinking together virtually or at a safe distance — with food you didn’t have to cook yourself. We’ve got you covered with ideas for takeout and curbside pickup that can fit any fête. Order just for your household bubble, or if you want to go big, place a big order and drop it off, appropriately distanced, at the homes or friends or family, so that you’re all eating together even if you have to be apart.
Note: Restaurant policies, hours, and offerings are also changing frequently, so call ahead or check websites and be prepared to be flexible and patient. (May we also suggest tipping as generously as you’re able to help support a strained industry and its strapped workers?) A great new resource aggregating restaurants that are currently open is available at www.thecapitaleatslocal.com, which has a corresponding, very active Facebook group.
Summer birthday party or weekend backyard hang
Burgers! When former Mother and Empress Tavern owners Mike and Lisa Thiemann opened Jim’s Good Food just weeks before shelter-in-place orders stopped everything, the ultra-simple cheeseburger — griddled Wagyu beef, American cheese, and a bun brushed with garlic butter — instantly vaulted to the ranks of the best burgers in town. Now that meaty burger is available by for scheduled pickups, delivered to your car by masked workers, at their Wiener Burger Drive-Thru pop-up Thursday through Saturday. Other fun and easygoing menu options include milkshakes, airline bottles of booze, crinkle fries, vegetarian options like “squacos” (squash tacos), and, best of all, birthday cake that comes complete with a candle whether it’s your birthday or not. 1420 16th St. www.jims.restaurant
What do students (or recently former students) love? Pizza. Treat a grad to what might just be the best in town with the beautifully crafted, wood-fired pies from Masullo, which is open Tuesday through Sunday and has both its naturally leavened crust and takeout game dialed. We love the straightforward pepperoni-laced American; the refined Jacqueline with potatoes, bacon and fontina; and all the topping options in between, not to mention excellent salads, ice cream sandwiches, and special prices on wine and beer for carryout. 2711 Riverside Blvd., 916-443-8929. masullopizza.com
Ice Cream Not-So-Social
Missing that end-of-the-school year tradition of taking the kids out for ice cream on the last day? Us too. Hit up West Sacramento’s Devil May Care Wednesday through Sunday for order-ahead curbside pickup on pints in rotating flavors like crunchy salted peanut butter or malty cookies and cream. Sugar cones, cups, and spoons are on offer too. Another great option is the ever-popular Gunther’s Ice Cream, which has launched online ordering and curbside pickup. If you want to feel like the most popular kid in school, order a bunch of ice cream, bring an ice chest, and drop off pints at friends’ houses while blasting Alice Cooper. You know the song: School’s out for summer (but we hope not forever). Devil May Care: 322 3rd St., West Sacramento, 916-572-0456. devilmaycareicecream.com. Gunther’s: 2801 Franklin Blvd., 916-457-6646, gunthersicecream.com
Father’s Day or River Picnic
Barbecue and beer are pretty likely to make Dad’s day or enhance any safely distanced outings. Urban Roots (open Tuesday through Sunday for takeout as of this writing) offers both, with online ordering and easy pickup. Grab cans or a growler of their many house beers and some smoky ribs, pulled pork, turkey, or salmon, plus sides like collard greens, slaw, and fries. Alternate choice: The oak-smoked Texas-style brisket at Post Oak Barbecue might be unmatched in town (and don’t miss the burnt ends or the pinto beans enriched with chopped brisket), but you’ll want to order way ahead, as it sells out fast. Check the website for updates and available ordering windows. Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse: 1322 V St., urbanrootsbrewing.com; Post Oak Barbecue: 3200 Fulton Ave., 916-483-2090, www.postoakbbqsac.com
Yesteryear’s June weddings mean 2020’s June anniversary date night dilemmas. While you may not be ready to venture out for a sit-down restaurant meal, plenty of upscale places have you covered with multicourse meals to go. East Sacramento’s Allora, specializing in Italian seafood and owned by husband-and-wife team chef Deneb Williams and sommelier Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou, might be the perfect choice. Offering takeout Tuesday through Saturday, Allora has family-style menus for two or four; yeah, we know you might have to share your anniversary dinner with your kids this year. If you ask nicely, the kids might be willing to fix up a home restaurant and home plate such soignee options as grilled peach gazpacho with pickled bay shrimp or frutti di mare risotto. There’s a deep and carefully crafted wine list, but may we suggest kicking off your celebration with the High Thymes cocktail for two? (You might also pick up a take-and-bake lasagna family meal to ease the long week of cooking ahead while you’re there.) 5215 Folsom Blvd, 916-538-6434. allorasacramento.com
Fourth of July
Who knows what the dining or celebrating landscape will look like by Independence Day? One thing is for sure: if you have an all-American, all-butter-crust, ready-to-bake pie in your freezer it will feel like a holiday. Real Pie Company is doing preorder bake sales on occasional Saturdays with both fresh and frozen pies to pick up, including savory and hand pies as well as desserts. Flavor offerings change, but recent stalwarts have been Pink Lady and Granny Smith streusel apple pie and jumbleberry with blueberries, cherries and raspberrie s— both appropriately patriotic choices. Quantity is limited, and the next bake sale will be June 20; to get notified, sign up for the bakery’s newsletter on its website. Need some ice cream to go on that pie? We’ve got you covered above. 2425 24th St., 916-838-4007. realpiecompany.com