How One Healdsburg Restaurant is Mastering Socially-Distanced Dining

The owners of this local restaurant seem to have thought of everything when adjusting to our new reality.

We’re all craving visits to our favorite restaurants, without face masks and coronavirus concerns. But, until we enter the post-pandemic era, restaurant owners across the country are working hard to make our dining experience as enjoyable and safe as possible. While we are impressed with the incredible efforts all of our local restaurants continue to make, we particularly enjoyed a recent lunch outing at Barndiva.

The owners of this Healdsburg restaurant, known for its farm-to-fork fare, seem to have thought of everything when adjusting to our new reality.

Reservations for lunch and dinner are required. When you check-in alongside the building — this is the closest you’ll get to stepping inside the restaurant — your hands are spritzed with hand sanitizer. (On our visit, they used sanitizer made by local distilleries Sonoma Brothers Distilling and Sipsong Spirits).

Before you are shown to your table, there’s a temperature check of all diners in your party. This is just the first in a series of steps taken to keep diners and employees healthy.

Menus are printed on cardstock paper, but they’re disposable. A table number and phone number are clearly noted at the top; the Wi-Fi network and password can be found at the bottom. Gone are the days of waiting for the server to appear: all ordering is done via text from diners’ personal cellphones. Patrons can also call the number if they prefer to have a conversation. Communication with restaurant staff during our visit was swift, spirited, and seamless.

“I really just thought about how we could best use the technology we already have to mitigate the interactions between our employees and the general public,” said Lukka Feldman, co-founder and owner of Barndiva.

Perhaps a sign of the times, Feldman says only a handful of diners have arrived empty handed and had to run to their car or nearby hotel room to pick up their cellphone.

“I would say 90 percent of the feedback is overwhelmingly positive,” said Feldman. “Not just for right now, but many have said they prefer this style of service and would like to see this remaining after we are all allowed to roam around unmasked and get back to ‘normal’.”

After the meal, the credit card used to secure your reservation is automatically charged to cover your tab. A 19 percent service charge is added to all bills.

It’s minimal contact at Barndiva, but the exceptional quality of the food and setting remains. Vases still overflow with cut flowers from the Philo farm and, although I didn’t count, I think the trees in the garden now outnumber the tables. Aside from the servers and staff in gloves and masks, having lunch at Barndiva almost felt normal.