It's been a difficult month for paramount grill, and that's an understatement.
On March 6th, the restaurant's owner, Clif Nelson, passed away with esophageal cancer. And just a week ago, the fine-dining establishment at 12 SW 1st Ave. was ordered to close its dining room due to the threat of the coronavirus.
Paramount Grill remains open, however, but only as a take-out restaurant Nelson never intended it to be.
"We're definitely carrying on his model," said Ty Ford, Paramount Grill's head chef. "Nothing has changed as far as the menu is concerned."
Ford did say the loss of Nelson and the arrival of COVID-19 created a double whammy.
"It's a lot emotionally to handle in such a short time period," he said. "But it's out of our control. We just need to hunker down."
The good news is that customers can still order almost everything off Paramount Grill's full menu for take-out by calling 352.378.3398 or from 352delivery.com. (Full menus can be viewed at paramountgrill.com.) Lunch hours are Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner hours Tuesday through Sunday from 5-9 p.m. There's also a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
The bad news is that Paramount Grill has had to lay off most of its employees.
"These people have worked here for years and years," Ford said. "Everybody has had to make sacrifices." Switching to a take-out menu has led to at least one amusing moment. "On Tuesday night, one of our regulars brought their own Tupperware," he said. "They get something similar almost every Tuesday, so they knew exactly what they wanted. Everything fit exactly perfectly inside the containers!"
One customer who called Paramount Grill didn't understand why he could no longer eat inside the restaurant.
"He downplayed [the coronavirus] as 'just a flu.' He just didn't understand the implications." Ford said.
In addition to incredible food, Paramount Grill is selling bottles of wine to customers. On Thursday night, downtown visionaries Ken and Linda McGurn strolled to the restaurant to pick up their to-go order that included grilled southwestern-spiced salmon. "We're doing all the restaurants," Ken McGurn said. And maybe others will follow their lead.