Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer, and while it’s traditionally a holiday that Americans celebrate at home with barbecues and picnics, restaurants are joining in with themed meal packages to go. Expanding on the takeout and delivery options they developed during the pandemic, such as meal kits, family meals and grocery boxes, operators are offering seasonal specials that can extend to graduation celebrations, Father’s Day and other summer events. Here’s a roundup of restaurant-created options to help consumers kick off the summer in style.
PBQ grilling kit
Summer’s association with outdoor cooking has spurred many operators to put together DIY grilling kits. Publican Quality Meats in Chicago has a to-go package featuring steaks, sausage, pork shoulder, chicken or burgers as the protein choice. Burger and sausage kits include garnishes and toppings, while pork, steak and chicken kits come with the restaurant’s signature rubs and sauces; all include grilling instructions. Prices range from $25 for $125, depending on the meat choice and number of servings. Sides, beer and wine are available as add-ons.
A meaty offer
Slab in Los Angeles is offering a meaty meal kit for six, loaded with a 32-ounce tomahawk steak, two racks of ribs, a whole chicken, and burgers, complete with buns, pickles, onions, condiments, barbecue sauce and spice rub. It all comes packed in a custom cooler bag for $225.
For seafood lovers
For those who prefer seafood, Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, Ill., has a salmon meal kit for two on offer. It contains salmon portions with lemon-pecan topping, local asparagus, ready-to-cook seasoned Yukon gold potatoes, micro greens with garlic-chive compound butter, and chocolate chip cookies ($58). There are also kits for grilling skirt steak, Italian sausage and lamb sausage, priced from $39 to $60 for two.
Chicago’s Goddess and the Grocer is offering a deluxe grilling kit complete with cocktails. Inside the Memorial Day Goddess Grill Box ($150 for four) is a choice of two marinated entrees (jerked chicken thighs, skirt steak, Korean flank steak, teriyaki salmon or portobello mushrooms), three sides, including salads and corn, an appetizer of deviled eggs or spinach dip with chips and holiday-themed cupcakes or cookies. Purchasers also get prebatched cocktails to go, choosing from a bourbon smash, vodka lemonade or rum punch.
Chef Peter Hemsley of Palette in San Francisco has created a BBQ Burger Box for two or four ($40 or $70) that includes house-ground beef patties, white potato milk buns and fixings, such as housemade pickles, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, Thousand Island dressing, sliced red onions, sliced tomatoes and lettuce. Also included in the box are traditional coleslaw and potato salad and two kinds of pie—blueberry crumble and chocolate. Vegans can swap in beet patties to pan-sear at home.
Choose your own BBQ
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) restaurants have jumped on the trend with a variety of options. Mon Ami Gabi’s grill kits include prime steaks, Caesar salad, broccolini, asparagus and strawberries with Chantilly cream ($50 for two; $100 for four). M Burger’s burger-making kit goes for $31.95 and includes four patties, potato buns and fixings. For those who crave barbecue flavors but would prefer for someone else to do the cooking, Bub City has a BBQ package that serves 10 for $225. It includes pulled pork, chopped brisket, chicken tenders, mac n' cheesy, chopped salad, sliced watermelon, bread 'n' butter pickles, potato buns, two bottles of BBQ sauce plus housemade creamy ranch and buffalo sauce.
LEYE also has a couple of picnic packs on hand. Shaw’s Crab House in Schaumburg, Ill., is offering New England-style lobster rolls, coleslaw, asparagus with lemon aioli, baked beans and strawberry rhubarb cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Customers can build their own lobster rolls or purchase them readymade; $75 for two and $140 for four.
Mintwood Place in Washington, D.C., has put together a Memorial Day Picnic Basket ($90 per couple) featuring brasserie-inspired fare. Included are grilled marinated eggplant, confit cherry tomatoes, prosciutto di Parma, wild boar salami, French cheese, grilled prawns, roasted chicken salad and salmon rillettes with rustic bread. Wine, beer and cocktails are also available for takeout from 5 to 6 p.m. at discounted happy hour prices.
Cocktails to go
Carryout cocktails are also part of the holiday weekend promotion at North Italia’s 20 locations. Five different kits are available, including a Milano Mule ($24, serves four), Ginger Margarita ($20, serves three), Sicilian Margarita ($20, serves three), Aperol Spritz ($38, serves six) and Sangria ($18, serves two). Sangria is also on offer from Teleferic Barcelona. Along with Spanish dishes to go, customers can purchase batched sangria, mojitos and margaritas in 32-ounce jars.
Competing and tailgating
Portillo’s is showing customers how to make the most of its takeout menu for Memorial Day and graduation celebrations. The chain is running a “front yard barbecue” campaign, inviting fans to take part in a social-distanced cooking competition. Participants are encouraged to order Portillo’s prepackaged Italian beef, French bread, gravy and peppers in the drive-thru, for pickup or delivery, then compete to build the best Italian beef sandwich, posting photos on social media.
Portillo’s is also spearheading alternate ways for recent graduates to celebrate this milestone 2020-style. Takeout customers have already been tailgating in their cars in the restaurants’ parking lots, so the chain is promoting the idea of a graduation tailgate party—following all the current safety rules.