At first, I was sad to see the sign on the door at Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill in South Portland. I was on a walk through my neighborhood when I happened upon it.

It said, understandably, that people should not enter the restaurant.  The place is a short walk from my house and one of my family’s go-to dining spots. So the thought of not getting the brisket sandwich or the pulled pork for an indefinite period of time was sobering.

But then I noticed the sturdy white table, under a canopy near the door, along with a jar for receipts. Elsmere was still serving food, only it was on a table for one on the sidewalk.

So on a recent Sunday, we decided to get dinner from Elsmere and try out the takeout system. They’re accepting phone orders online and requiring people to pay with a card over the phone.

The pulled pork sandwich from Elsmere. Photo by Ray Routhier

I was happy to see that the online menu still had all of my family’s favorites. I had the pit-smoked brisket sandwich with pickled onions on a bun for $13. Plus, I got coleslaw on the sandwich for just 50 cents and a side of mac and cheese for $1 more. My wife got the Elsmere Tornado sandwich with brisket, pulled pork, sausage and cole slaw on pretzel bun for $13, and my daughter Dinah got the pulled pork sandwich for $11. All came with barbecue sauce on the side.

My daughter, Sophie, also got the brisket sandwich. I kept telling her how much I enjoyed the “bark” on the brisket – the black caramelized crusty part on the outside. She thought I was just making it up, but I assured her I had learned it from a trusted source, Guy Fieri on TV’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”


Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill in South Portland is doing curbside pickup, with orders left on a table. Photo by Ray Routhier

To order, I simply called the restaurant. I had to hold a couple minutes, as it was Sunday night and they were fairly busy. Once I ordered and paid with a debit card, I was told the order would be ready in 20 minutes. I was also told it would be left on the table with my name on it, and that I should sign the receipt and leave it in a jar.

Twenty minutes later, I was at Elsmere. I found the sidewalk marked with bright orange lines, about 6 feet apart, indicating where people should stand. A couple of people were standing on the sidewalk far from the table, so I walked closer and saw that it was my bag, sitting alone, on the table. I had brought my own pen, so I signed the receipt and grabbed my food.

Our sandwiches and sides were each in their own brown paper box, and all the boxes were in one large paper bag with a twine handle. So I only had to use one hand to pick up the whole order.

When I got home, I washed my hands, put the food onto plates, threw away the bag and boxes, and washed my hands again. Everything we ordered was as satisfying as ever. All the meats were fall-apart tender.

The brisket sandwich from Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill in South Portland.

Elsmere also has a location in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood, but that location is not offering curbside takeout.

In addition to the sandwiches we got, the menu includes barbecue chicken, barbecue salmon and grilled portobello mushroom sandwiches and a burger. Appetizers include flatbread pizza, chicken wings, sausages, barbecued oysters and nachos. The barbecue plates section lets you choose two or three meats with two sides and cornbread. Or you can get a plate of five smoked meats for $37. Sides include barbecue beans, collard greens, beans and rice, cole slaw, cornbread and mac and cheese.

I felt glad that I could get takeout from a business in my own neighborhood and maybe help them weather this storm in a small way. Plus, I was glad that they made it so easy for me to do it while keeping my distance.

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