COVID-19’s giant thumb has hit ‘pause’ on the familiar rhythms of our daily lives, halting those small precious moments we once took for granted.
Now, we seek shared comfort in the kindnesses and funny ‘isolation’ trends being beamed across the globe via social media. Dozens of cheery teddy bears pressed against windows, neighbours taking out their bins in fancy dress, or stars collaborating in Zoom concerts.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world,” humanitarian Desmond Tutu once said.
Rather than going into self-preservation mode after the massive hit COVID-19 has wreaked on the hospitality industry, Leeroy and Sophia from the Canadian watering hole, Caribou, are instead busy creating their own ‘little bit of good’ in Kingston.
Watch one of Leeroy’s live stream on Caribou’s Facebook page and you see that he has the gift of the gab. But as locals struggle under isolation’s burden of loneliness and stress, Leeroy and the team at Caribou are offering their Kingston community the gift of being heard.
“We have set up the whole front of the shop like a big takeaway, Canadian pub-style,” he says.
“We’re all about talking to people out front. We decided to make a huge presence, just to be available to chat to people about mental health. It’s about letting people talk, making sure everyone is OK.”
Like many food businesses around Canberra, Caribou has been quick to adapt by better meeting the COVID-19 needs of their customers.
“We have the chemist and medical centre here in Kingston. But if you want to get food at the same time, place your order, specify what time you want it to be ready and drop past. We’re here, doing whatever we can,” Leeroy says.
Food’s on the menu, of course, but so is a little bit more.
“We are doing take-home caesar cocktails, famous Canadian clamato juice cocktails and even Cryovacking our special vodka/caesar mix.”
My takeaway caesar pack includes the vodka mix, rubbings salts and a skewer with an assortment of garnishes including maple bacon! Leeroy loves it when patrons send in photos of their home-created caesars so if you pick one up make sure you send him a pic.
Caribou is adding more cocktails to the takeaway menu this week, beginning with margaritas. Their Maple Manhattan will soon be available as a takeaway as well.
Beer drinkers haven’t been forgotten.
“We are doing growlers!” Leeroy says, explaining that the two-litre takeaway flagon comes straight from the tap.
“Something many people are missing is nice draught beer. With a growler, you can have your draught beer at home. You put it in the fridge and have frosty beer when you want it. At $10 a litre, it’s a good deal and it supports local Canberra breweries.”
Caribou is more than a watering hole. They are all about highlighting Canadian cuisine in scrumptious and inventive ways.
Leeroy says that they have managed to not only keep a lot of the favourites on the takeaway menu, but they have developed some exciting new offerings.
“We have kept all our chicken wings and fries, and our cauliflower poppers. We do seven different pizzas, have added more burgers as well as wine and champagne.”
For Leeroy and his wife Sophia, going to all this effort is not just about them. Their team is family. Offering personalised delivery as well as takeaway means that they have managed to keep on three extra staff as delivery drivers.
“I’ve been able to keep more people this way than if I had gone with big delivery companies. I’ve still got 11 staff working. We are basically doing all this to keep our team on,” he says.
When I go to grab my order, Leeroy and his staff are chatting easily with customers (at a social distance). Leeroy’s cheeky grin and hearty laugh is disarming and he quietly asks how folk are coping when they step up to the counter. His sincerity invites genuine conversation.
We order a Pickleback pizza, a “bartender family kind of pizza” according to Leeroy, with a whisky essence base, onions, maple bacon cheese and pickles. Based on the Pickleback, a whisky and pickle juice shot, this pizza is scrumptious. Try a bite with the pickles on.
Our Manitoba snack pack has a side of poutine, two bits of southern chicken, two slices of maple bacon and two mac and cheese balls. Everything is fabulous, but the mac and cheese balls are a delicious surprise.
Caribou is located at Green Square, 44 Jardine Street in Kingston and is open daily, from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm for delivery or pickup.
Place a phone order on 0429 333 875 or order from their website.