A drive up or down the Strip these days is hopefully as close as any of us will get to a post-apocolyptic landscape: Dozens of closed businesses, some just with the lights turned out, others with security shutters lowered, still more boarded up. Even the giant McDonald’s on the south end of the Strip, with its spacious drive-thru, is stilled.
But the observant might spot a little sandwich-board sign perched outside the Harmon Road entrance of the Miracle Mile Shops: Pampas To Go. It’s for Pampas Churrascaria. It and the Buffalo Wild Wings on the same row of shops seem to be the last restaurants standing.
Although a Buffalo Wild Wings manager said he couldn’t comment because of corporate rules, part of the whittled-down-to-a-handful crew at Pampas were more forthcoming.
“We had to serve the people who need us,” general manager Ray Donnelly said. “It’s a public service.”
They said after the governor’s first directive on March 18, they moved half the tables out of the dining room to promote social distancing, installed more hand sanitizers, rolled silverware in napkins instead of placing it on the tables and used paper-wrapped straws instead of unwrapped ones.
“And we found how easy it is,” director of operations Bill Drexel said. “We’ll continue to do it.”
Not all of the staff was initially enthusiastic.
“We were forced to let go a few employees that did not comply with the heightened standards,” Drexel said.
They added that the restaurant has always offered takeout, but still, there were a few adjustments when a second gubernatorial directive a few days later ordered all restaurants shuttered by midnight March 20.
Like most churracarias, they’re known for serving quantities of meat that could satisfy a longshoreman’s appetite, but they’ve scaled back.
Their new takeout menu limits dishes to $9.95 — including a Rodizio Plate, with a choice from among four meats and three seafoods, choice of salad, roasted potatoes, vegetables and a dinner roll. They’re also offering barbecue boxes that contain four meats, salad, mashed potatoes, black beans, gluten-free cheese bread and cookies for $39.95 for two servings, $120 for six to eight, and there’s a mix-and-match option.
“We knew price could be an issue,” Donnelly said. “We created a lighter menu to be more accommodating.”
They also offer in-house and third-party delivery, and packages are sealed.
Donnelly and Drexel figure they’re in it for the duration. For one thing, they said, there are people who live near the Strip, and right now they have fewer dining options than those in the suburbs. Delivery to those who are still working, such as medical clinics, is another part of their business.
Plus, Drexel said, “People who have been going to drive-thrus are sooner or later going to want a steak or a piece of salmon.”