McAlister’s Deli opens Monday with full service and something that has become critical to diners these days: drive-through “pick up” service, easily visible on the side of the building facing Home Depot.
The restaurant, at 1429 Turner McCall Blvd. on the Panda Express end, is the latest to join the growing collection of restaurants and retail at East Bend on the site of the former Kmart. It joins the popular Chinese restaurant, Chipotle and Texas Roadhouse with more to come (Eggs Up, Fazoli’s, Jersey Mikes, etc.) The retail rush starts in March with Five Below and Old Navy with Discount Tire in the mix as well.
But it is the restaurant sector that we’ll focus on today. Developers have spent millions to open even amid a year that has hit dining establishments hard. Some immediately adjusted to drive-through and pickup, and a few have flourished. Others have been struggling.
The newcomers are the anomoly. Normally any new restaurant in Rome draws huge crowds, and you’ve seen the lines early on at Panda Express while the parking lot of Texas Roadhouse is especially full on weekends, including midday Sundays. (For the record: It looked as if Outback across the highway was as packed as always Friday evening).
But Panda Express remains mostly drive-through with pandemic-sensitive ordering as tables remain taped. Most of the newcomers offer some outside seating as well but even that has been a challenge with a few early blasts of winter weather.
The situation isn’t expected to change soon, even with a vaccine starting to become available. It could be late spring before most of us are able to get the twin shots. For now, some continue to choose pick-up or delivery vs. traditional sitdown service.
McAlister’s Deli, East Bend, Rome.
- Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week.
- Phone: 706-252-8350.