The following is reprinted, with permission, from a blog post from long-time San Carlos resident Mark Maxwell, who describes the one-day “Burger Pop Up” hosted by Town on Saturday. Town has remained closed since the beginning of the lockdown, and this pop-up event was a one-time opening, however on their website the restaurant reports that they are working hard on perfecting a full-service pickup and delivery program and will open soon. No doubt their service will be very popular when it does.
Late yesterday afternoon, into early evening, we stood in line, with several people we know and many more we don’t, for over an hour to get five TOWN cheeseburgers. See the pictures. The line literally wrapped all the way around the building into the parking lot in back. Frankly, it was irrational and absurd…. Kinda like the past six weeks.
I’ve never actually had a cheeseburger from TOWN before yesterday and there was no lure of possibly getting a “Golden Ticket,” no promise of the winning lottery numbers, nor even the ploy that “every hundredth burger was free.” But there we were. TOWN has been closed for a few weeks and decided to do what they referred to as a “pop-up” for the day, with a simple menu of just burgers. The bat signal was sent out via social media with a few hours’ notice. We had ordered on-line – we all had, no walkups! – and been told a specific time that our order would be ready. (We got our food roughly an hour after the specified time.)
Operationally, it was a mess. In n Out has nothing to be afraid of. And yet, there was something awesome about the entire experience. A line of people, wrapped literally around the block, coming out to try a new approach, from an old friend. There was an anticipation and excitement in the air – filtered of course, through all of our N95 masks – that reminded me of standing in line to get concert tickets at Tower Records back when that was a thing (both standing in line for tickets and Tower Records). All for a cheeseburger, from a place that really isn’t known for its cheeseburgers.
The only thing I’ve experienced remotely similar was the crowds that gathered for the Oasis Beer Garden’s final days in business. The Oasis was my favorite place (I tried to have our rehearsal dinner there!), but the crowds that gathered there at the end came from all over and the tone had a funereal chill about it. We were collectively mourning a loss, a closing. It was, to be blunt, a massive bummer.
But the line and the wait last night had a different vibe. There was an air of anticipation, beyond the simple anticipation of a meal. There was a sense of hope, that of a broader return to normalcy, that was palpable. TOWN was back, even if only for a few hours and only on the sidewalk. It was an opening though, a start, something we could all grab on to. (Editor’s Note: You may or may not realize what TOWN means to the San Carlos restaurant scene, literally and figuratively. San Carlos has a vibrant, bustling restaurant scene. TOWN is the epicenter and cornerstone of it all. Perhaps less known, is what Greg St Clair, TOWN’s owner & founder, means to the broader San Carlos community. Through his restaurants, Greg supports youth sports, SCEF, and other community initiatives, and through what’s referred to as the “knock-on” effect, Greg & TOWN have stimulated the San Carlos economy.)
Not to babble on and on and sound like a TOWN fanboy or marketing tool, but if TOWN is emerging from its COVID-19 slumber, maybe that’s a sign that the rest of us and the rest of our community will be able to emerge soon as well. And for one Saturday evening, that was enough of a sign to give people some hope, at least for a few moments (actually more like an hour or so) that maybe, just maybe, life would be returning to normal soon. Fingers crossed. Oh yeah, by the way, it was a damn good burger! Hope to see you in line soon…