Ara Ishkhanian’s Apricot Stone has built its reputation on a strong sense of family and an immersive dining experience, so for the Northern Liberties restaurant that specializes in Armenian cuisine, the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak meant a lot of adjustments.
“We obviously miss the interaction with all of our guests,” said Ishkhanian in an interview earlier this month.
But despite the challenges that have presented themselves to restaurant owners the last few months, Apricot Stone has remained a local favorite—in part due to their great food, but also for their capacity to go the extra mile for customers. An Eater Philly article published back in April featured the restaurant’s idea for a virtual dining experience through FaceTime, in which Ara personally talks you through the menu and does everything that an in-person server would do while you wait on your takeout order.
“We put our foot to the pedal when the shutdown happened,” said Ishkhanian. “The very first weekend we started opening up on Sunday, when we used to be closed on Sundays.”
Apricot Stone’s food is prepared by a kitchen led by Ishkhanian’s mother Fimy, who co-owns the restaurant and was the architect of the menu, which has largely remained the same. Many items actually became cheaper as the dine-in experience gave way to exclusively delivery and takeout, and only about three dishes were temporarily removed.
Inventory shopping also became more challenging, according to Ishkhanian. Especially at the very beginning of the pandemic, he would frequently have to visit multiple places for ingredients as opposed to one. “The quality of certain produce went down while the prices went up.”
As certain aspects of society begin to return to normal and outdoor seating (albeit at half capacity) is now a reality, one thing’s for sure—Apricot Stone is working harder than ever before to bring good authentic food to Philadelphians. One testament to this is the fact that they’ve only been closed two days since the beginning of the citywide shutdown.
“Our food is still the same great food. We’re still trying to make it the same great atmosphere. We’ve returned our entire staff from before the shutdown, and added new staff members. We want your business, but we do take the safety very seriously.”