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Pay Restaurants to Feed Those in Need

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

Man wearing bandana over face places bags of beans into a series of stacked cardboard boxes.
Cedric Ransburg, a volunteer at No Us Without You in LA
Samanta Helou Hernandez

This post originally appeared on November 21, 2020 in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

We had an internal debate last week about whether or not we needed to publish a piece saying the government needs to support restaurant owners and workers. It seems needed in this moment, when many American cities re-enter some form of lockdown or face added restrictions as winter looms and COVID-19 cases rise. Meanwhile there is no extended or supplemental unemployment for people on the brink nor assistance for business owners.

But we’ve also been saying it again and again all year. Why continue to yell into the void? Ultimately, it’s better than doing nothing at all.

While we’re repeating ourselves, I would like to revisit the proposal from chef José Andrés in March, which I believe to be the best path forward (though I’m sure the bureaucratic and political hurdles are insurmountable). The government, via FEMA or a newly formed arm, should pay restaurants in communities around the country to cook food for people in need.

Keep restaurants and their workers in business, keep the supply chain going, feed people who are spending hours in line at centralized food banks via meals and groceries from their local restaurants. Tap into those thriving delivery platforms to distribute to people who are isolated at home. A number of ad hoc initiatives currently do this work, but it’s a patchwork and insufficient system.

Or we can just continue the nine-month-long story of a decentralized, chaotic, and controversial approach to tackling this pandemic, letting it ravage our communities and businesses.

Earnest, Heartfelt Promo

If you have a Hulu account, I highly recommend you check out Eater’s new, long-in-the-works project, Eater’s Guide to the World. It’s a food and travel show jam-packed with interesting characters, delicious food, and compelling destinations, and it makes me miss restaurants and traveling and the people you meet while eating at restaurants while traveling. Also it’s narrated by Maya Rudolph (!) so it’s very fun.

Big kudos to our showrunner Lauren Cynamon and the whole Eater team who translated what we do online to the wild world of television (during a pandemic no less). Read more about the show here!

And while I’m plugging Eater projects, may I point you to a wonderful holiday gift idea? It’s our new wine club, a monthly subscription box of either two or four (small producer, mostly natural) wines selected by cool sommeliers and wine experts around the country. You learn about great wine, you learn about talented sommeliers, you get cute tasting notes. Sign on for the ongoing subscription or just gift a one-off box. Or be like me and do both.

On Eater

— We’re seeing indoor and sometimes outdoor dining restrictions in many regions across the country, including California, Washington State, Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan, and parts of Pennsylvania, much to the chagrin of restaurant owners who invested in their current dining set-ups. Notably, in New York, indoor dining is currently allowed but doesn’t seem like it will last much longer.

— Closures: Meme’s Diner in New York (more on that here); Oval Room in D.C.; Ledo Restaurant, an iconic Maryland pizza shop; Houston’s whisky destination Public Services Wine and Whisky; Fuku in Boston; and 44-year-old Pamplemousse in Vegas.

— Openings: in LA, Mazal, an exciting new Israeli vegetarian restaurant, Fellow Traveler, a natural wine bar from the former sommelier of Auburn, a West Coast location of New York’s Prince Street Pizza, and Madres, a Oaxacan restaurant with the country’s largest mezcal collection; in Dallas, Oak’d BBQ, a Hill Country-style barbecue joint; and in New York, Yumpling, the brick and mortar spot from a beloved Taiwanese food truck, and Angelina, an outpost of famous Parisian tea room.

— It’s boom times for ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants. This piece explores where the industry is moving, and why you shouldn’t assume virtual brands are (all) half-assed, cynical plays for scale above quality and creativity.

A crusty slab of fried chicken sits between two pretzel buns on a white porcelain plate
The hot honey fried chicken at Double Chicken Please in New York
Sahid Limon/Double Chicken Please [Official]

— Say hello to Eater At Home For the Holidays, your guide to surviving and thriving during this season. We have Thanksgiving tips from Elazar and Sohla, tips for mailing baked goods, a look at the best pies to buy online, and so much more.

— And on the gifting front, we have gift guides on the national level and guides focused on retailers and restaurants in New York, San Francisco, and Vegas. I’ll do a personal one in this space in the weeks to come.

— To watch: How soy sauce has been made in Japan for over 220 years.

— New York has a very delicious new fried chicken sandwich.

— Overwhelmed by how to help the restaurant industry? Make a list.

— San Francisco chef and restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit breaks down the numbers of COVID-19’s effects on her business and the difficult decisions she’s had to make.

— DoorDash is exploring an IPO while Lyft considers getting into the food delivery game.

Off Eater