This post originally appeared on February 15, 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.
Last week, my husband and his friends had a group dinner in Queens’s Chinatown to celebrate a birthday. One of his friends opted out, because he was afraid of putting himself at risk of getting the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
He’s not alone. Chinatowns across the United States are suffering from a dramatic decline in business during the typically busy Lunar New Year celebrations and beyond, due to a drop in tourists from China, but also, unfounded fears from locals that they would be at increased risk of contracting the illness there.
Going to Chinatown does not increase our risk of contracting the coronavirus. That’s according to health officials, city officials, and common sense. We are all so much more likely to catch the flu this year, which kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and tens of thousands of Americans each year, than the coronavirus, which has affected a fraction of that number and a statiscally tiny number of Americans.
Chinatowns suffered similar declines in business during the SARS outbreak of 2003. Then, as now, some cities launched public service campaigns to help small businesses. The New York Post mocked New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio for struggling with chopsticks on a recent trip to Flushing’s Chinatown this week, but at least he’s trying to raise awareness.
”We need to fight stigma any way and anywhere we can,” texted my mother, an epidemiologist working in public health in Boston, when I asked her about the issue this week.
Even if the campaigns work, the drop in tourists from China alone will have a big negative impact on these small restaurants. So I’m taking a big group out to Flushing tonight. If you want some Chinatown recs, we’ve got you in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Vegas, Seattle, Houston, Boston, San Francisco, Philly, Montreal, London, Chicago, and Detroit.
(Hat tip to Adam Moussa, whose twitter thread inspired this newsletter topic.)
- Intel: North Carolina’s Vivian Howard will open her first Charleston restaurants this summer; Philly chef Marc Vetri opened his pasta destination in the former home of an old, revered South Philly butcher shop earlier this week; Dan Barber is finally getting his chef-designed produce to the masses with a deal with grocery chain Wegman’s; one of my longtime favorite spots in New York, Aldea, will close February 22; a new company called Ipsa Provisions is trying to make upscale frozen food a thing; the team behind Oscar-winning Parasite partied it up at K-Town spot Soban after the awards; China Live, a wonderful complex of restaurants, bars, stores, and counters in SF’s Chinatown, will expand to Seattle’s Amazon HQ; workers at SF’s Tartine are unionizing, and the restaurant group has hired crisis PR; Aaron Franklin is opening a sandwich shop; the team behind Joe Beef opened a new seafood spot called Vinette; chef Sean Brock launched an app connecting restaurant workers with open shifts (the third of its kind to launch in the last year); and D.C. institution Horace and Dickie’s will close, and the owner is blaming gentrification.
- Fans of California wine can expect the best value in 20 years due to an abundance of grapes and slowing demand.
- A map I am personally bookmarking: <$80 omakases in LA.
- Ryan Sutton, on New York icon JG Melon in our “Is It Still Good?” column: “JG Melon is the real-life version of a fictionalized rom-com New York, where someone takes a Greyhound to the big city and finds that everyone is an amoral businessperson or a mean cab driver in a cartoonish, ‘hey, move it pal’ kind of way.”
- To watch: our newest season of meat-centric Prime Time takes place in New Orleans, and it doesn’t disappoint.
- Where to get water glasses like you see in those incredibly soothing Korean home cafe videos.
- Jenny Han on the role of food in her books and just-released movie P.S. I Still Love You.
- Perhaps our only chance to catch up to Parisian wine bar culture in the States lies in smaller cities.
- Why yes, I would fly to Portland just to try this restaurant.
- The only pink Champagne you should be drinking.
This Week on the Podcast
This week on Eater’s Digest, Eater editors tell us about their first-date strategies, including bar selection, food choice, and weird deal-breakers. Then Existing Conditions bartender Jack Schramm offers the point of view of an observer of countless dates of varying success.
- Just a perennial reminder that Keith McNally has better taste and is a far better writer than you. Cannot wait to read his eventual memoir. [AD]
- Where to live in 2020, according to the experts at Curbed. [Curbed]
- Amazon is turning Whole Foods cafes into delivery staging areas, just one step toward our eventual future when all grocery stores are delivery warehouses. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
- All hail Bon App’s Taco Nation package. [Bon Appetit]
- Love these lunch instructions for famed fashion editor Diana Vreeland. [@hels]