This post originally appeared on July 18, 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 Saturday night I had a beautiful dinner on the sidewalk outside a French bistro across the street from Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. It had just rained, in one 20-minute-long torrential fit, after a hot, steamy day, and the night was finally cool. Rain glistened off the street. The park was lush and empty. We ate mussels and pate and good bread and talked about the best local wine stores with the server, who poured us a slightly funky and exceedingly delicious Greek rosé. A French family with three kids (including a baby) sat at a table inside a makeshift enclosure in the road at an hour when most American children would be in bed. As we were leaving, lightning bugs lit up the air around the diners.
It was the first time I felt a true hint at my old life in so many months. But what was the cost? While everything seemed as safe as possible — masks on everyone, distance between the tables, no overcrowding — I’m keenly aware that many restaurant workers in New York feel uncomfortable serving customers, even outside, in the middle of a pandemic where cases and deaths are still rising. The fears are even more pronounced in cities where indoor dining is permitted. Meanwhile, many notable industry voices, including my colleague Ryan Sutton, have said they don’t feel right dining out right now due to ethical concerns.
Given the trajectory of cases in New York and the low likelihood of catching or spreading the disease when outside and interacting with other people wearing masks, I feel okay about dining outside at restaurants with proper protocols in place. But it is wild to be in this position as a consumer, just as it is wild to be in this position as a restaurant owner and staffer, deciding whether to reopen or return to work. Everyone is grappling with their own compass of risk and morality.
Ethical quandaries aside, I do appreciate how the need for outdoor dining spaces across American cities has led to creative streetscapes. Biking around New York, you see makeshift and luxe new seating areas, some filled with plants, some with umbrellas, some with fun signage, all bracing for the next surprise summer downpour. I appreciate that this emergency has led to a removal of the red tape for restaurateurs who have been waiting on sidewalk seating permits for the better part of a decade. Some of these city streets look almost Parisien.
Of course, New York isn’t exactly Paris when it comes to al fresco dining. Our punishing summer heat, surprise rainstorms, and corners stinking with garbage — not to mention aggressive rodents — make for an often inhospitable and unpredictable dining environment. But it’s hard not to appreciate the resiliency and creativity I’ve seen around town.
Anyway, I’m curious: Are you eating out? On the fence? Firmly opposed? If you’ve been out, have you had any highlights? Let me know at email@example.com.
— Chicago is starting to shut down restaurants for breaking social-distancing rules.
— Jessica Koslow, owner of LA hipster phenom Sqirl, was called out for questionable food safety practices, including an unlicensed and poorly ventilated prep kitchen, selling moldy jam, and not properly crediting chefs for their contributions to the menu.
— Foie gras is legal again in California, so long as it’s produced out of state.
— Politician Julian Castro on why he’s calling for a boycott of Goya products.
— The sale of Ample Hills ice cream just seems so sad.
— Miami announced a $35 million relief fund for independent restaurants.
— Police shut down Riot Ribs, a mutual aid kitchen in Portland that had fed protesters night and day for 12 days.
— Openings: Take It Easy, a Colombian breakfast spot in Vegas; Crushed by Giants, a brewery in Chicago; Over Under, a casual and cool takwaway spot in Miami; and Silver Apricot, a Chinese-American fine dining restaurant in New York. And LA chef Mei Lin will open a fried chicken joint next month.
— Here’s a fun any-occasion gift guide from our shopping newsletter, Add to Cart.
— Oh hey, we are hiring for a very exciting and fun job: Editor of Eater NY. Please tell all your friends.
- A day in the life of an ice cream vendor in LA. [LAT]
- How campus dining is going to have to fundamentally change this fall. [NYT]
- Flouting open-container laws during COVID is a privilege that not everyone shares. [GS]
- This is a lovely little Q&A with chef Jenny Dorsey, who runs the culinary nonprofit Studio ATAO. [Taste]
- How modern-day bartenders in D.C. are looking to the city’s elite Black bartending club of the 1900s for inspiration. [Punch]