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What a Difference a Neighborhood Makes

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

A sunny-side up fried egg sits over a memela with avocado in an overhead shot; the memela is surrounded by assorted dishes including tacos on blue corn tortillas and a cup of horchata
A spread of dishes at For All Things Good, my neighborhood molino
Gary He/Eater

This post originally appeared on January 23, 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.

I’ve been thinking again about neighborhood dynamics and how the circumstances of your community, and how you fit into it as a restaurant, impact your survival this year. Restaurants in commercial districts versus residential ones. Restaurants in wealthy neighborhoods from which people fled versus more affordable ones. Restaurants in virus hotspots versus neighborhoods that were relatively untouched.

I had coffee with a restaurateur yesterday who runs a struggling breakfast and lunch spot in a neighborhood filled with affluent young people. Many of these people had the means and desire to leave the neighborhood this spring and, without roots or children attending school there, plenty of them haven’t been compelled to return. He thinks that with the same food and concept, his restaurant would be thriving just a few miles away.

Meanwhile, an excellent little Mexican restaurant and molino opened near my apartment in the late spring and it’s done incredibly well, all things considered. The owner thinks it’s because they’ve had a captive audience, with the entire neighborhood stuck at home and looking for something new to try.

I suspect that he would have done well regardless — even better with the interest of destination diners — but he might have risked alienating the neighborhood if it were too busy for the locals to get in. Now he’s able to build up a year of trust and loyalty here and will still be on the to-do lists of the trend-seekers later this year when everyone’s bopping around dining as they once did.

Not that New Yorkers aren’t getting around to dine out right now. I’ve been quoted 90-plus-minute waits at restaurants in Lower Manhattan this week. But restaurants that aren’t in the center of it all need active support from their community and their neighborhood if they’re going to make it to the other side. (That, plus a favorable rent deal + a PPP loan + connections to grants and relief-meal contracts + money for an outdoor dining setup, etc., etc., etc.)

On Eater

— As indoor dining returns to D.C. and Chicago, state lawmakers in Washington are trying to bypass the governor and open indoor dining immediately, and Boston just removed its 9:30 p.m. curfew. Meanwhile, indoor dining returns to Michigan on February 1.

— Washington state is leaning on the logistical expertise of Starbucks to improve its vaccination rollout.

— Influential D.C. chef and restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang is no longer involved with the stylish boutique hotel the Line, where he ran a collection of lovely restaurants.

— If you aren’t tired of the Bernie meme yet, here it is applied to restaurants in D.C., Austin, Portland, and New York.

— For D.C. restaurants, this year’s scaled down inauguration — due to both the pandemic and security concerns — was a major missed business opportunity. One restaurant stayed open by shopping retail and bringing in ingredients via suitcase.

— Elio, Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes’s five-month-old Vegas restaurant, just closed.

— I missed that people are still giving Todd English food halls.

Two lightly charred flour tortillas are stuffed with pollo guisado on a plate
Tacos from Yellow Rose in New York
Adam Friedlander/Eater

— People who claim New York doesn’t have a good Mexican food scene (usually Californians) are dead wrong. That said, we haven’t really had good options for great flour tortillas… until now!

— Restaurants around the country are now dabbling with takeout subscriptions plans, which act kind of like a CSA in terms of giving an upfront financial boost to places that need it.

— The future of London’s Chinatown may rest in the hands of one mega-landlord. Meanwhile, a similarly struggling Oakland Chinatown is getting a stylish ‘zine homage and fundraiser.

— A great and concise explainer for those trying to keep up with controversies surrounding delivery apps and where we currently sit re: legislation. Plus, here’s Deepti Sharma getting into the fundamental issue with those third-party apps: They got consumers hooked on free delivery by subsidizing the cost and passing it on to restaurants.

— Will the stagecraft Andrew Yang honed for a national audience translate for prickly, food-obsessed New Yorkers?

Off Eater

  • Female reporters on what it was like covering the Trump administration [Elle]
  • In which Kara Swisher grills Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber and Uber Eats, about his controversial restaurant fees, treatment of workers, and more. [NYT]
  • Can the Pizza Pusha survive pot legalization? [Grub Street]
  • A delightful investigation into whether or not a crowd of people in a New Zealand cafe applauded Amanda Palmer on Inauguration Day. [Spinoff]
  • Some restaurants have resources for outdoor dining setups and can decipher the intricate government regulations, and others do not and cannot. [BA]

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