Serving New York: Support the Restaurants you Love
Restaurant workers live to serve us—now it’s our turn to take care of them. Here’s how you can support the people powering your favorite spots.
Get a New Yorker talking about a favorite restaurant and not only are you likely to hear about the signature steak dish, for example, but quite possibly the name of the farm and what the cattle were fed. The same is true when it comes to a local’s beloved cafe, diner or corner bistro—here, regulars double as unofficial brand ambassadors, a large and colorful extended family loyal to the point of extreme. Simply put, New York is a city where patrons not only care about eating and drinking well but are emotionally invested in the chefs and cooks making their food, and the bartenders mixing their drinks.
The restaurant scene is the lifeblood of what makes this city the sensory feast it’s famed for being—and it’s not only the locals who know this to be true. “In large part, what shapes modern dining in America can be traced back to New York, and the incredible minds this city and this industry has to offer,” says Ray Pirkle, co-owner of Rivertown Lodge and longtime constituent of the local industry. “New York is the greatest, most diversified food and beverage scene in the world. There would be no modern cocktail movement without Milk & Honey, no natural wine avalanche without 360 and Bette, no superstar chefs doing innovative affordable cuisine in relaxed but stylish rooms with informed but genuine service without pioneers like David Chang at Momofuku or Wylie Dufresne at Fresh Food.”
With regulations set in place restricting occupancy and little support from the government, now more than ever, it is crucial we take into consideration the effect our spending is having on local businesses and be mindful to divide our support across as many different restaurants as possible.
In navigating the ways to sustain New York’s finest restaurants and their hard-working teams, looking to those at the forefront of the hospitality industry is a good place to start. Spearheaded by local proprietors, initiatives like Frontline Foods and Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR) formed in an effort to save local restaurants affected by Covid-19. ROAR urges the community to “give our people a fighting chance” by supporting its call for an industry-specific restructuring plan, making donations to its New York City Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, and purchasing products (we love the T-shirt and Serving New York cookbook), all of which provide direct cash assistance to restaurant workers facing economic hardships as a result of the health pandemic.
While restaurants across the state are restricted from reopening dining rooms, some eateries have transformed their physical spaces into contactless markets, selling produce for pickup or through delivery services. Among the local spots offering this new service are Ignacio Mattos’s acclaimed restaurants Altro Paradiso and Estela, both now serving a limited number of take-home boxes packed with either fully prepared classic dishes—fresh pasta and ragu, a variety of meat and seafood, salads—or ingredients that can be stored for later. Wine bundles are also available for purchase.
Cervo’s on the Lower East Side is another beloved local go-to now offering contactless pickup once a week for provisions such as tinned fish, chicken stock, olive oil, wine, and batched cocktails as well as a weekly Lancaster Farm Fresh box filled with organic vegetables and eggs for $45. Jeffrey’s Grocery has become a literal neighborhood grocery store with pre-prepared meals including classic lasagna, specialty pantry items— Ortiz Bonita Del Norte tuna, roasted red pepper aioli, and La Chinata smoked paprika—and meal kits comprising the essential ingredients required to create your own Jeffrey’s Grocery dish at home.
Other restaurants to have on your radar: Roberta’s Bushwick, currently selling bread, baked goods, meal kits, and frozen pizzas; Blue Hill New York, taking orders for to-go boxes filled with produce, meat, and fish from its long-time farming and fishing partners; and The Butcher’s Daughter with items including regular menu dishes, bread, olive oil, granola, pasta, and pancake mix for sale at all three locations.
Furthermore, when possible, Ray urges everyone to “leave large tips, purchase gift certificates, contact your favorite restaurants, and ask about relief funds that you can donate to. Contacting restaurants and asking if their team might be willing to put together a week’s worth of meals is another way. Asking directly how you can help, will always be the clearest path.”
Be sure to check out our Neighborhood Guide for a list of spots open for takeout and delivery.
WORDS Edwina Hagon