Like many millions of people, I lost power on Monday evening. Tuesday evening, by candlelight, I whipped up a fierce batch of risotto with local-caught clams that I had in my quickly losing-its-chill refrigerator. By Wednesday, though, nothing in our fridge was safe for consumption. And the thought of spending another night sitting in the dark was entirely too much to bear. Seriously, candlelight gets old FAST, folks. And, I figured, as most of you already have, that some local restaurants would be serving. And I figured right!
We walked into one of our favorite spots to find smiling hosts, warm lights, hot food, upbeat music, and even laughter. More than the delicious dishes, though, it seemed that we were all there for the sense of community and camaraderie (Okay, I may also have been there for the beautiful bottle of Barbaresco we enjoyed!). We traded stories of darkness, damage, and delays with other diners, while gently reminding one another that spotty cell service, while inconvenient, isn’t a tragedy. The time we spent there was the perfect recipe for relief.
A restaurant’s role as a place of celebration has always seemed obvious, but its role as a place to gather to commiserate only became clear to me after 9-11. Tuesday nights were always spent at the Grange Hall in the West Village. But not that one. Days later, after the smoke settled (a bit), we made our way back there, to find a seat at Del Pedro’s bar. The perfect martini he poured wasn’t nearly as important as the warm embrace with which we were greeted. Even though everyone in town was still terribly shell-shocked and grieving, there was something comforting in being grief-stricken and shell-shocked together. In the post-Sandy days to come, and on a different level, of course, restaurants will continue to provide a similar function.
As you probably know, restaurants operate on modest profit margins, and losing thousands of dollars in spoilage — and then thousands more in lost revenues during the days they are shuttered — can be a fatal financial blow to these vital small businesses. Many in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia are either open or working frantically to reopen. Most are without phone or internet service, so the only way to know if they are serving is to walk by. So — please do that! And do it often, as I will. They are depending on your business to be able to stay in business!
Even if a restaurant isn’t open, or you’re not in town to show them support in person, send them a message of encouragement on Twitter or Facebook. Follow their progress with reopening, so you’ll know when the doors open again.
Restaurants are a beacon for the community during times good and bad. Let’s be theirs in the days, weeks, and months ahead.