Appetizers 7/10: Restaurants Take to the Streets

Casa Ora's outdoor dining area takes over an NYC street | Photo: Casa Ora

Welcome to Appetizers, OpenTable’s weekly column that aims to uplift and motivate with a weekly roundup of the most inspiring food-world news of the week. Start your weekend with the things that are making us laugh, cry, think, and just plain hungry for more.

Making Us … Excited

As restaurants reopen for outdoor dining, cities across the country have been expediting patio permits, allowing to-go drinks, and closing streets to make way for America’s lively new outdoor dining scene. From Chicago to D.C. and Oakland to NYC, closed avenues are the unofficial new block party. Restaurants have seized these opportunities by building elaborate new patios that take over streets, parking spaces, and sidewalks.

In New York City’s Bronx, the Little Italy neighborhood has created a piazza with 100 tables from neighboring restaurants such as Mario’s and Ajo y Oregano, completely changing the character of the area into a more European-style square. Over in Chicago, the Cubs are working to make outdoor dining at Wrigley Field possible. Nonprofits are even offering design services to assist restaurants with building all-new outdoor operations.

The result is a robust network of outdoor restaurants that glorify summertime eating, while keeping coronavirus safety measures firmly in place. And we’re very here for it.

Making Us … Inspired

Casual restaurants are not the only ones adjusting to this new outdoor life. Fine dining restaurants have been figuring out how to adapt to this new reality, too, and they’re doing so in inventive ways that keep their elevated approach to dining alive and well. White tablecloths have found their way outside at upscale Italian chain Cipriani, where a tuxedoed server even delivers hand sanitizer on dishware. At Atlanta area high-end Southern restaurant Five and Ten, chef Hugh Acheson is keeping his standards high through oyster and chablis service set to vinyl records, though with more of a casual feel. NYC French bistro La Goulue enlisted a foliage firm to make the outdoor space extra stylish. It all adds up to restaurants continually finding their way despite serious challenges.

Making Us … Proud

Restaurants are still managing to help others in a time when they need help. Restaurateur and lifestyle maven Ayesha Curry has been using her Eat Learn Play foundation in conjunction with humanitarian chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen to give money to Oakland-area restaurants to feed those in need of meals. They plan to partner with more than 200 local restaurants to serve more than 2 million meals by the end of July. They’re already well on their way there, partnering with 100 restaurants so far to serve more than 30,000 meals per week to seniors, children, and frontline workers.

Individual restaurants are also offering up their empty spaces to help chefs without a permanent kitchen keep their businesses going. Philadelphia’s Mexican favorite South Philly Barbacoa only serves its beloved tacos during the day, so owners Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller are letting chefs come in for pop-ups at night at no charge. The lineup includes African food from chef Seyi Wey and Caribbean fare from chef Chris Paul.

Making Us … Laugh

Previous Appetizers

June 25: How Restaurants Are Celebrating Pride This Year

June 19: Restaurants Get Creative With Reopening

June 12: Chefs Band Together for Black Lives Matter Bake Sale

June 8: Restaurants Rally Around the Black Community

May 29: California Restaurant Injects Whimsy Into Reopening

May 22: Ayesha Curry Launches a Lifestyle Magazine

May 15: Top Chefs Do Good