Appetizers 6/19: Restaurants Get Creative With Reopening

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

Restaurants around the country are opening back up, and doing so in more inventive ways than ever. At Coach Meeting House in Long Island, New York, owner Rustan Lundstrum has instituted drive-in movie nights, screening films such as Dirty Dancing and Space Jam while serving frozen cocktails and food ordered via text. Lundstrum says he “wanted to create a family-friendly experience that provided a sense of social normalcy but was also socially distant.” Through these, Lundstrum has been able to keep his restaurant open and even hire extra staff throughout the pandemic — despite opening just three days before New York state went into lockdown in March.

At upscale New York City Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit, to-go meals are elevated through meticulous packaging and instructions on how best to eat, while famed chef Daniel Boulud approaches takeout by utilizing his catering arm to send diners his classic French fare. In San Francisco, popular taqueria Tacolicious has added combo plates as a nod to diners’ tighter budgets these days. Restaurateurs around the country continue to nimbly pivot to feed the moment.

Making Us … Commemorate

Chefs around the country are marking Juneteenth by helping out how they know best: through feeding their communities. In Philadelphia, celebrations will take place through fish fries and cookouts, led by food drive organization Everybody Eats with meals from restaurants like Cheu Fishtown. In Chicago, more than 70 restaurants such as 14 Parish have created specials to celebrate.

The June 19 holiday marks the date in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas finally learned they were free — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation — and thus the day when slavery came to an end for all enslaved people in the U.S. According to soul food scholar Adrian Miller, the “trinity” of Juneteenth food includes barbecue, watermelon, and the must-have red drink, a carbonated beverage colored red to represent the blood shed by Black Americans in the fight for freedom. To make your own red drink and honor the holiday at home, follow Salare chef Edouardo Jordan’s recipe.

Making Us … Celebrate

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21, and restaurants are creating special take-home and eat-in packages to honor dad. Nashville’s 404 Kitchen has three-course grill boxes that include make-your-own old fashioneds, Seaspice in Miami is making barbecue packs with cigars, and Austin lobster house Garbo’s is sending home lobster boils with key lime pie and local beer. In San Francisco, Indian stunner August 1 Five is putting together fried chicken packs with potato and fig kofta and cocktails. Make your Father’s Day reservation here.

Making Us … Proud

Disaster relief organization World Central Kitchen is still going strong. The chef-led nonprofit has fed over 15 million meals to those in need since the start of COVID-19, and pumped $41 million into local restaurants like Baltimore’s Breaking Bread and Harlem’s Red Rooster to make the food. The Washington Post ran a first-person story of how one WCK volunteer has been uplifted by this work that’s worth a read for the adjacent good feels alone.

Making Us … Hope

An Oregon congressman has proposed a $120 billion grant program that could give independent restaurants the lifeline they need. Called the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020, the bill could help fill the gaps in what the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans don’t cover or those who may not have received.

Previous Appetizers

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