Last week, like many New Yorkers, I tried to support a few of the restaurants I love by ordering takeout and delivery. As of March 17, all restaurants in the city had been banned from serving customers in their dining rooms, and, though many had closed completely, some were scrambling to adapt, now with skeleton crews. I was impressed by the creativity of their fallback plans, and grateful to be eating food that afforded me fleeting respite from worry. But each meal felt like a distress signal from a marooned ship.
Roberta’s, the beloved Bushwick pizzeria, delivered D.I.Y. meal kits: balls of oiled pizza dough with tomato sauce and mozzarella; fresh tagliatelle with oxtail ragù and gremolata bread crumbs. From Cote, an upscale Korean restaurant in the Flatiron district, I ordered a magnum of Beaujolais and a “steak care package”: four aged rib eyes, raw, with detailed instructions for how to cook them, plus pungent ssamjang, a custom salt mix, and an array of banchan, including kimchi and crunchy pickled chayote squash. A roll of toilet paper was also tucked into the box.
From Le Crocodile, an elegant new Williamsburg brasserie that I reviewed just weeks ago, I ordered the roast chicken that had helped make the place an instant hit, now served at room temperature as part of a family-style meal, along with a creamy potato-leek soup, the fixings for a celery-and-Stilton salad, a leek gratin, and chocolate-chip cookies. I got a chicken pot pie, too, the dark-meat-and-wild-mushroom filling cooked but the pastry raw; after ninety minutes in the oven, it turned golden and made my kitchen smell like Heaven.
It was comfort food, bar none, but the courier who delivered it wore latex gloves and a mask. Just a few days later, Le Crocodile closed its kitchen completely, fearful for the safety of its staff. I waited, eagerly but patiently (unlike the takeout crowds that have reportedly been mobbing the sidewalk outside the usually eat-in-only Italian restaurant Carbone), for a shipment from MáLà Project, a Chinese restaurant that normally specializes in dry pot but had started offering a selection of “Quarantine Foods,” including jarred sauces and fresh noodles. Then I got an e-mail: “We will no longer be able to fulfill any takeout and delivery orders.”
I’ll be rationing a precious loaf of sesame sourdough baked by Adam Leonti, whose restaurant Leonti was the best on the Upper West Side before its untimely closure, earlier this year. Just prior to the shutdown, he was set to open a new place, Sofia’s Panificio e Vino, in Little Italy. At the moment, you can get his superlative loaves (plus minestrone, chicken cacciatore, and fresh ravioli) to go, but who’s to say for how long?
It seems increasingly untenable, and unsafe, to expect restaurants to keep themselves afloat. Last Tuesday, a group of New York’s top restaurateurs, including Tom Colicchio and Danny Meyer, wrote a joint Op-Ed in the Times describing the massive aid needed to prevent their industry from crumbling. Takeout, they explained, is “barely enough to keep anyone employed, given the costs of rent and insurance for sit-down restaurants. Our economic model requires people in seats.”
Restaurants, and the people who work in and around them, are essential to the fabric and the functioning of New York, and of society. In recent days, some have converted into makeshift soup kitchens, providing meals to the countless servers, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, and cooks who find themselves suddenly without paychecks. Eric Sze, the chef and co-owner of 886, a Taiwanese restaurant in the East Village, started his career in college, with a one-man company called Scallion Foods, biking beef-noodle-soup kits across Manhattan. In the past two weeks, he’s returned to his roots, working largely alone to make bento boxes with braised pork belly or five-spice tofu in addition to soup. They’re still available, in limited quantity, for pickup and delivery, but most of the food he’s cooking, funded by donations, is going to hospitals, to feed their lionhearted staffs. ♦
Source: Thanks https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/06/a-new-york-restaurant-world-reduced-to-takeout-and-delivery