So think back on where you were on December 31st, 2019. Maybe walking around downtown, drinking with revelers. At a house party, celebrating with friends. Or maybe with your special someone, ringing in 2020 on television. Well I’m willing to bet that none of you anticipated what we have experienced over the past five months! All in all, I hope you’re doing well as we ride out this pandemic along with the commotion around protests (totally cool) and riots-looting (not cool) in the area. I never, ever imagined 2020 would be this tumultuous but here we are.
Like many of you, I’ve been sheltering in place or at home for most of the past three months due to new laws and curfews. I hope you’ve learned a couple of new dishes to cook up because let’s face it, very few of us have gone out to eat in months! My last two visits (March, pre-pandemic) were to Hawkers Asian Street Fare in Chapel Hill along with Lady Luck in Raleigh which were unfortunate to open up when they did. But thankfully, we were able to do some take-out and delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic and we’ve recently acquired the right to dine in restaurants during Phase II of North Carolina’s shelter in place order.
So what have we seen in the Triangle dining scene over the past three months? Well I’d say a little bit of everything. Tough decisions had to be made, some restaurants closed entirely, some stayed open for take-out while others expanded into other services like groceries and produce. They’ve adjusted their menus to be simpler, offering up more comfort food and eats that fare better as take-out. Overall I can say that the restaurants in the area have shown a lot creativity and resiliency to keep their doors open during the pandemic. And then given the protests around the George Floyd murder out in Minneapolis, we reached another new and challenging era with local curfews being instated around North Carolina. But like a veteran boxer taking some huge body-shots, still the restaurants persisted.
And what’s amazing that even while they have been beaten up during the pandemic and knocked about with the curfew, local Triangle restaurant owners remain remarkably passionate about social justice and their communities. Even given property damage during the rioting and looting, most are still standing up for justice and accepting of the collateral damage that has severely impacted their businesses, wow. We all know that restaurants and hospitality professionals are all about serving their community and I can think of no better example than what I’ve seen over the past month or so. And we’ve also had many local citizens helping out with the clean-up in downtown areas.
Unfortunately, there have been some restaurants that have been permanently impacted over the past four months: High Horse, Chuck’s Burgers, Oakwood Cafe, Trophy Tap & Table, Virgil’s Original Taqueria, and Cameron Bar & Grill are all gone for good. My best guess is that there will be more permanent closings but it will be hard to track that news given how restaurants usually shut down (quietly).
Thankfully during these tumultuous times, we still see some positive news. Just like watching green shoots pop up over the burnt Australian landscape after this year’s wildfires. We have relief funds being created to support out of work hospitality personnel, offers to deliver free groceries and meals to people who have lost their jobs and new businesses like the Durham Food Hall, Lawrence Barbecue, Flying Mayan and Que Chula Tacos trying to spin up their concepts over the past month during these crises. Restaurants continue to move from take-out and delivery to the new normal of distanced dining and more during Phase 2 of our Covid-19 recovery plans. Please, please, please, check the social feeds of local restaurants to see where they stand in terms of their food offerings.
From my perspective, I’ve withheld on most of my blogging, reviews and social media given the seriousness of the situation. While I do believe in offering my readers the simple objectivity of dining at our local restaurants, most of them are under severe pressure making it unfair for me to provide any criticism in my reviews during these challenging times. They are all doing an awesome job keeping up with these hurdles so I will just try to stay out of their way and support them. And I hope that you will join me in supporting these local restaurants until we pull out of this mess. Tip well, be a patient customer and we will all get through this together. And let’s hope the second half of 2020 plays out better than the first six months, peace out!
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