Manna for the Cocooned! NYC Restaurants Reopen
Updated: Jul 22
By Naomi Serviss
It was a dagger to a foodie’s’ gut when NY Governor Cuomo officially banned indoor dining in December, 2020.
Not to mention the industry's bottom line.
More than 1,000 restaurants permanently closed, including the historic 21 Club.
Esca, Uncle Boons, and the famed Gem Spa shuttered.
Untitled at the Whitney is history.
NYC Restaurants Felled by the Pandemic
Midtown eateries got slammed in the wake of Broadway's shutdown.
Necessity being the mother of invention, some places constructed outdoor extensions.
Some were shacky and unappetizing.
Others glammed it up.
Winter weather stalwarts braved freezing temps to eat a quiche and support struggling neighborhood businesses.
Jonesing for an outside-of-our-cocoon meal, we acclimated to dining in makeshift vinyl pods on city streets and sidewalks.
Diehards came out gloved and winter-hatted.
What's a little bad weather after living through a 100-year pandemic?
Miraculously, there's a silver lining.
After 18 months without indoor dining, New York City’s Restaurant Week has returned
and is ready for your reservations!
This summer’s event runs from July 19th through August 22nd.
It’s a titch more than a week.
The timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous.
We’re chomping on the proverbial bit to savor delicious food served by caring waitstaff.
Even one of my Nervous Nellie friends is ready for indoor dining.
Tracy Nieporent, who represents the Myriad Restaurant Group (which includes Tribeca Grill and Nobu Downtown), is also chairman of NYC & Co., which runs the event.
He explained the significance of this long-awaited moment:
“Since its beginning in the summer of 1992, NYC Restaurant Week has been a celebration of dining.
It brings the beautiful mosaic of New Yorkers together for a shared experience of inspired food, drink and camaraderie.
Diners from all over America and the world travel to New York City to be part of something special and unique.
Over this past year, Covid-19 prevented us from congregating in restaurants for a shared experience.
At a time when we really needed a hospitality hug, it was unavailable.
But now, at last, the dining experiences we valued are coming back again.
The aromas, the vibrant flavors, the ingenuity of dozens of ethnic cuisines are here again to enjoy.
We know what we all missed so greatly, and now we have a chance to recapture the great collective experience to share with our families, friends, and colleagues.
It’s time to enjoy the quality, variety, and hospitality that makes New York City a Restaurant capital of the world.”
More than 500 restaurants will be happy to serve you, with 46 cuisines in 72 neighborhoods.
Happiness comes in small gestures.
What better gesture than to break bread with a good friend?
Especially when neither of you had to bake it!
We’re not exactly celebrating but grateful to be in this moment.
We’ll strive to be extra gracious and patient with inexperienced waitstaff.
We’ll do our best not to make anyone cry.
Like we almost did recently during a comedy of errors brunch with friends.
One of us four made a reservation at an Upper West Side restaurant.
It was me.
However, once we arrived at the restaurant, the host couldn’t find my reservation.
All of the placeholders were for other people.
We mulled over our very few options.
It was Gay Pride weekend and restaurants were booked.
We hightailed it two blocks away to a spacious cafe on Amsterdam Avenue.
Found a table indoors with windows facing the sidewalk.
It was not even crowded!
Our young waiter was a little flummoxed with our drink orders.
She eventually returned with two out of four drinks.
Missing was Lew’s coffee and my water.
Coffee was at last delivered, no water.
What seemed like days later, I approached the manager and relayed my unquenched predicament.
Koji stopped at our table and declared himself our new waiter.
He brought me water posthaste.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t noticed that the glass was cracked.
So it goes.
The four of us ordered, bonding over normal topics unrelated to, you know.
It was fun!
It took another 15 minutes for three out of four meals to arrive.
Guess whose was missing?
Koji apologized for the glass, the delay, the previous waiter.
His manner was friendly and unassuming.
He had twinkling eyes and a wide smile.
Had this been our initial waiter’s first day?
Koji laughed and said it had.
Most of the employees were students and nervous.
Some were painfully not ready for prime time.
New Yorkers have been inundating the eateries with bad manners.
I silently vowed to be kinder, more patient and understanding.
As a way of life!
Turned out Koji was also finishing up medical school while making pocket change.
Many patrons had been rude and impatient, sometimes yelling at the young staff.
The shouting couple nearby was an example.
We’re living in a fluid teachable moment.
Our behavior reflects our character.
If you partake of New York’s Restaurant Week, and I highly recommend you do,
Use your inside voice and bring your own water.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com