Help Your Local Food and Drink Businesses

This is where a Twin Cities Metro restaurant report would usually go. I don’t have one today. We haven’t gone out to eat for more than a week and even if we had, what would be the point of my telling you about a meal you can’t actually go out to eat for god knows how long. Instead, let me be the 450th person to remind you that restaurants and bars are businesses that are particularly badly hit right now. Minnesota has joined the states that have mandated dining-in closures; social distancing recommendations and restrictions are in effect in most states that have not mandated closures yet. These closures and restrictions are highly necessary (let me also be the 45,000th person to tell you to help flatten the curve) but that doesn’t change the fact that the restaurant/bar business—precarious at the best of times—is going to take a huge beating; and that many restaurants and bars—including some of your favourites—may not come out on the other side. And restaurants and bars aren’t just businesses that give us pleasure, they’re also businesses that employ people, many of whom live precariously even when a pandemic is not in progress.

What can we do about this? I’m not going to say anything very original here either. Purchase gift cards for others or yourself to use once the pandemic passes. If the restaurant goes out of business in the interim be happy that you at least helped keep them open a bit longer or helped them pay employees. Order take-out or delivery from restaurants near you—and as far as possible order directly from the restaurants: the delivery services take big cuts off the top of the check. Tip more generously than you would if you were eating in and drinking wine/cocktails alongside—that’s a huge loss that they cannot legally make up. Try to spread the love around. Keep in mind that xenophobic tendencies kick in, even unconsciously, at times like this: smaller immigrant-run restaurants are likely to be more vulnerable, both economically and socially.

Bars are in a much tougher spot—they cannot do take-out or delivery of drinks. But if they have Kickstarters etc. consider donating to them some fraction of what you’re saving by drinking at home. If you have a brewpub near you, purchase a growler or two. Purchase merchandise from any bar that sells it. (If you’re drinking at home, don’t overdo it.)

Cook. Cook simple, hearty things. Comfort food is called that for a reason. You won’t be able to share it with friends but a bowl of soup or simple chicken curry and rice or spaghetti tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper etc. etc. will be good even if you’re eating alone. You have my permission to describe what you cook as “yummy”. (But don’t overdo that either and please don’t ever say “nom nom nom” or describe anything as “amazeballs”.)

And instead of going crazy looking for toilet paper, buy one of these.

The whisky reviews will probably keep coming—though I haven’t had the urge to take notes on anything for a week or so now. The really good news for the few who still read my blog for whisky reviews is that in the absence of restaurant reviews I’ll probably once again start posting recipes regularly. I will have some restaurant reports for the next few weeks though. I’ll be finishing up with the last of my reports from Goa soon and then I’ll have a few reports from Calcutta. When the next Twin Cities report will be I don’t know. But for all our sakes and for that of the restaurants and bars we love, and which feed our communities in so many ways, I hope it won’t be too long.

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