Finding Silver Linings of 6 Months Without Dining in Restaurants

Dining rooms have spaced-out tables these days, but plenty of people are still choosing to stay home.
Dining rooms have spaced-out tables these days, but plenty of people are still choosing to stay home. Taylor Adams
For some of us, in paralleled, precedented and certain times, eating at restaurants was a major part of life. A hobby. Potentially a character-defining personality trait.

While some have returned or are on their way to returning to a pre-pandemic level of restaurant dining, others have chosen to continue to support the service industry through takeout and delivery options exclusively.

For everyone, it’s been more than six months since a sense of normalcy has existed in restaurant dining.

But the last six months haven’t been all bad — not by any means. And the number of days since I’ve dined at a restaurant (Royal China, March 12, but again, who’s counting?) is not what I’m choosing to focus on now. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on the silver linings during these cloudy pandemic days.

In the face of financial adversity and general uncertainty, we have seen the service industry do what they do best: support the community.

From providing food to starting foundations and nonprofit organizations such as the Dinner Bell Foundation, Furlough Kitchen and Heard That Foundation among many others, the service industry has supported its service industry family, healthcare providers and test site personnel throughout the past several months.

They’ve made great strides to support each other’s restaurants, too. Val Jean-Bart of Val’s Cheesecakes partnered with the local Dallas social media food community to create Takeout Tuesday DFW to encourage patronage on a traditionally slow business day.

Similarly, Whisk Crêpes Café owner Julien Eelsen offers free Nutella crepes to diners who can present a receipt from a list of local small businesses within 48 hours of the purchase. We’ve seen numerous restaurants and breweries offer their time, social media following and physical space to support others in the service industry family.

The Dallas community has worked to support the service industry, as well. In March, a group of college friends from the University of Texas at Arlington started The Asian Grub in DFDUB Facebook group to support mom-and-pop, Asian-owned businesses — oftentimes businesses with very little to no digital presence — that now has more than 33,500 members and exponentially more food wisdom.

More recently, Jaxie Alt, a community advocate for Howdy Homemade, started a GoFundMe fundraiser with a $75,000 goal to support the ice cream shop that employs adults with special needs and was hit hard by COVID during its busy season. This GoFundMe, still ongoing, exceeded its goal in less than two weeks with more than 1,000 donors.

The community has learned to support the service industry in an individual capacity, too, by learning more about delivery companies and the importance of ordering directly from our favorite small businesses. We’ve reminded ourselves and others of the importance of tipping well. And if you haven’t been reminded of this recently — we’re reminding you now.

We’ve barely just started to learn about the names and faces that create our food and that we need to focus on being more thoughtful about where we go for our food and drink, where and who it comes from and how we exist as customers and voting citizens.

We’ve seen restaurateurs put their hearts on their sleeves to fight for their businesses and our community through adversity. Now more than ever, it’s on us to promote better customer citizenship not just through the balance of the pandemic, but for forever going forward. The food is the food because of the people.

Speaking of the food, while restaurant openings have understandably slowed over the last six months, we’ve kept ourselves full on cottage food products and pop-ups that constitute another silver lining in the shifting restaurant landscape.

click to enlarge Ulam has been popping up at Khao Noodle Shop in Old East Dallas. - TAYLOR ADAMS
Ulam has been popping up at Khao Noodle Shop in Old East Dallas.
Taylor Adams
Some pop-ups, like Khao Len, Vantina, Ese Pollo and The Grape Ape, are relatively new names from old friends pivoting to turn a potential challenge into an opportunity.

Others, like Brunchaholics, Momo Shack Dumplings, Ulam Modern Filipino Kitchen, Roodie’s Shack and Cookies by Chrysta, are old standbys carrying on strong.

And there is a Dr. Seuss book-worthy list of new (to us at least) pop-up options too long to list that can satisfy your every want and need. More on those soon.

We would eat them old and new.
We would eat them with each of you.
We would eat them near and far.
We’ve definitely eaten some of them in our car.

Of course, because we are still Dallasites, we’ve also made sure to jump on several new food trends.

We’ve tested our taste buds on hot fried chicken, exploring Ricky’s Hot Chicken, Chirp’s Chicken Shack and the soon-to-be-opened Palmer’s Chicken and Lucky’s Hot Chicken.

We’ve taken our proverbial horses to the 8 Mile Road for Detroit style pizza at 8 Mile Pies, Thunderbird Pies, Better Half Pop Up and the like. And there’s Pizza Parm Project, Homewood's pizza and Pizza Leila, to name a few more: so much pizza that one local restaurateur included “everybody doing pizza” on their list of food trends for 2020 that make them tired. We, respectfully, disagree.

Bagels have finally rolled their way into town with Shug’s Bagels and Lenore’s Handmade Bagel Co.

There’s birria de res, or at least an item called “birria” at establishments all over town.

And now we’re starting to wrap ourselves in burritos with the likes of Trompo and Burrito Jamz ‘03.

Up next? Sonoran hot dogs, this humble eater requests. If we request it, they might make it.

So where do we sit now? Besides on a throne of the excessive to-go food storage containers we’ve collected over the past six months?

Though we still face an uncertain future, we look forward to new and recently opened restaurants, to continuing to support the places we know and love so they can continue to support their families, their families’ families and the community as a whole, to making a conscious effort to learn about who and where our food comes from, to remembering to tip excessively, to remembering that we’re all in this together so be nice, and, hopefully, to a Sonoran hot dog pop-up.
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