For the second week in a row, this is not the usual, lighthearted installment of Hot Plate, sharing information about wine dinners and seafood festivals, as events are canceled and restaurants are no longer open in their traditional capacity, in an effort to flatten the curve and stem the transmission of coronavirus.
This is a challenging time around the world and in every industry. The restaurant business, with low margins and reliance on tipping and on customers gathering in one place to generate income, has been hit especially hard (though it is by no means the only industry suffering).
To understand some of what restaurants are dealing with right now, read this Facebook post from Clavel owner Lane Harlan.
So as lovers of Baltimore and lovers of restaurants, what can we do to help? There are a few things.
Order takeaway/curbside service or delivery.
While some restaurants have closed completely, others have modified operations to offer carryout and delivery options. Menus are typically pared down and these organizations have adopted stringent hygiene practices and organizational protocols to limit transmission of germs.
A few individuals and organizations have taken the time to gather lists of restaurants offering these services.
Links to Baltimore City restaurants still operating are in this ever-changing Google Doc.
Baltimore County has developed an online tool to identify restaurants offering to-go options.
Howard County restaurants and liquor pickup/delivery options can be found here.
But stay flexible. As we all know by now, things change on a daily basis–sometimes even several times a day. Some restaurants that started out offering carryout have since stopped the practice. This includes Lobo, Petit Louis, Bar Vasquez, Cinghiale and Johhny’s.
Rely on restaurants for groceries and beverages.
In addition to carryout and delivery, some restaurants are operating like grocery stores, selling raw ingredients.
In addition to a limited menu of a la carte dishes and family-style dishes, The Capital Grille is also offering uncooked steaks for sale; they are cut daily. Call the restaurant to place orders.
Many restaurants throughout the region are also selling beer and wine, often at a discount. Some venues will deliver within a certain radius.
This includes bottled cocktails from places like Clavel, Nepenthe Brewing Co., Wet City and Bluebird Cocktail Room, as well as prepared foods from companies like Trinacria and John Brown General and Butchery. Dutch Courage is currently operating as a bottle shop–and offering up cocktail recipes and recommendations, too!
And at some spots, certain purchases directly help support staff member needs. At Woodberry Kitchen, 100 percent of sales of Beach Face pounders (4-pack) and 6-packs of Soak Up the Sun and sparkling Bay Rose will go to a fund covering the Woodberry team’s health benefit costs and a team stipend.
Buy gift cards or merchandise.
Buying gift cards or merchandise offers restaurants an infusion of cash right now, when they need it most. And you get a little treat out of it, too, whether that’s a cool new T-shirt or hat, or the promise of a great meal later in the year.
Some spots have special deals on merchandise right now, like True Chesapeake, where gear is 10 percent off for the rest of the month with the code RAWSOME.
Some local restaurants have announced they will donate all proceeds from gift cards directly to their staff. These places inlude Gertrude’s, Foreman Wolf restaurants (Bar Vasquez, Johnny’s, Cinghiale, Charleston, Petit Louis), the Atlas Restaurant Group locations (Ouzo Bay, Tagliata, The Bygone, Maximon, Italian Disco, Azumi, Harbor East Deli) and Thames Street Oyster House.
Contribute to a fundraising campaign.
Both individual restaurants and industry support organizations have started GoFundMe and other fundraising efforts designed to keep employees and businesses afloat during this time. This includes small-but-beloved spots like Dutch Courage, Silver Queen Café, and Foraged Eatery.
This Adopt-a-Bartender emergency fund GoFundMe supports bartenders from a variety of establishments (and has been vetted–it’s legitimate).
And there’s also a Google Doc that’s been created as a “virtual tip jar” for displaced Baltimore restaurant workers. The document includes the names, restaurants and Paypal or Venmo information for local restaurant industry workers who could use help at this time.
Celebrate the good.
Even in these very confusing and stressful times, people within the community have come together and are giving back in inspiring ways, including the fundraising campaigns and restaurant identification tools shared in this column.
Foraged Eatery has pressed pause on curbside orders but is generously preparing “family meals” for members of the restaurant industry. Mera Kitchen Collective is cooking meals for community members in need (and raising funds to continue to do so). In Fells Point, Pie in the Sky is offering free slices of pizza for those who need it, and they aren’t the only people in the industry working to feed people in need right now. Saval Food Service has donated a large amount of food to efforts supporting laid off restaurant employees. Several local distilleries, including Lyon Distilling and Patapsco Distilling Company, are shifting gears to produce hand sanitizer.
A wide variety of restaurant and other professionals have joined together to support the restaurant industry in a variety of ways, from lobbying to advice, in a Facebook group called Baltimore Area Restaurant Industry Relief Group. If you are a part of the restaurant community and haven’t yet joined the group or if you are an individual who may be able to offer support or advice to members, check it out.
Those are just a few of the ways–both big and small–Baltimoreans are supporting one another during these unpredictable times. There’s a lot of good out there – and a lot of ways to help.