Chefs Adjust Menus for Eating Outdoors

A grill outside Rahi
Rahi's outdoor set-up | Photo Credit: Rahi

Welcome to Appetizers, OpenTable’s weekly column that aims to uplift and motivate with a weekly roundup of the most inspiring food-world news of the week. Start your weekend with the things that are making us laugh, cry, think, and just plain hungry for more.

Making Us … Impressed

As restaurants take to the streets, many chefs are realizing that meticulous menus don’t always translate to the great outdoors. So they’re once again pivoting in innovative ways that make outdoor dining all the more novel.

Some have created new menus and settings altogether to better fit being outside. At acclaimed Indian restaurant Rahi in New York City, chef Chintan Pandya created an entirely new menu for the streetside tables consisting of a charcoal grill with kebabs, a cocktail bar, and kulfi, or Indian ice cream pops. Meanwhile, San Diego Californian restaurant Island Prime has changed locations and is now a floating patio on the bay with sweeping views of the city. All the cooking is done outdoors, with a “campsite” kitchen that has wood-burning and Evo grills.

Others have tweaked their menus to make for a better experience. At The Vault Garden in San Francisco, chef Robin Song quickly realized that dainty herb garnishes wouldn’t survive a summer breeze, so he switched to using fresh herb-infused oils and purees instead. Nearby award-winning Gujarati restaurant Besharam chef Heena Patel found that items that must be consumed very hot aren’t ideal for cool SF weather, so she changed up how some dishes are served, using raita and chimichurri instead of hot sauces.

Making Us … Hungry

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing up the restaurant industry in ways that will reverberate for years to come, from places scrambling to add robust takeout programs to setting up grocery-style sections. Another new way is the ushering in of all-takeout restaurants, as seen by upcoming D.C. restaurant Baker’s Daughter from Michelin-starred Gravitas chef Matt Baker. By the end of the summer, Baker’s Daughter will be selling groceries, a la carte dishes, and four-course comfort food prix fixe meals — all specifically designed for takeout. “If things get sideways again and we have another closure, this really protects our team,” Baker told Eater DC.

Making Us … Ready for Dessert

A new collaboration between chefs and frozen dessert company Eclipse lets you eat vegan ice cream and donate to a good cause of their choice at the same time. Chefs such as James Beard Award winner Nicole Krasinski of San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions have teamed up with Eclipse to make cheffy flavors like her toasted almond thyme, which benefits Black Earth Farms, a grassroots pan African and pan Indigenous farming collective growing food in the East Bay, in this case. Other flavors include Moonlynn Tsai’s oolong milk tea benefitting Heart of Dinner and Flour Bakery’s sticky sticky bun benefitting Feed a Bostonian in Need.

Making Us … Nostalgic

Previous Appetizers

July 10: Restaurants Take to the Streets

June 25: How Restaurants Are Celebrating Pride This Year

June 19: Restaurants Get Creative With Reopening

June 12: Chefs Band Together for Black Lives Matter Bake Sale

June 8: Restaurants Rally Around the Black Community

May 29: California Restaurant Injects Whimsy Into Reopening

May 22: Ayesha Curry Launches a Lifestyle Magazine

May 15: Top Chefs Do Good

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