Welcome to Appetizers, OpenTable’s column that aims to uplift and motivate with a taste of the most inspiring food-world news of the moment. Discover the things that are making us laugh, cry, think, and just plain hungry for more.
Making us … crave corned beef
While last year’s St. Patrick’s Day was the first major restaurant celebration casualty of the pandemic, this year’s represented the first major sign of hope. Restaurateurs across the country expressed optimism and excitement at being able to welcome diners back in for what’s often one of the busiest days of the year. At Boston Irish pub icon Ned Devine’s, celebrations occurred both indoors and outside in igloos. “We’re just so grateful to celebrate today. It’s just really what it comes down to,” Ned Devine’s marketing director told WCVB.
At The Gage in Chicago, live music was canceled, but the restaurant put special St. Patrick’s Day dishes on the menu for both dine-in and takeout for diners to enjoy. “We have to live life and enjoy life,” owner Billy Lawless told Eater. “Our life is today.”
Chris McManus, owner of Kelsey’s Irish Pub in Ellicott City, Maryland, summed it up best when he told WBALTV: “It’s nice to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.”
Making us … tear up
Proving the emotional place restaurants play in our lives, Ekiben in Baltimore has captured the hearts of thousands with an incredible act of kindness for one of its diners. When owner Steve Chu heard from a customer asking for the recipe for the restaurant’s broccoli tempura dish so that he could cook it for his terminally ill mother-in-law, Chu took his answer one step further. The Baltimore restaurateur personally drove the six hours up to Vermont, where the woman with late-stage cancer lived, to make the dish himself. “My mom cried later about their generosity and so did I,” the woman’s daughter Rina Jones told the Washington Post. “It’s something we’ll never forget — I’ll carry that positive memory with me, always.” Chu’s response was humble: “To me, it was a huge honor to be able to help fulfill the family’s wishes,” he said. “This is about her, not us. There was a lot of good, positive energy in doing this.”
Making us … excited for reopenings
With indoor dining ramping back up across the country, restaurants are reopening to welcome diners back into spaces that have been closed for many months. At San Francisco steakhouse icon House of Prime Rib, months of safety precautions and readying have led to this moment. “There’s a lot of people smiling,” co-owner Steven Betz told SFGate. “I haven’t seen this in a while. It makes it kind of worth it right now.”
Plus, the second edition of Jacques Pepin’s virtual cookbook is out, with tons of fresh new recipes that are getting us ready to head back to our favorite restaurants to get them. Recipes include creamy semolina with white truffles and parmigiano reggiano from No. 9 Park’s Barbara Lynch, Baja ceviche tostadas from Border Grill’s Mary Sue Milliken, and more.
Making us … celebrate
February 18: The Pandemic Is Reviving the Drive-In Restaurant
January 15: Restaurants Are Creatively Using Empty Hotel Rooms as Private Dining Spaces
December 16: Restaurateurs Push Back on Dining Restrictions