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 … toast
Summer park hangs are looking up: Fifteen states have signed bills allowing the COVID-era rule of to-go cocktails to continue — some even permanently. States that will keep the fun going permanently are Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Montana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida, while Delaware, Maine, Virginia, and Washington have extended the to-go rule to at least 2022, according to Today.
Plus, at least 15 other states are considering similar bills, The New York Times reports. The National Restaurant Association called the movement “the most dramatic change in state alcohol laws since the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.” Cheers to that.
Making us … thankful
As if restaurants haven’t already done enough this year, some are banding together yet again to help those in need. This week, through Saturday, May 29, ordering Indian food from more than 30 participating restaurants around the world will support efforts to provide oxygen to India, which has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and is currently facing oxygen shortages. The campaign — called 1 Billion Breaths and founded by New York City restaurateur Basu Ratnam — will donate 100 percent of proceeds to nonprofit organizations Oxygen For India and Give India Oxygen. Participating restaurants include Baar Baar (NYC), Badmaash (LA), Besharam (SF), Ghee Indian Kitchen (Miami), and more. For the full list of restaurants, visit 1 Billion Breaths.
Making us … anticipate
Mark your social calendars — these are the restaurants that you will want to see and be seen at this summer. First off is Mexico City transplant LA Cha Cha Chá. The luscious plant-lined rooftop in Downtown LA boasts good views and good vibes all around, taking Mexican classics to the next level with the likes of bunapi and maitake mushroom tacos, octopus habanero tostadas, plus cocktails for days. Next up is celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s latest project, Amalfi, in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. As the name suggests, Southern Italian fare takes center stage, inspired by Flay’s extensive travels through Italy. And over in Chicago’s West Loop, Top Chef star Joe Flamm’s debut restaurant Rose Mary, named after his grandmothers, reflects his Italian heritage and channels Croatian influences from his wife, coining the phrase “Adriatic drinking food.” Dining is back, and it’s great.
Making us … hopeful
A Charleston restaurant group is doing all it can to close the wage gap that exists between front-of-house and back-of-house restaurant workers due to the tipping system. At the 5th Street Group in downtown Charleston, which encompasses restaurants such as 5Church and Tempest, all diners now have 3 percent added to their checks — a small amount that has huge impacts on workers’ wages. Patrick Whalen, owner of the restaurant group, told The Post and Courier that even though kitchen workers make $22 an hour, a competitive rate in the Charleston area, they still end their shifts with half the amount as those working the floor. He added a story about one of his workers who told his team that the nightly tips would allow him to eat when not at the restaurant. Huge impact, indeed.
Making us … ecstatic
March 18: This Year’s St. Patrick’s Day Represented Hope for Many Restaurants
February 18: The Pandemic Is Reviving the Drive-In Restaurant
January 15: Restaurants Are Creatively Using Empty Hotel Rooms as Private Dining Spaces