Greetings, social-distancers. Restaurants are slowly making their way back, pivoting into takeout and delivery. One of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in this crisis has been Chinatown, and the business community there is working on a recovery. Also this week: Staff writer Jenn Ladd explains why meat shortages may be in the offing. (Or offal-ing, as it were.)
In a bit of good news, Philadelphia has five names on the James Beard Award finalist list.
Weeks before the U.S. spread of the coronavirus made headlines, Chinatown businesses took a hit — not only from non-Asian patrons fearing the unknown but from Asian-born locals who’d heard horror stories from back home.
John Chin, executive director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., sat down with his 200 constituents, including some 70 restaurants, to create a return campaign. It will be unveiled shortly, but for now, you can see it in action at Vietnam Restaurant (221 N. 11th St.), where owner Benny Lai has followed CDC sanitation guidelines and offers takeout from the front door, which is set up with a table, a Venmo QR code and credit-card chip reader, and a hand sanitizer pump — in short, the model for the rest of Chinatown as it reopens. Chin explains that other old-time restaurants, such as Lee How Fook (next door), are on board for contactless pickup and payment, and will inspire the younger owners to adopt it.
Vietnam is only one destination restaurant of many to switch over to takeout this week. The latest is Vedge (1221 Locust St.), which on Friday starts pickup (only) with a $50 French picnic menu for two and a “bar box” of wines and snacks. Details will be posted at Vedge’s Instagram.
In fact: If you don’t have Instagram, now is the time to join, on the web or app. Restaurants use it to post menus, ordering info, and other deals. It’s far less cluttered than Facebook, and tends to be updated more frequently than restaurants’ own websites.
Also newly taking the plunge into takeout/delivery land, in no particular order: El Vez, Morimoto, Via Locusta, Alpen Rose, Goldie, Dizengoff, Laser Wolf, Le Virtu, Bistrot La Minette, Gabi, Pizzeria Beddia, Suraya, and that King of Prussia stalwart, Creed’s. I’m also hearing that the Four Seasons Philadelphia is working on it.
No matter where you order, paid-in-advance pickup is probably your better option, given the attention that restaurants are paying to contactless food handoffs. The third-party delivery services not only charge restaurants (and sometimes customers) a fortune, but the drivers can’t always be counted on for speed or accuracy.
The nation’s meat supply has been shaken by the coronavirus as sickened workers have prompted temporary plant closings. Even if you skip the supermarket and seek out meats from local butchers, you still may find shortages, writes Jenn Ladd. On a positive note: The quality out there is outstanding. Many butchers lost their restaurant business and are redirecting that prime merchandise to everyday home cooks.
The James Beard Awards were delayed this year by you-know-what. On Monday, the very day the awards were to be handed out in Chicago, the foundation announced its list of nominees. This was an average year, as the short list has Marc Vetri (chef), Kalaya (new restaurant), and three of the six slots for Mid-Atlantic chef: Nick Elmi of Laurel, ITV, and Royal Boucherie; Rich Landau of Vedge, V Street, and D.C.'s Fancy Radish; and Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico. (New year, same faces there.)
We may not be able to enjoy these restaurants as we used to, but critic Craig LaBan has sampled many of their takeout offerings, and Grace Dickinson lays out how to order from them.
We go from noms to moms: Mother’s Day, the Social Distance Edition, arrives Sunday. Freelancer Sarah Maiellano asked four Philadelphia chefs to reminisce about their early memories of cooking with their moms and grandmothers: Lou Boquila, Jose Garces, Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, and Joe and Angela Cicala. There are recipes, too.