As the nation perseveres, I wake up most mornings like many people wondering when this will be over and I can go back to pursuing one of my favorite activities, namely frequenting great bars and restaurants in Central New York.
Like I tell plenty of visitors, and CNY expats, for the size of our population, we have per capita one of the most diverse and delicious culinary scenes you could ask for. More often than not, considerably better than many larger metro regions.
We have among the best Italian-American fare in the New World, but also excellent Vietnamese, Lebanese, Polish, Dominican, Bosnian and so much more, thanks to a robust history of immigrants sharing their exciting food cultures.
If you’ve ever had a cevapi sandwich, a bowl of pho or pernil you know what I’m talking about. I admit exercise feels good once you get around to it, but my participation of late seems to have more to do with rewards and preemptive, caloric justifications like making room for an upside-down pizza and tall draft lager.
Now that it appears New York has flattened the curve - preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed - our region is slated to reopen restaurants mid-June if we stay on the same trajectory.
But, such transitions come with very difficult questions. Will customers be comfortable sharing air in an enclosed space for extended periods when less than 5% of the population has been tested? And, will anyone find it appealing being in a bar or restaurant with masks and bizarre artificial barriers when the entire idea of such a place is centered around a relaxed, community gathering?
It is cumbersome enough regulating patrons at busy times, but now bartenders will have to regulate social distance and mask-wearing in a political climate now so insidiously asinine even the pandemic has become a partisan affair for party-before-country mouthbreathers.
What happens when a group decides to visit the Mohawk Valley from a highly infectious area because they aren’t open yet, or someone takes a trip up from a hot spot state with reckless pandemic policies?
For the aforementioned examples, this will not be easy - understatement of the century - but that being said, there may be an opportunity in “al fresco” dining, where patrons sit outside in fresh air, more at ease, and at a distance.
Some cities are already closing down streets and allocating additional space for bars and restaurants to help as much as possible during a crisis that puts this service industry, along with entertainment venues, at the greatest disadvantage.
Such an idea just may be the best bet for businesses able to find the space. Those that can get creative will have the best opportunity to sustain. Until then, I will continue to enjoy some of the best takeout options around … curbside or delivery!
This week’s recommendation: Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle, a classic, crisp German pilsner with slight herbal bitterness and a clean, dry finish. 5.1% ABV. Badische Staatsbrauerei, Rothaus Germany
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and the Hop and Goblet in South Utica, New York.