Rising like the phoenix: The rebirth of NYC restaurants

“We had to keep reinventing the business every week to two weeks.”

Caitlyn Morrissey, store manager. Source: The New York Times

New York small businesses have seen the full financial force of the pandemic, and restaurants have born the brunt of it. Roughly 7,000 NYC small businesses have shut down permanently since the start of the pandemic. The New York Times reported that a third of these small business closures are restaurants. So when I see a tattooed old man out with his DeWalt circular saw and 2x4s procured from the Flatiron Home Depot two blocks away, building outdoor seating as structurally sound as any residential building, my hat goes off to him. This post is a homage to those who have recreated the restaurant.

Reinvention: Not just by restaurant owners

We’ve heard various narratives about the “multiplier effect” of a job. Once one person is employed, they have money to spend that helps employ someone else. The same is true of restaurants setting up outdoor seating. From local contractors to florists to set designers looking for very off-Broadway work, skilled builders have redeployed expertise for the local restaurant. Design firms like Rockwell Group and Pink Sparrow have mocked up modular, prefabricated platforms, barriers, and parklets — which they may make available as DIY kits. And of course, most scrappy New York restaurateurs literally scrapped something together.

Best of NYC outdoor seating

In celebration of NYC creativity, we’ve identified a few outdoor dining “winners” who categorically stood out.

Most creative social distancing: Cafe du Soleil, French cafe, Upper West Side

The Covid bubble is real.

Best outdoor indoor seating: Kyuramen, ramen house, Flushing

Am I on the outside looking in, or on the inside looking out?

Best use of public infrastructure: Hudson Clearwater, American restaurant, West Village

Public seating upgrade or restaurant oeuvre, you decide.

Most European-inspired: Le Zie, Italian restaurant, Chelsea

The closest thing to a vacation you’ll get this year.

Most authentic: Smithfield Hall, sports bar, Flatiron

Sometimes, all you need is a nice, cool pint.

Mo’ seating, mo’ permanent

It’s not just restaurants that are allowed to apply for street seating —it’s anyone with a ground-floor store front. And it’s not just a pandemic “perk” now to dine outside. Our mayor wants to embrace our new sidewalk cafe seating year-round. While our city is evolving out of necessity, some of it will be for the better. Especially for all the new puppy owners who can bring their four-legged family members out for lunch and dinner.

On a personal note, it’s great to see the Keynsian multiplier in full effect, increasing the velocity of money and driving trickle-out economics. As in we’re trickling out into the streets.

NYC social Tetris: where dog friendly meets kid friendly

This weekend I had my first baby-puppy meet up with b-school friends. Yes, we’re all in that phase of life ranging from millennial pawent to full fledged parenthood. We chose what seemed like the perfect meeting point: Madison Square Park. It boasts a modern playground and one of the rare small dog parks for the under 20 lb pooches. When the six adults converged we began dancing a fine line. A cluster of us filtered into the playground where the dog wasn’t allowed. Then we switched to the dog park, where the two-year-old was less than thrilled but stoical about being surrounded by animals larger than her. Finally, we all decided it was time to stroll in search of a truly common ground: the outdoor cafe. Yet such spots are somewhat elusive, seasonal, and in high demand at this time of year. At this point I started to realize what parenthood is really about: planning.

I began the search for the ideal map of places that meet all of our familial needs. And here is what I found:

Dog friendly cafe map

The Dog People, powered by Rover.com, wins my earnest respect for actually pinning their favorite dog-friendly restaurant to a map! While it’s limited to Manhattan, that’s the hardest borough to navigate with a fluffy friend. Bring Fido comes in second for its colorful food photography, although the “New York, New York” tag for every location doesn’t add much.

Kid friendly restaurant list

Time Out New York is certainly guilty of over-indexing on Times Square, but lots of their picks, like Alice’s Tea Cup, are super legit. I personally love their pumpkin scones – which taste like real British scones, with buttery rich moisture. (If you thought you didn’t like scones, you should still try these ones!)

The overlap

Time Out New York’s kid friendly list and the Dog People’s dog friendly list share two of the top ten restaurants! They are:

1. Barking Dog Luncheonette (Upper East Side)

2. Cowgirl NYC (West Village)

And I made a map of the overlap! Now I know exactly where to go when we have a multi-family, multi-species outing. Happy spring!