In Heated. More on Medium.

REEF Technology may change how we think of restaurants post-Covid

A pop-up REEF kitchen.
A pop-up REEF kitchen.
(Here, notably not in a parking garage.) Photo: REEF Technology

Order up! One fried chicken sandwich appears on the digital screen. Batter, dunk, fry, assemble. The spicy habanero fried chicken gets gussied up with a few pickle slices and a slap of butter on a Martin’s potato roll. Paired with macaroni salad and daikon slaw. Like an orchestrated quartet, three chefs seamlessly construct David Chang’s famous Fuku Korean fried chicken sandwiches in a 200-square-foot kitchen. The sandwich is popped into a to-go box and sealed with a Fuku sticker. …

A memory of Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse

A spread at Sammy’s Roumanian.
A spread at Sammy’s Roumanian.
Photo: Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse

Some restaurant closures hurt more than others. It’s not always about the food itself, although it’s often the key element. To a guy who has eaten at over 4,000 restaurants across six continents, the losses that sting most are the classics. Take NYC’s 21 Club, for example. Not the world’s finest food, but an incomparable feeling of being immersed in New York City Prohibition-era history. And a killer martini.

With more restaurant closures now than ever, we’re losing everything from local joints, the places that define a neighborhood, to the legendary establishments that define an era. I was particularly saddened…

One potential silver lining of the pandemic is repairing broken systems

An empty restaurant.
An empty restaurant.
Photo: Wes Branch via Unsplash

As the U.S. hurtles toward its first Covid winter, here’s a silver lining sentiment to temper the gloom and doom dominating the news cycle: Maybe, just maybe, all this devastation will expose the broken things in American society and create an opening to fix them.

The Great Chicago Fire gave rise to the city’s iconic skyscrapers; the blizzard of 1888 prompted New York City to take its trains and power lines underground; the Great Depression spawned FDR’s New Deal. When the current slow-motion disaster is finally behind us, what overdue changes might emerge from the wreckage?

The restaurant industry, which…

Covid is shaping all of our lives: In my case, it means moving back home

An order of blue crab nachos
An order of blue crab nachos
Photo courtesy of Cyclone Ayana’s

My waitress was kind enough to pretend not to notice, but I’m sure she could see how red and watery my eyes were. and figure out what was going on. I pulled it together, though, and got my order together: a full-size order of the blue crab nachos and a jalapeño margarita.

I was sitting outside at the Cyclone Ayana’s location in Houston in the area now known as Midtown, which used to be known as just Fourth Ward before gentrification. I did not eat inside because I am no fan of tempting fate, much less during a plague. …

Welcome to Montana, where residents took Covid seriously from the start

The interior of a shop with signs about safety.
The interior of a shop with signs about safety.
Photos: Adam Erace

Midway through a week traveling in western Montana, I ran into a notecard hanging in the window of Bigfork’s 80-year-old Echo Lake Café. With pastel sprigs of flora in the card’s corners and a “Welcome!!” rolling across the top in swooping mauve letters, it looked like an invitation to a bridal shower. Instead, it listed the restaurant’s pandemic protocols:

• Tables being spaced out 6 feet

• No counter seating

• All tables, booths, salt and pepper shakers, menus, etc. are sanitized after each use

• Hourly sanitizing of frequently touched areas

• Hand sanitizers placed in several high traffic…

In Transit

Owner David Garcia, of Little Havana’s La Camaronera, has kept his restaurant going at a brisk clip, with no staff infections, for now

Gif of the Camaronera sign.
Gif of the Camaronera sign.
Illustrations: Bea Hayward

Welcome to In Transit, a column from the writer Mayukh Sen focusing on how immigrant-owned restaurants across America are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Read previous installments here.

Before he was even a teenager, David Garcia got his first job at his family’s restaurant, La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market, in Miami’s Little Havana. It wasn’t exactly glamorous work. He spent that summer in the early 1990s peeling and deveining shrimp. “That would make you not want to be in the restaurant business,” Garcia recalled of that labor one day in late October. “It was horrific, man.”

Miraculously, the…

By focusing on details, this Hokkaido native moved to New York and made it happen

Exterior of a restaurant.
Exterior of a restaurant.
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura

Kiyoshi Chikano is executive chef of the first and only Michelin-starred tempura restaurant in the U.S., Tempura Matsui. In our interview, I assumed Chikano-san was in his 30s, for he looks quite young and spoke of his former bosses as “oyakata” — a term that’s equivalent to master — but he revealed that he’s actually 49.

His career started in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, where he worked at a sushi restaurant until telling his mentor he wanted to work in the city. His mentor advised him to make his way to Tokyo and introduced him to a restaurant called Zakuro…

Marino Ristorante’s Giro d’Italia menu is a taste of Italy from Sicily to Lombardy

Cyclists race during the early days of Giro d’Italia 2020
Cyclists race during the early days of Giro d’Italia 2020
Cyclists race during the early days of Giro d’Italia 2020. Photo: Giro d’Italia

You can think of the Giro d’Italia as a 21-day crash course in Italian biodiversity. Known as Italy’s Tour de France, the cycling race starts at Mount Etna of Sicily, climbs north along the coastal farmland of Puglia and Emila-Romagna, and winds through the lakes and snow-capped mountains of Lombardy and Veneto before finishing triumphantly in Milan.

From a cyclist’s point of view, it’s a dreamscape of challenging and ever-changing terrain. Through a chef’s eyes, it’s a fascinating opportunity to explore the wildly different and well-preserved culinary traditions of 10 Italian regions.

Through a chef’s eyes, it’s a fascinating opportunity…

Vegan icon Isa Chandra Moskowitz gets inspired by her punk past with a Covid-era cookzine

Vegan Buffalo wings from Modern Love. Photo: Modern Love (Omaha)

On September 21, Isa Chandra Moskowitz dropped an earnest note into the rotten narcotic of election-season Twitter: Hey journalists, I have a really good story about a restaurant that stayed in business during covid by doing a cookzine and switching to a delivery friendly menu. Pls reach out. Oh ps it’s my restaurant.”

Effective. I DM’ed her.

Moskowitz, the vegan cookbook author, chef, and restaurateur, was tweeting from Omaha, Nebraska, where she opened her first restaurant, Modern Love, in 2014. …

It’s time to talk more candidly about Covid coping

A bartender mixing drinks.
A bartender mixing drinks.
Lauren Paylor co-founded Focus on Health to support hospitality workers dealing with depression. Photo: Shannon Sturgis

When Lauren Paylor, a mixologist at the Silver Lyan in Washington, D.C., was laid off at the end of March, she began feeling lost, aimless, and untethered.

“It was really difficult,” said Paylor, who had dealt with anxiety and depression before. “I didn’t know what to do with myself or how to keep myself occupied and I was getting depressed. I knew I needed to figure it out.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly 2.5 …


Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store