Eating Out in NYC (Literally)

Six weeks ago I walked past this VIP outdoor seating at a Thai place I used to meet beau at sometimes. No longer offering indoor dining due to the pandemic, they had set up a single table on the sidewalk. The velvety red rope stood in contrast to the nearby stack of carrots and parked school buses across the street.

New York has been very creative with its outdoor dining. To make up for the fact that customers are seated on sidewalks next to traffic, they have enclosed the small areas in festive colored walls, plants, and decorations.

Since mid-March, I have only had one meal at a restaurant with table service in New York City. One September weekend, I met up with a friend and her boyfriend at a Thai place in midtown. The tables, rather than being placed on the sidewalk, were on the road, separated from the restaurant facade by a bike lane. When we arrived, the server looked left and right, then led us across the bike lane to our table. I was tickled by this. There was even a sign warning customers to be aware of passing bikes.

Luckily, 9th Avenue is actually pretty quiet traffic-wise.

As we waited for our dinner to be served, my friend pointed out “The Edge,” a new viewpoint at the top of a skyscraper nearby. They had just come from there before meeting me. Because she is a doctor, she had received a free ticket during that period when many businesses were offering perks and discounts to first-responders.

At one point, I crossed the bike lane to enter the restaurant to go to the bathroom. As I stepped through the door, an employee held a temperature gun to my head, which surprised me since he didn’t audibly say anything before doing so.

After dinner, we donned our masks and walked to the Hudson River, something I have done many times in previous summers but was the first (and last) time this season.

Near the river, people were lounging on the grass and sitting at the chairs and tables. I saw one woman lovingly brushing her dog and another two people trying to get their dogs to pose for pictures. I wondered whether the months of quarantine had made dogs’ importance loom all the more large in people’s lives, or whether I had forgotten what New York City pet owners are like. Given the number of pet strollers in Manhattan (not many, but more than you might think), it was probably a bit of both.

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