I was planning to write some very backlogged reviews after Super Tuesday (when I was spending a lot of my spare time volunteering for the Elizabeth Warren campaign), but COVID-19 has changed all that, as it has for all of us in the past 1-2 weeks in the United States.
So what does the growing Coronavirus crisis in the US mean for eating Asian food? Why does it even matter when we are told to socially distance ourselves and avoid crowded spaces, including restaurants?
Well it does matter because food service establishments (restaurants and bars) employs more than 12 million people in the United States. Many of them now face an uncertain future when state governments are issuing strong guidance or ordering bars and restaurants to close indefinitely or drastically curtail service hours and number of people they can seat at a given time. This has been especially acute for Asian, particularly Chinese, restaurants that have seen sharp declines in business since January to due racist and unfounded fears that somehow you could get COVID-19 from Chinese food or because Chinese Americans work their (despite never having been to China recently or have contact with people diagnosed with COVID-19). This has led to temporary and permanent closures of Chinese restaurants across the country due to the slowdown in business.
Now all bars and restaurants are being hit hard, of course, so we should be supportive of all local food establishments as much as we can. Of course, Asian restaurants have been hit harder and for longer so if you want to prioritize them, I think that is valid.
Just this afternoon my friend organized a few of her friends, including myself, to her house to eat Chinese food from Oakland Chinatown to support Chinese restaurants. Originally our plan was to actually do a “restaurant hop” but given the guidance and developments in the last week in the Bay Area we switched to getting takeout and meeting at my friend’s place (and even then there were last minute concerns that maybe we weren’t socially distancing ourselves as much as we should). But all in all, we felt good being able to socialize in a small group but also support local. businesses that have been hurting.
So given the current situation I would say yes, support your local restaurants, especially Asian restaurants. If you can’t go to a restaurant (either because your state or locality has shut down restaurants or you don’t feel comfortable), order takeout or delivery and make sure to tip well. We should all do our part in social distancing but also do our part in supporting our local restaurants in whatever way we can as long as possible we are able.