Rise of the Ghost Kitchen: Enjoying the #silverliningsoftheapocalypse 

click to enlarge Our ghost town still serves up good grub. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Our ghost town still serves up good grub.

 First of all, it’s not really the apocalypse. So stay calm, but remain vigilant. And let’s take advantage of what remains available to us to support restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, roasteries and retail entities.

Though cooped up, we’ve been encouraged to get outdoors (away from others), so we made active date nights out of walking and biking downtown to grab takeout and get a break from cooking nonstop.

It feels like a ghost town, like we have the city to ourselves, like post-apocalyptic living minus the downside of being pursued by zombies, vampires or roaming leather-clad gangs. Like living our own best version of I Am Legend sans shitty cans of expired soup or scavenged or hunted grub, with eateries open just for us. And — best part — they’re now allowed to serve us to-go booze for consumption back at our makeshift survival shacks (homes). Mad Max or Rick Grimes never had it so good!

From Bingo Burger, we escape with the loaded St. Patty’s Day Melt burger of the month, with Swiss over pastrami and Axe and the Oak whiskey-glazed onions, plus a thick boozy shake featuring that same distillery’s bourbon. At Chiba Bar, we briefly chat with owner Michael Carsten, who’s busy bagging to-go sushi orders between pouring cocktails into plastic cups, which get a lid but no ice, for final prep at home. From Cacao Chemistry, we walk with lavish cacao nib-covered dark chocolate bark.
click to enlarge Chiba Bar owner Michael Carsten stirs up drinks to go — just add the ice at home. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chiba Bar owner Michael Carsten stirs up drinks to go — just add the ice at home.

Plan your own progressive dinner of sorts near your abode if possible. And if you are doing delivery, be green by asking them not to include plastic cutlery or extra napkins. That suggestion came off the Culinary Distancing Facebook group we launched, where we took heart over the last week as we watched community members step up.

Just five of the awesome actions of camaraderie we observed: 1) Neighbors ordering 18 meals together from one eatery to share a single delivery, requesting “chef’s choice” to help them use up inventory. 2) Bartering between businesses for ingredients they needed to maintain service. 3) A rural area requesting food trucks come feed their neighborhood. 4) A business giving away soon-to-expire pastries to staff at other eateries as a treat during this stressful time. 5) Red Gravy referring its brunch biz to neighbors who only serve breakfast: “No reason to compete right now. Let’s all collaborate and survive.”

People have offered to shop for or deliver to one another. They’ve baked for each other. They’ve offered answers to questions, such as where to procure late-night food. Businesses have shared tips on suppliers and local purveyors. We’ll tell more inspiring stories here in the weeks ahead, but for now I’ll close with one more.

I’ve heard from Sean and Inez Fitzgerald of Wobbly Olive and Happy Belly Tacos. They’re working the shifts but giving “every dollar of profit from to-go’s and delivery to my staff,” says Inez. Sean notes negotiating short-term on his rent and utilities and finding other “creative solutions” in order to keep paying employees. “I’m dumbfounded by the way this city has supported us,” he says. But still, he jokes, noting their newness at this to-go orders focus, “If I get a one-star review for delivery on Yelp right now, I’ll burn this whole city down.”

And that, friends, probably would herald the real apocalypse. Then we can panic.


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