Dining Out….Or Not!

By the Gastronomes

Dining Out….Or Not!

Just like many of the other standard columns published in the OTC, this column has taken on a new personality since the pandemic hit the area. We no longer feel like we can single out any one particular restaurant to profile when they “all” need all of the extra support they can get. Last month we wrote about the nuances of going on a picnic and purchasing the contents for your basket at a local eatery. Unfortunately, the weather was soooooo hot for almost two weeks straight, the concept of eating anywhere outside during the daylight hours was insane. Hopefully, this month those high temps will take a break and you can plan that picnic.

We have been following a local Facebook page whose members comment on curbside and other dining options in the Alexandria area. If you will remember, I mentioned that the majority of the members said they would NOT be headed out to dine out any time soon when we went into Phase 2 in June that allowed al fresco dining as an option. Since then, we have merged into Phase 3 and the opportunity to dine in (with restrictions) is an option. I was interested to see what the “mood” was within the group after 2 months so I posed the same question the Chef from Café 44 did when Phase 2 kicked in. I received over 250 responses at the time of this writing and they were still pouring in. The consensus of 99% – yes, that’s right, 99% – of the comments were, “We/I won’t be dining al fresco or inside anytime soon. It’s curbside, carryout or delivery only!” Let me tell you, there were some VERY emphatic responses. On the upside, almost everyone indicated that they have been ordering from locally owned eateries and avoiding the chains and are very concerned about supporting the independent restaurant community in Alexandria. This is good news.

We continue to be amazed at what the community has done to make it a bit easier for our restaurant friends to operate under all of these “conditions”. Closing the 100 Block of King Street to create a pedestrian “mall” experience, allowing sidewalk and curbside dining throughout the City and making curbside pickup more attractive. In fact, the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association has changed up the tone of the annual August Alexandria Restaurant Week. The entire promotion is geared for “To-Go” meals. Participating restaurants are offering $49 takeout, delivery or curbside pickup dinner for two from August 21st to the 30th. There are many variations of the offer between locations so your best bet is to check out the menu “flip book” for participating restaurants, etc. at AlexandriaRestaurantWeek.com

On a personal note, we are comfortable dining inside or outside since masks are required unless you are sitting at your table and even though restaurant capacity requirements have been lifted, the requisite 6’ distancing between tables is still mandated as are the precautions that the servers have to take. We are such creatures of habit and were used to dining out several times a week spreading ourselves between 3 or 4 of our favorite places. We have had to curtail indulging ourselves like we used to since the economics won’t allow for it and it is getting a  bit easier to resign ourselves to cook at home but we are both waiting patiently until we can go have a nice lunch at the bar with our favorite bartenders and friends. I will admit that we have only been dining in places that we have been patronizing for years or that are recommended to us by friends.

No matter your dining preferences, we encourage you to patronize our local, independently owned establishments. We want to give a special shout out to our loyal advertisers who have stayed with us throughout the pandemic– Landini Brothers, The Fish Market, The Warehouse, Mackie’s, River Bend Bistro, Tempo and Bastille here in Alexandria and Stoney’s Kingfisher on Solomons Island, MD. Also, want to recommend some of the best hot sauce I have had in a long time – Hurricane Bob’s Cajun Dew & Inca Gold – order yourself some online or pick some up in town. Please check out their ads in this issue.

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