My non-Manhattan friends, those around the US and other countries, are constantly asking how New York City has changed. After ten months, I have become accustomed to my routine, but it is very different from a year ago.
One huge change is the restaurant culture. In order to keep their businesses going, some owners have gotten very creative and set up structures for outdoor dining to keep patrons safe. Often, these constructions are in the streets in front of the restaurants…not the sidewalks. From huts to yurts, from the fancy to the minimal, these innovative creations pepper the city streets.
If anyone had told me last January that I would look forward to going to dinner outside in 28 degrees, I would have laughed. How quickly we adjust. A few weeks ago, donning my long underwear, multiple layers, my heaviest parka, gloves, hat, and mask, I drove downtown with my wife Marjorie to to the meatpacking district to go to Buddakan, a favorite Asian restaurant of ours. The restaurant is 16000 square feet and cavernous…however, no one could be served inside. So, just outside, they set up about 20 covered booths with heat ducted into each booth and additional electric and propane heaters for diners who decided to brave the elements.
Finally, we were able to do something we had not done in close to a year: get together with our friends. It was truly wonderful. And though we never thought we would be having dinner outside in January, we were not cold and really enjoyed the evening out. It was an early night because restaurants in New York City must close by 10:00PM, but we didn’t mind. It felt good to return to a semblance of normalcy in this new reality of ours.
Normally, we would drive home on the West Side Highway along the Hudson River and be stuck in traffic for at least 45 minutes. But on this particular Saturday evening, there was no traffic—nothing—another sign of just how much New York City changed in this last year.
The lights from the skyscrapers twinkled, and the chilled Hudson glistened in the moonlight. It was a magical evening.