Outdoor Dining Gives Residents a Taste of Normalcy

Meiling Laurence, Staff Writer

At the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown in March, restaurants across New York state were shut down along with other businesses that were deemed “nonessential.”  This was a devastating blow to many establishments on Long Island, who, for safety reasons, were only permitted to serve takeout for a prolonged period of time.  Since the implementation of Phase II of New York’s Covid-19 reopening plan in June, many eateries have mounted a slow but steady recovery, as they have begun to welcome in-person customers once again.

While this has spurred a return to some semblance of pre-COVID normalcy, a lot has changed in the way that restaurants operate.  Restaurants are encumbered with far more health and safety regulations: all tables must be arranged at least six feet apart to ensure social distancing, employees must wear masks at all times, and establishments must be cleaned and disinfected more frequently than has been required in the past.  Most fatefully, indoor dining has been severely constricted.  Although the resumption of indoor dining on Long Island was cleared by the state government in June, it has been reduced nearly to a skeletal operation, with restaurants serving at only half capacity.  Moreover, business has also declined due to cautious customers who have abstained from restaurant dining due to the virus. 

As a result, many restaurants in Port Washington, similar to countless others across the country, have turned to outdoor dining to start business up again and generate revenue. 

Students at Schreiber have eaten at many restaurants around town. Junior Kayla Caplin recently visited Narinatto (formerly iDiner), an Asian fusion restaurant that recently relocated to a bystreet off of Main Street known for flavorful dishes like bibimbap.  While sitting outdoors, she enjoyed dumplings and soup.  

“It was really safe and the servers all wore masks,” Caplin said.

She also noted a COVID-induced change particular to Asian cuisine: individual utensils were distributed to each patron and their meals were separated from others, a deviation from the common Asian cultural practice of sharing communal meals using chopsticks.  Regardless of the new changes that Narinatto had to incorporate, Kayla assured that her experience was on par with pre-coronavirus indoor dining and that the new changes “really weren’t an issue at all.” 

“I don’t really miss indoor dining,” she said. “I like eating outside, although I think it will get worse when it’s cold,” said Caplin.

Other Schreiber students also gave upbeat reviews of outdoor dining in Port Washington.  Junior Sarika Israni dined at Waterzooi last week, a seafood restaurant located on Port Washington Boulevard that opened up a few months ago.  Israni, tucked into a plate of their famous oysters, but felt uneasy about eating inside.

“When I ate inside, I felt really anxious about taking my mask off,” she said.  “I definitely felt safer outside because there’s more space and better ventilation.  Outdoors, the service was great and it didn’t make me feel nervous.  It makes up for not being able to dine inside.”

Junior Olivia Platt junior recently visited Finn MacCool’s, an Irish-American bistro on Main Street.  She reiterated the idea that outdoor restaurant service has helped foster some much-needed normalcy amid the widespread upheaval today.

“Not much has changed  besides the fact that we ate outside and there were more social distancing precautions.  It was a great experience,” said Platt.

She also said that outdoor dining at restaurants is an important vehicle for social interaction, and that it delivers an experience that “would be missing if we only had takeout.”  

Though much has changed since the arrival of the coronavirus in Port Washington, outdoor dining at restaurants in town has helped our community cope with this year’s unusual circumstances.  It has allowed us to taste a morsel, if not more, of the “old normal” before we were struck by COVID-19.  With outdoor dining arrangements, we can savor tasty dishes, socialize face-to-face, and support our local restaurants, just like we always have, all while staying safe in the open air.