During 2020—a year fraught with uncertainty—food quickly emerged as the stabilizing lynchpin of life. Housebound cooks turned baking into a national obsession, pulling uncountable loaves of sourdough bread from previously underutilized ovens. And people never waivered in their desire for favorite restaurant dishes to nourish, sustain, and comfort them.
Restaurants and bars, however, faced unfathomable challenges as revised dining mandates arrived at a furious pace. Embracing their roles as ambassadors of hospitality, casual breakfast haunts to fine dining destinations embraced flexibility and creativity to satisfy clients, and tables sprang up on sidewalks, streets, and parking lots. Food to-go—and, happily, temporarily legalized cocktails to-go—were incorporated into business models, and disrupted supply chains had chefs pivoting to find new sources for essential ingredients. One chef-owner confided that by mid-summer, “every day was like an episode of Chopped.” Guests, though, never sensed the strenuous efforts required to make them feel welcome and relaxed.
All restaurants appearing in this issue were open for in-house dining—in compliance with then-current guidelines—when the profiles were written. That said, Pennsylvania announced a recent ban on indoor dining until January 4, 2021. Fortunately, well-established platforms for carryout service are noted with every profile: Takeout = enter the restaurant to receive your order; Curbside pickup = orders are brought to your car; Delivery = differing services available to the public. (Check websites or social media for updates.)
A new year brings a promise of brighter days ahead. As the poet Alexander Pope wrote nearly 300 years ago, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” After washing my hands thoroughly, I will happily raise a socially-distanced toast to that sentiment.