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Outdoor Winter Dining: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

Outdoor Winter Dining: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

It’s clear that Americans have had to make incredible sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, we’ve had to adjust to working from home, seeing our friends through a screen, and even canceling major life events. Weddings and graduations have been postponed, while nine out of 10 funeral services held today have loved ones who are unable to attend.

That said, the pandemic has forced us to get creative. Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention — and despite the risks, many are determined to soldier on (albeit in new ways). That’s especially true for the restaurant industry, which was arguably one of the hardest-hit sectors during this health crisis. Things may not be back to normal yet, but we’ve found plenty of ways to support our favorite eateries — and experience something slightly resembling normalcy, in some cases.

Outdoor Winter Dining: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

igloo dining @nyc via  Instagram

Is Winter Outdoor Dining Safe?

One of the main questions being asked is whether winter outdoor dining is actually safe. Not only are the temperatures rather frigid in many parts of the country, but temporary structures are being erected by many restaurants in order to accommodate customers. The problem is that many of these structures don’t seem much safer than indoor dining when it comes right down to it.

There’s a lot of variation when it comes to outdoor dining structures. Some restaurants are using igloos or yurts, while others have enclosed areas on two or three sides. It’s a bit of a mystery as to whether or not any of these structures have proper airflow, which could be a problem if you’re dining with someone outside your immediate household. It’s also up to the municipality to set rules pertaining to outdoor dining capacity — but there’s no guarantee whether or not the restaurant will comply.

When an environmental engineering professor was interviewed by Vice News, it was revealed that an enclosure with multiple walls or sides can’t technically be categorized as outdoor dining from a safety standpoint. It’s also important to note that there are no totally safe indoor environments, even with good ventilation and air purification. Some restaurants are forgoing the six-feet rule with outdoor dining, as walls or tents provide a false sense of security and separation. And because customers don’t wear masks during meals, dining outdoors might be a lot riskier than you’d think. Of course, weather conditions can also make outdoor dining less safe. Snow, freezing temperatures, and even heat lamps could pose dangers to diners.

COVID-19 is certainly a huge concern for most Americans, given the number of rising cases across the country. Although anywhere from 8,000 to 18,000 U.S. residents are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease every year, more than 27.8 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the last year with approximately 488,000 fatalities. While this isn’t deterring Americans from eating outdoors (or inside, in many cases), many experts agree that it’s nearly impossible to know whether an outdoor dining setup has good ventilation — and you might not know until you arrive how a given restaurant is adhering to health guidelines. Although virtually no situation is without risk, it’s worth asking yourself whether it’s really worth it in this case.

Outdoor Winter Dining: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

Olio é Piu indoor/outdoor dining

What Should You Wear When Dining Outdoors This Winter?

If you live in a warmer state, you might not have to bundle up for outdoor dining. But in many areas, cold temperatures and inclement weather can make eating outside a lot less comfortable. And while some eateries will attempt to use technology to fight some of those effects, it’s never going to be as pleasant as indoor dining would be.

So how can you stay cozy? Dressing in layers is key. Instead of wearing breathable fabrics like cotton, opt for wool or synthetic fiber for your base layers. You should probably wear a thick, long puffer coat, thick socks, insulated boots, a scarf, leather gloves, and a hat, as well. It’s a good idea to BYOB — bring your own blanket, in the case — to cover yourself up as your body temperature drops throughout the evening. You might even consider getting yourself a battery-powered heated jacket or hand warmers for some extra warmth.

Overall, try to keep your meal brief (which you should do anyway to reduce transmission risk!) and check the weather forecast before you decide to dine out. It’s a good idea to call the restaurant directly, as well, to assess whether they have the room or what kinds of accommodations they might have. If you know you’re someone who is sensitive to the cold, it might be best to sit this one out.

Outdoor Winter Dining: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

What’s the Best Way to Keep Supporting Local Restaurants?

Many people choose to dine outdoors because they simply miss the restaurant experience. But a CDC study from September found that adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than those who tested negative (and there was no discrimination made between indoor and outdoor dining). Another study published in November found that restaurants were the riskiest places for new infections. If you’re being tempted because you see others enjoying meals outside or you want to support your favorite eatery, you might want to consider some alternatives.

Although fully loaded semi-trucks can weigh as much as 18,000 pounds, lighter-weight food trucks are still a common sight on many roads throughout the United States. If you have a favorite, follow them on social media to see where they might be headed if you’re looking for a restaurant experience without taking as big a chance. Ordering take-out is also a popular option, albeit not a new one. Instead of relying on GrubHub or DoorDash, which take a percentage of sales from the restaurant, opt to order directly through the restaurant for pick-up or delivery. Many restaurants put together special dining packages for holidays or even virtual events, so inquire with them about whether there might be something exciting to try at home.

It’s not easy for many of us to accept that restaurant dining isn’t yet back to normal. But until it is, dining outdoors this winter might be a bit too risky — or just a bit too uncomfortable — for some.

‘Check, Please!’ Restaurants Including Fee In Bills To Cover Employee Healthcare

Healthcare has been a part of the conversation for some time across all different countries. Different solutions have been a part of trying to figure things out. Some countries have national healthcare insurance, others have private insurance of varying types such as couples health insurance. In America, it is a hot topic because one thing remains certain: not everyone has access to the healthcare they need.

It’s common for people to think of their own healthcare without much considering what others are going through. Many Americans receive health insurance through their employers, but this isn’t the case for all American workers. At the end of the day, what do small business owners do for health insurance if their budget isn’t very big? How can they provide coverage if they aren’t making as much money as bigger businesses? It’s leaving some workers with no insurance. This is especially true of the service industry. Your servers, bussers, bartenders, barbacks, cooks, etc. don’t often receive healthcare benefits through their jobs. Obviously, this doesn’t make them need it any less, yet they remain in a difficult situation when it comes to accessing affordable healthcare. This can be particularly taxing when workers in these industries work peculiar hours or multiple different service jobs.

Group of Happy friends having breakfast in the restaurant

A little perspective: people can bill a 45 to 60 minute acupuncture session to their insurance company in the name of wellness, but large groups of service industry workers lack any insurance to cover even the cost of an annual checkup. Some restaurants are attempting to rectify this issue by passing a percentage of the cost onto the customers. As you can imagine, restaurants that have decided to do this receive all manner of mixed feelings, opinions, and comments. Let’s explore.

To explain how it works in the most basic sense, let’s say you’re out to eat with friends. The four of you have dinner, a couple of bottles of wine, and dessert. When it comes time to pay the bill and leave, your receipt breaks down the cost and you’ll see the typical things, but among them is one you haven’t seen before: healthcare tax, for instance. It’s not much, maybe even a few dollars compared to the rest of your bill. This extra tax is being added to your bill to help the restaurant pay for health insurance for their service staff. Some like the idea, others don’t.

With the average age of retirement at age 63, health insurance becomes an increasingly important consideration for everyone. By 2030, more than 20% of the population will be above age 65, and as age and time increase, so does the need for proper and affordable healthcare options. As such, closer attention is being paid to the healthcare access of the historically underserved restaurant industry. We mentioned the people who were adverse toward spending an extra percentage on an added health insurance tax at a restaurant, but there are many who support and champion the idea.

This isn’t a new thing, with restaurants across the country adding these provisions to their guest checks. Some help cover health insurance costs, others supply service industry workers with higher wages, paid time off, and the like. While some restaurants make this fee optional and give guests the freedom to remove such fees from their bill, others announce them as non-optional. A simple, small cost for the service provided and an investment into the community that serves. The move has been largely accepted by diners who, for the most part, aren’t going to cease frequenting a favorite restaurant for reason of paying a small percentage toward the waitstaff. Still, others aren’t so keen, saying that such fees rob guests while negatively impacting the tips that make a bulk of service worker wages.

Millions of Americans donate to charities every year, which are contributions that receive tax kickbacks. Nobody bats an eye at such things, but the same isn’t true for adding a small percentage to a restaurant guest check to help pay for an establishment’s waitstaff health insurance. There seems to be a disconnect there, thus the issue remains split. One thing, however, remains the same: people aren’t going to stop going out to eat and the service industry isn’t going anywhere. Where this brings us down the road remains to be seen.

As always, tip your servers and bartenders.

NYC Mexican Restaurants

Is Boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde the Best Brunch in NYC?

We had the great pleasure of finding out for ourselves. Join us as we regale the tale of the very indulgent culinary journey we took to find out if the new Boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde is the best Sunday brunch you will ever experience. If you are not yet familiar, Vida Verde is a Mexican-inspired cocktail bar tucked away in the sometimes stiff neighborhood of midtown west. To say it is a colorful and most welcomed oasis in the middle of a concrete desert is an understatement. Honestly, you can get lost in the eye-catching colors and striking artwork that makes up the decor. Let’s put it this way, imagine walking into a secret room of a grey house filled with every bold color imaginable……that is what we thought when we arrived at Boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde Cocktail Bar.

The Boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde promised a fantastic line up of specialty cocktails by Vida Verde’s star bartenders, a Mezcal tasting, an amazing taste of their brunch specialties menu including tacos, tortas, small dishes, and desserts. It did not disappoint! First up was delicious cocktails that celebrated the colors of the rainbow. We indulged in the Mango & Habanero Margarita, Paloma de Tamarindo, Classic Frozen Margarita, Red Sangria, and the amazing Juna Punch Wonder Punch Bowl which is as delicious as it is vibrant. We enjoyed these wonderful libations with a round of light bites including Chips, Salsa and Guacamole….to start.

After we were properly soused with our starter cocktails, it was time for the Mexcal tasting. We learned all about the cultivation, harvesting, cooking, fermenting, and distilling processes of some of Mexico’s leading Mezcal brands. Some of which we got to sample. Vida Verde actually offers classes on spirits daily, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about your favorite alcohol or get to know a new one, Vida Verde is the place to be.

After the Mezcal Tasting, we went into full-on brunch mode. The Boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde menu is decadent. You will enjoy 90 minutes of bottomless brunch and a pinata at two price levels. For $40.00, you can enjoy a brunch entree and bottomless Bloody Marys, Mimosas, Beer or Cava. For $50.00, you also get a brunch entree and bottomless Margaritas or Micheladas, and Palomas. Speaking of entrees, the choices are vast for Boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde. Feast your eyes on some of what’s available to enjoy:

The extensive brunch menu features so many choices. Some of Vida Verde’s Boozy Brunchacha brunch menu items we enjoyed included Chilaquiles, Mexican Poutine, Grilled Steak Fajitas, Huevos Rancheros, Breakfast Torta, Avocado smash on Tortilla, and Garden Frittata, many of which are pictured above and below. Our most gluttonous moment came when we first laid eyes on the Aztec Pancakes. The word divine doesn’t begin to do justice to how delicious this banana, brown sugar, cocoa, and whipped cream delight, so we’ll just let you droll over the below photo and tell you to visit Vide Verde to experience it for yourself.

As we previously stated, your boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde experience comes with a pinata, making your time there even more wonderful.

While you are no doubt enjoying your boozy Brunchacha at Vida Verde surrounded by the amazing artwork, let the spirit of Frida Kahlo inspire you to explore Vida Verde’s newly opened Rooftop Margarita Market. This hidden oasis boasts a stunning handpainted mural by renowned artist, Victor “Marka27” Quinonez, wonderfully colorful decor and a menu that promises 10 flavor varieties of margaritas. This is no surprise since Vida Verde is known to have the largest Mezcal and Tequila selections in NYC.

So to answer our question, there is no doubt this is the best brunch we’ve experienced. But don’t take our word for it, try it for yourself.