Pandemic Dining Innovations

04 Jan 2021

How Boulder County restaurants are weathering these challenging times.

By Sara Bruskin

We’ve all had to become a bit more creative to get through life during this pandemic. (A wine bottle will fit in most shower caddies for convenient multitasking!) While nobody has been left untouched, few industries have needed to dig down and find the ingenuity to survive quite like the restaurant industry. Parking lots, streets and rooftops have been converted into dining areas, furniture has been rearranged, takeout menus have been expanded, and it’s now possible to bring mason-jar margaritas home with you. Here are some other ways our local dining scene is evolving and rising to meet the challenge of indoor dining restrictions.


Battling Winter’s Chill

Tents, umbrellas and outdoor heaters are all the rage with restaurants this season. Small business grants have helped local watering holes winterize their outdoor spaces, which means many roads and sidewalks will continue to function as extended patios. Alec Schuler’s Lafayette restaurant Tangerine has embraced this trend with clear, plastic tents or “bubbles.” They act like greenhouses, warming diners up when the sun hits them (with some added help from electric heaters). Schuler plans on adding them to his Boulder location as well.

In Longmont, West Side Tavern owner Westley Myles Isbutt invested in large outdoor heaters that can fend off the freeze even without tents. He described the cozy setup outside his popular gastropub during our unseasonable October storm when temperatures plummeted: “Three friends and I sat in one of our outdoor cabanas last night, at 80 degrees, and watched the snow fall. It was magical.”

West Side Tavern in Longmont.

Bringing Work Home

Many of us have been working from home during the pandemic, but two chefs in Boulder took this idea to the next level. Brian De Souza and Syd Younggreen live in downtown Boulder, and cooked at Frasca and Corrida respectively before pivoting to a creative culinary vision of their own. Over the summer, they began hosting an exclusive private dinner series—called The Guest—in several locations including the couple’s home. These weekend dinners consist of eight to 10 courses that vary “with the seasons and the moods of the chefs.” The experience costs $175 per person, and guests are informed of the location when they book a reservation and receive their invitation. With a maximum of 18 diners per night, keeping everybody well-distanced is a given.


Boulder’s Restaurant Safe Ordering Service Subsidy

Otherwise known as the Restaurant S.O.S. Program, this subsidy was created to encourage patronage of local restaurants in one of the safest ways possible: delivery. Restaurants reported they were in a bind because they couldn’t afford to pay the service fees charged by third-party delivery services, but they worried business would suffer if they passed those fees on to their customers. In response, the city of Boulder partnered with third-party delivery service NOSH to offset that cost for local restaurants. The city will pay 100 percent of restaurants’ delivery fees through NOSH until Dec. 30, 2020, and ensure a 15 percent cap on delivery fees after that period, until indoor dining restrictions are lifted (up to December 31, 2021).

Several Boulder County cities are allocating more takeout and delivery parking spaces to further help facilitate these safer dining options.

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