Today’s blog is going to be a little bit different. I will be honest, it has been hard for me to find the drive or creativity to write a blog since the pandemic started, and especially since lockdown closed up San Diego. I’ve felt like 2020 was too sad, too heavy, too all-consuming to find the energy to write happy, up-beat blogs about food. In doing this however, I am beginning to think I have done a disservice to our favorite restaurants, as well as the industry as a whole. Today, I read a very inspiring blog written by Rick Bayless about his experiences in the past year, and it opened my eyes to just how much people in the restaurant industry have struggled during this time. Of course, everyone has struggled, and I don’t make light of any of that. Both Ian and I have had our jobs change drastically over the last year, and we know we are some of the lucky ones who have been able to have work during this time. Every industry has had to adapt and overcome. And I can’t even begin to put into words what it has been like for the individuals and the families who have been directly impacted by COVID-19. All those lives lost. All those people who will now have chronic conditions. It’s heartbreaking, and nothing I can write will do it justice, so I am not going to even try. I will say I am eternally grateful for those in the medical industry right now. Also to the heroes who have created the vaccine that will save so many lives. Our world owes them all so much. But since this blog is a food blog, I wanted to use it to shine a light on the restaurant scene in San Diego. In our opinion, it is one of the finest food cities in the country. Of course, we are very partial to it, but it is constantly evolving and expanding, and I am proud to live and eat here.
During this time, we have seen restaurants have to adapt and change in order to try to stay afloat. As a North Park/South Park resident, I have been amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of our local restaurants. We have marveled at the outdoor seating that seemed to appear overnight (and actually looked pleasant as well!). We have been amazed at the changing menus, to-go offerings, and delivery/curbside options. So many restaurants have worked so hard to say with the changing times. Places like Fernside, that have grown and continue to thrive in these harsh times. Offering to-go meals, to-go cocktails, meal kits, etc. Tribute Pizza comes to mind, as they were offering a roll of toilet paper with your pizza orders at the start of lockdown when it was so scarce. Eclipse Chocolate- who changed their entire operation to include groceries, local goods, and of course, their fantastic meal kits. I cried when I was able to find out of stock items there. Same with Black Market Bakery- when they started to sell flour and yeast, we were able to get back into our baking (since you could not find sourdough bread at the time). It makes me emotional to think of what these places have done for our community during this time. Countless restaurants have worked tirelessly to continue to offer good food and drinks in a safe, conscientious way. We have the utmost respect for the restaurants that have been working so hard to follow guidelines, reduce the spread of the virus, and make their customers (and staff) feel safe. Blind Lady Ale House is a good example of this. They did not feel it was safe for their staff to be working at the height of everything, and closed their restaurant accordingly until they felt safe to do so. In our minds, there is nothing more admirable than a company/business that respects and cares for its employees. I also think of all the breweries and distilleries that made hand sanitizer, in a time where you couldn’t find it at all. What a difference that made.
Of course, some restaurants were not so lucky to make it through this hard time. Over 100 restaurants and bars in San Diego closed during 2020. Of course, there is no way of knowing how big of a role COVID-19 played in their closures, but the number is shocking all the same. SanDiegoVille.com put out a list recently if you are interested in reading it, but we wanted to highlight and pay tribute to some of our favorites. Places like NaPizza, Small Bar, Tako Factory, Tiger! Tiger! Tavern, Waypoint Public, and Whisknladle. Mainly small businesses, but also big names like Souplantation (one of our favorites, don’t judge). Many places with multiple locations had to close branches. These places will be missed by many, and we wish the best to their previous owners and staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over by any means, but hopefully with the vaccine starting to be distributed we will see things start to improve. Only time will tell, but we like to remain as optimistic as possible. In the meantime, we will try our best to still support our local businesses and to spread the word to as many people as we can. We have both donated to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, as well as other charity organizations during this time. We will continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, decontaminate our groceries, and practice social distancing. Most of all, we will continue to share our love (from a distance) of our community and of our fellow humans. Stay safe and stay well out there, San Diego.