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2020 wasn’t just an apocalyptic hellscape of heightened neoliberal politics by way of a soul-draining presidential election set against the backdrop of global pandemic-heightened mass suffering and death; it was also a terrific year for new restaurants!
Noshing reached new heights with palette ticklers and experience-driven eateries that ran the gamut from fine dining to food cart heaven. Unfortunately, many stayed home, and those who didn’t, died, so the restaurants all closed.
Nevertheless, here are the best new restaurants that opened and shut in 2020:
Baby Bird – Trestle Glen, Oakland, California, $$$$
The newest in new, few 2020 outfits could compete with the now defunct Baby Bird. The restaurant took its name from the round robin experimental style of food consumption—that is, you would order your dish of choice (the fish taco tartare is to die for) for the customer to your left, who would then chew up your meal and spit it into your hungry mouth. You would in turn do the same for the patron to your right, and so on down the line. Nothing said community like chewing en masse, but unfortunately, nothing said “contracting COVID” like it either. The seven patrons Baby Bird was able to service in its two open hours tested positive for the coronavirus almost immediately, and only three of them had health insurance. Baby Bird, which turned out to be owned by several layers of shell companies, faced no consequences for their massive potential public health liability, and the ephemeral restaurateur made out with over $17M from early investors. Fat cats of a feather do stick together and, as it turns out, spit-sharing cuisine is for the birds.
Cowboy Carry’s Bar and Grill – Princeton-adjacent, Lawrenceville, NJ, $$
Great location, classic pub food, and a friendly, family atmosphere: what could go wrong? Unfortunately for Cowboy Carry’s, everything. Cowboy Carry’s Bar and Grill became a breeding ground for controversy in 2020 when a local newspaper reported that owner Carry Kalpern had donated over $12,000 to the Republican party since 2012. When liberals threatened to boycott the family establishment, Cowboy Carry’s unveiled a new menu item: the Black Lives Matter Black Angus Burger, free to BLM activists. When activists called the burger a “tacky and insensitive attempt to profit off of Black pain,” Cowboy Carry’s apologized and removed the burger. This was seen as a “cuck” move by certain libertarians, who boycotted the restaurant as part of the “Free Speech, No Free Lunch” campaign. Cowboy Carry’s then brought back the burger and pledged to donate all proceeds to the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, but that only made Blue Lives Matter people upset, so they introduced the Law and Order burger and donated the proceeds to the local police as well. Then, QAnon people assumed all these burgers were actually code for child sex trafficking and burned the restaurant to the ground. Luckily for opportunistic cynic Carry Kalpern, he has landed on his feet as head chef in the Biden/Harris White House, serving whatever their consultants claim is polling well.
Under The C – The Italian District, Boston’s North End, $$$
Mario Cantone’s debut Italian gastro pub answers the question, “Can I really eat pasta in a hot tub with tiny Venetian gondolas featuring different sauces floating all around me?” The answer, sadly, is “no, because we’re closed.” What Under The C now lacks in being a viable business, it more than made up for in creative dining. Patrons were encouraged to check their clothing at the door in exchange for speedos featuring the word Mange! right on the crotch. They were then shown to their “table”—a boiling community hot tub filling the premises. Even the open-concept kitchen resided at the far end of the human hot bowl, utilizing the powerful jets to deliver meals. If you were lucky, Mario would be in ‘la casata,’ making bubbles and laughter. We salute Under The C, raising our glass in a warm ciao hello and an immediate ciao goodbye.
In AND Out Burger – Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, $
This promising and grammatically correct American-fare eatery should have been a smash hit, but was sadly a victim of compounded bureaucracy. In AND Out Burger had a simple concept: mouth-watering burgers and fries eaten inside a plastic zorb-like dining pod that is, in fact, outside! Like a luxury picnic of the future, it should have fit right in with all the pop-up, outdoor dining options that restaurants were forced to install overnight in order to survive. Unfortunately, in the original zoning documents, the In AND Out Burger pods qualified as indoor dining, so the burgeoning canteen was forced to install separate, smaller plastic zorb-like dining pods as outdoor options. The new pods were far too small to accommodate any party larger than one and acted practically as COVID-19 incubators. The extra expense and loss of capacity made it impossible to continue operations, especially after getting sued into the ground by the wildly popular and famously established California chain In-N-Out Burger.
Saveur de Vapeur – River North, Chicago, Illinois, $$$$$
This innovative take on French cuisine made headlines in February by earning itself a Michelin star in its first month, and by branding itself as the first ever entirely post-gastric food enterprise. Saveur de Vapeur was the first ultra-high end restaurant to offer a full tasting menu via vape, thanks to a partnership between Dominique Crenn and Juul. Foie gras may have been banned in Chicago, but foie gras vapour is A-OK! SdV quickly became a hotspot for celebrities like Post Malone, Sophie Turner, and Dennis Kucinich. Then came COVID-19. Not only was a lung-based greaseless spoon a bad business venture in the time of coronavirus, but all the dishes were served family-style. This deadly combination resulted in an astronomical 87% fatality rate for patrons who could trace both their exquisite dining experience and COVID-19 infection directly to SdV. The creators of SdV closed their doors for good in April 2020, but vow to return in the near-future as they work with AstraZeneca to ensure their cuisine vapour is not only COVID-safe, but also acts as a highly profitable vaccine.
This post appears courtesy of our February 2021 publishing partnership with Functionally Dead. Every month, Widget partners with an organisation to feature one post/week from their contributors, members, or so on. View the other posts from our partner’s contributors here.
the video game Disco Elysium, the podcasts Champagne Sharks and Citations Needed, the streaming service MeansTV, the book Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin
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