Last week, September 8 to be exact, Philadelphia restaurants, by order of Mayor Jim Kenney, were allowed to open indoors to the tune of 25% and mega social distancing exercises.
While a handful of restaurants snapped to, planned, and jumped into the 25% fray so to restart their public-serving culinary enterprises laid in waste for six months due to quarantining and C-19, some restaurants staggered their openings throughout that same week. Some Philly restaurants will open indoors this week. Some are not reopening at 25% at all, waiting to see if Mayor Kenney – like the rest of Pennsylvania come September 21 – will open the city’s food rooms to 50% capacity (rumored for October). Even then, there might be dissenters who believe that a higher percentage is necessary to make the profits needed to maintain a healthy cash flow (albeit perhaps not a dining crowd or front and back of house restaurant crews’ health).
That said, my crew and I dined out on Friday night at the newly open for 25% and social distancing steakhouse and fresh fish salon, Ocean Prime.
Yes, we had to wear masks while walking into the front door, and through the main dining rooms – all so strange, as the always densely packed room was emptier due to such safe distanced separation between spaced out seating arrangements. Even if we stood up to talk between the two tables we occupied, six feet apart from each other, the masks had to go up. One lovely but angry couple dining next to us, separated and protected by heavy clear plexiglass, stopped us in our tracks while standing and swerving a bit into their eye-line/breathing space temporarily with our masks down.
Like Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer, you must wear the mask.
With online menus available on your phone (you can ask for paper menus too – don’t worry Luddites), every waitperson wore plastic shields over their masked faces fr double protection. Most servers wore rubber gloves. Water and drinks were refilled plentifully, but, not with a sort of overkill.
That said, every course at Ocean Prime was prepared and served perfectly without a rush, and without any sort of time limit the likes of which have been essayed by several restaurants in town (e.g. Panorama asks for tables of 4 – the maximum – to be done and out within 2 hours so that their staff can clean and scrub). All dishes were tasty and generous as usual (no skimping on service, portions or taste) and the overall experience was delicious – socially, consciously and in a culinary sense. Yay to that.