Corey and I are down in PHL for 24 hours to meet with our friends at Wexford and Ventas for a study we’ve been doing on uCity Square. Lots I could write this morning about this study, our work with Wexford, Philadelphia, and what it was like to be out in the world again (this is my first work trip out of Boston since Feb 2020). But instead I’m going to write about the to-go cocktail I was given by the team at Cheu in Fishtown last night.
I ended up in Fishtown after a drink with Graffito friends and collaborators at MSC. After some solo exploring, which I love to do when traveling (Corey went to dinner with an old college friend), I ended up at the only place I could get an outdoor seat at, which was an Izakaya called Cheu. Weather was terrible and about 5 minutes after I was seated it started to pour — like really pour. I’m not yet comfortable with our indoor dining and I was totally cool getting a little wet on the patio (it was covered). But I was the only one OK with the inconvenience of the weather. So, upon the start of the storm, the restaurant did what good restaurants do — they tried to accommodate everyone on the patio that that wanted to move inside, they moved tables around to areas with better cover on the patio, and they made sure everyone was informed as to the plan and options. The staff was hustling to figure it out, working hard with masks on, getting wet, being pros, and dealing with the request from the table of young 20 or 30 somethings next to me asking if they could get new drinks because rain got in them…
About 10 minutes after the start of the rain I was the last one left on the patio. And they thanked me. They actually thanked me. And by doing this the staff at Cheu reminded me how special restaurants are, how special the folks that work in them are, how thankless this work can be, and how wonderful it is to be cared for while dining at a restaurant is (this was only my 5th in person dining experience since March 2020). While the team at Cheu was thanking me for simply not being an ass, they were up against changing regulations (Philly just lifted regs on 6/2, ten days earlier than expected), continued mask wearing, balancing takeout and dine-in and outdoor and indoor and all sorts of madness; all while graciously balancing the needs of ungrateful customers that just don’t get how damn hard it is to run a restaurant right now. And then, to top it off, while I was waiting alone on the patio for my uber, they gave me a drink in a mason jar to go… on the house.
This experience reminded me that despite my discomfort in dining out, I need to be dining out more. I need to be thankful that our local restaurants in PHL, Boston, Providence, and beyond are, simply, still open for us. And I need to remember how caring, hospitable, thoughtful and responsible so many of our local restaurants communities are.
As restaurants like Cheu continue to take care of us through the rain, the pandemic, and whatever else they get thrown at them, we need to take care of them too. And I guess the best way to do it, as Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli of Alcove said last year on the podcast, is simply trust them to take care of us like they always have, pandemic or not.
Thanks for the reminder Cheu. You are all pros.