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An Outside Perspective on COVID-19 Dining

I love dining outside.

Wherever I traveled to, if there was an opportunity to eat outside, I grabbed it.

When I traveled to France in 1994, I was captivated by the lovely cafes that adorned the streets.  I saw them in Philadelphia, Lake George, and New York City.  There was just something unique and special to sit out on the sidewalks and take in so many sights, smells and sounds as I dined on fantastic cuisine.

This year outdoor dining became the norm, especially during the spring and summer due to the COVID pandemic.

The Mathis House

I was absolutely blown away and inspired by how many restaurants completely restructured and adapted their procedures and operations in order to continue serving their devoted guests and the community.  Some even took it further by providing extra services along with dining.  One of the best examples I can describe of this is a local Tea Room/Bed and Breakfast known as the Mathis House in Toms River, New Jersey.

My mother and I were first introduced to the Innkeeper, Vicki, back in November, 2019.  We attended a holiday open house that she was offering since she took over the business.  When we first entered, it was like stepping into a Hallmark movie.  It was enchanting, warm, joyful and extraordinary.  Christmas Trees and decorations everywhere.  A fireplace emitting crackling and comforting flames.  Tables full of luscious treats and beverages.  The happiness was emanating from everyone present. Vicki was so excited about the upcoming year and tons of events were planned for the months ahead.

Then the pandemic turned everything upside down.

COVID-19 Changed the Restaurant Industry

Nothing was the same or would be the same.

Suddenly everything as the restaurant industry knew it to be was obliterated and new processes and recalibrations had to take place.

Vicki immediately took action and transformed her charming and dazzling B & B into an outdoor tea area and also began her own farm stand.  Soon locals in Toms River could purchase soups, scones, flowers, produce, breads, and gorgeous gift items along with curbside tea service (a lot of us took advantage of that).  As the weather became warmer, Vicki started putting together some outside events, musical entertainment and more scrumptious culinary delights.  It was incredible to behold how much her innovation allowed the mansion to survive and thrive.  She has been and continues to be a mammoth inspiration to the community. 

Toms River

The downtown village of Toms River also jumped on the cutting-edge bandwagon by closing down one of the main thoroughfares where a bunch of restaurants are located and offering outside street dining.  First, it began with Friday nights and then moved to include Saturday nights as well.  My mother and I had the extreme pleasure of dining at a restaurant called Daddio’s.  I ate lunch there with one of my dearest friends and always loved their food.  Well, our meals were outstanding!  There was a deal to purchase two meals and a shared appetizer for a pre-fixed price and we took advantage of that.  We had an awesome server, Donna, who just made us feel so welcome.  Now that it’s football season, Sundays offer tailgating parties on the street.  It really has been bringing people together and contributing to a positive and hopeful spirit.

Support Your Local Businesses

When the pandemic shut so much down, especially indoor dining, I prayed about how I could help the restaurant industry besides buying their amazing cuisine.  I am very active on my social media and have a hearty following when it comes to recommending tourism-related places and activities.  One day the lightbulb went off and I was given the vision to share restaurant Facebook posts on my page every day.  Since the middle of March, I have not missed a day where I didn’t provide virtual support for the hospitality and tourism industry. 

Along with restaurants, I shared about recreational activities and lodging.  I shared posts from neighboring states.  Anything to provide and spread love for these precious businesses.

As the fall weather arrives, I am still excited about outdoor dining, particularly with the cooler weather.  I am hoping the trend continues next year even when indoor dining is allowed at full capacity again.  Outdoor dining allowed people to still embrace a beloved tradition and activity in a time of massive chaos and uncertainty.  I can’t wait to dine at so many on my list (and there are tons!).  

Happy Dining!

Show the love to your local restaurants.

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