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Black and white photograph of a restaurant interior packed with huge stacks of boxes full of groceries
Pagu is stocked with groceries for distribution to local families in need via Project Restore Us
Tracy Chang/Pagu

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These Boston Restaurants Have Really Stepped Up for Their Communities in 2020

Local food writers highlight some restaurants that took it upon themselves to help others this past year

As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2020 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. (Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for subsequent posts in this series.)

Of course, the survey questions look a little different this year, but we wanted to continue the tradition as a way to highlight some of the restaurants that have been there for us during this extraordinarily difficult year as we look ahead to better times in 2021.

Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts by joining our Facebook group.

This year’s final question: Was there one restaurant in particular that you felt really stepped up for your local community in 2020? How?


MC Slim JB, restaurant critic at Boston.com (currently on pandemic hiatus):

“Not a restaurant, but Haley House kept doing what it has been doing for the South End for many years: operating a soup kitchen, a food pantry, and other programs aimed at mitigating food insecurity for our neediest neighbors, much of it with volunteer help. It’s a direly needed port in a storm in the middle of a prosperous neighborhood that too often ignores its less fortunate neighbors.”

MC encourages readers to consider donating to Community Servings, the Greater Boston Food Bank, Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid of Greater Boston, and community fridge programs in your neighborhood.


Erin Kuschner, food writer for Boston.com:

“What immediately comes to mind are individuals: Tracy Chang (PAGU), Ken Oringer (Little Donkey, Toro, Uni, Coppa), and Natalie Guo, who launched Off Their Plate almost immediately after the shutdown was announced, feeding frontline workers and keeping restaurant workers employed while Chang’s and Oringer’s own restaurants were struggling. The organization has since expanded nationwide and raised almost $7 million. And Nia Grace (Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen) and Royal C. Smith (District 7 Tavern), who worked together to form the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition. Among other things, they organized Boston Black Restaurant Month and a series of outdoor beer gardens over the summer in an effort to support the city’s Black-owned restaurant community.”

Erin encourages readers to consider donating to Boston Black Hospitality Coalition and Project Restore Us.


Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, food writer for Dig Boston and NBC Boston/NECN:

“Too many to name here, but the folks behind such places as Villa Mexico, Orinoco, Simcha, and others have helped so many people during the pandemic. There are a lot of great folks in the local industry, and they really stepped up when things started to get bad, including feeding frontline workers, homeless people and others in need, and setting up food sharing to lower the cost of food to name a few.”

Marc encourages readers to consider donating to Arlington Eats and Haley House.


Joel Ang, staff writer for The Infatuation:

“Juliet continued to advocate for minimum wage and career progression for their employees. Out of necessity, the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition formed to highlight the specific needs within the Black restaurant community. Tawakal made many free meals available to residents in Eastie during Ramadan.”

Joel encourages readers to consider donating to Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.


J.Q. Louise, lifestyle blogger behind JQLouise.com and food editor at DIG Boston:

“Pagu in Central Square has been a great example of ‘actions speak louder than words’ throughout the pandemic. Tracy Chang has used her resources and talents for the greater good this whole year. As part of ‘Project Restore Us’ her team has helped to deliver and provide groceries to over 900 families in need during the pandemic.”

J.Q. encourages readers to consider donating to Project Restore Us.


Eric Twardzik, freelance writer and contributor to the Food Lens, Boston.com, DIG Boston, and Resy:

“Something that really inspired me early on was the way Ran Duan and Will Isaza pivoted to selling Blossom Bar’s cocktails as extremely good bottled mixers in the wake of the first shutdown to provide work for staff that couldn’t collect unemployment. Innovating to make something great and take care of people in the face of government inaction: What’s more American than that?”

Eric encourages readers to consider donating to the Greg Hill Foundation and the Greater Boston Food Bank.


Samer Khudairi, contributor to Eater Boston, Dig Boston, and more:

“Twelve Hours in Brighton has been giving out more than 100 bagged meals on Wednesdays since May 4. They set up a makeshift curbside pickup in front of their business each week. The lemonade-style cardboard signs read ‘Free Food’ and ‘Helping Each Other.’ It is a beautiful reminder of the power of community. ”

Samer encourages readers to consider donating to MassUndocuFund.


Nathan Tavares, freelance writer and culture writer for WBUR:

“Asia Mei at Moonshine 152 really came up to bat for the Boston restaurant community as a whole, when she advocated for rent relief, grants, and forgivable loans.”

Nathan encourages readers to consider donating to Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid of Greater Boston and your local community fridges.


Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:

“Pagu chef and owner Tracy Chang has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic on several initiatives, including co-launching the Off Their Plate organization, a scalable model meant to mobilize restaurants to safely feed their communities and frontline workers throughout the pandemic, which in turn provides economic relief for the participating restaurants and their employees. Many local restaurants have been taking part, including Mahaniyom and Mae Asian Eatery.

Chang has also worked with Mei Mei’s Irene Li and others on Project Restore Us, distributing literal tons of groceries to essential worker families throughout the Boston-area communities that have been hardest hit by food insecurity.

And this isn’t directly related to restaurants, but it’s been incredible to see activists and even those without a formal background in organizing spearhead a number of community fridge projects in and around Boston. Some local restaurants and pop-ups are helping stock the fridges, too, such as Sekali, but the general public is welcome (and encouraged) to give donations of food, household products, and money.”

Rachel encourages readers to consider donating to Project Bread and a community fridge in your neighborhood.

Twelve Hours

559 Washington Street, , MA 02135 (617) 202-5108 Visit Website

Tawakal Halal Cafe

389 Maverick Street, , MA 02128 (617) 418-5890 Visit Website

Mei Mei

Unit 52 Rochester Walk, , England SE1 9AF Visit Website

Villa Mexico Cafe

121 Water St., Boston, MA (617) 957-0725 Visit Website

Uni

370A Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 536-7200 Visit Website

Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen

604 Columbus Avenue, , MA 02118 (617) 536-1100 Visit Website

Juliet

21 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 718-0958 Visit Website

Pagu

310 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-9290 Visit Website

Coppa

253 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118 617 391 0902 Visit Website

Orinoco Kitchen

477 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118 617 369 7075 Visit Website

Blossom Bar

295 Washington Street, , MA 02445 (617) 734-1870 Visit Website

Moonshine 152

152 Dorchester Avenue, , MA 02127 (617) 752-4191 Visit Website

Toro

1704 Washington Street, , MA 02118 (617) 536-4300 Visit Website

Little Donkey

505 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-1008 Visit Website
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