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Outdoors at dusk, a see-through igloo is full of people dining. City buildings are visible in the background.
Many restaurants have embraced igloos for outdoor dining over the winter, including Woods Hill Pier 4 in Boston’s Seaport District.
Woods Hill Pier 4

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The Best Pandemic Pivots of 2021: Expanded Outdoor Dining, Wage Restructuring, and More

Local food writers discuss those “p” words everyone’s sick of and what changes they hope will stick around post-COVID

As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2021 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. (Check the Year in Eater archive page for previous and subsequent posts in this series.)

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

Previously, 2021 restaurant standbys and best meals of the year. Now: Everyone’s sick of the “p” word — both of them, really — but what was the best pandemic pivot, either something a specific local restaurant did or something more general across the local industry?


MC Slim JB, restaurant critic at Boston.com (currently on pandemic hiatus; in the meantime, find him on social media channels as @mcslimjb):

“I’d say the best pandemic pivot, though excruciating, was long overdue: industry wage restructuring. I don’t envy the struggle of restaurants to survive the mass exodus of workers to new careers with better pay, hours, benefits, and treatment from customers. Who could blame my industry friends who decided to move on? Paying restaurant workers a living wage means significantly higher tabs for customers, and likely the end of some places we love. But so be it: The shakeup made me recognize with shame and chagrin how for decades my dining pleasure had been subsidized by the misery and penury of the restaurant workforce. A change had to come.”

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


Jacqueline Cain, freelance writer and editor with The Food Lens, Edible Boston, Boston magazine, America’s Test Kitchen, and more:

“Parlor Sports. My longtime favorite bar transformed into a snack shack, proffering hot dogs, soft serve ice cream, and (once the gov allowed it) bottled Parlor Punch. The bartenders and co-owner who make the Parlor community so strong were the folks serving me out the sidewalk window. Meanwhile, they also collaborated with sister-spots Audubon Bar and Trina’s Starlite Lounge to throw “Parlor pop-ups,” either outside on Audubon’s awesome patio or via Parlor-menu takeout from Trina’s kitchen, for the limited sports action we had during the pandemic. I love soft serve probably more than the next guy, but when they wheeled away the ice cream machine and reopened the bar, I actually cried happy tears when I took my seat.”

Jackie encourages readers to consider donating to World Central Kitchen and your favorite local public radio station.


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

“Extended outdoor dining continued to be a lifesaver for so many restaurants. A lot of people still won’t eat indoors, so seating many if not most outdoors for much of the year was a really good move for countless spots, and who knows? Maybe it’ll be a permanent fixture, at least in some communities.”

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


Nathan Tavares, freelance writer:

“Smaller restaurants pivoting to private dining for a while was a smart move. It gave people who don’t feel comfortable yet dining out a chance to go somewhere with their pod and just relax in a new environment.”

Nathan encourages readers to consider donating to your local community fridges.


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

“I continue to be impressed by the lively and creative outdoor dining set-ups restaurants have built and appreciate the vibrancy they bring to Boston’s streets. Sure would be nice if such a thing could be made permanent...”

Eric encourages readers to consider donating to the Greg Hill Foundation.


Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:

“Even some of the most old-school restaurants that previously existed without much of a web presence, or none at all, have now jumped online, fully optimizing online ordering and building robust websites and social media presences. Sure, it’s a little weird that your favorite dive bar now has a fancy website, online ordering, and curbside pickup — but I hope a lot of this stays in place post-pandemic. It’s a lifesaver for so many people: Introverts! New parents! Busy people! Takeout and delivery are easier than ever — even from restaurants that didn’t traditionally offer it — and although it’s not the same as that dining-in-a-restaurant experience, which of course I miss very much and will eagerly return to as much as possible when the time comes, there’s something to be said for the improved convenience and efficiency of these systems.

Also, here’s hoping we can keep expanded outdoor dining programs and takeout booze post-pandemic. I think the liquor store industry can take a hit here — there will always be plenty of business for them — but when you’re ordering takeout from a restaurant, it’s really nice to be able to get your drinks from the same place, drinks that were specifically chosen to go with the menu.”

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

Parlor Sports

1 Beacon Street, , MA 02143 (617) 576-0231 Visit Website

Audubon Boston

838 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02215 (617) 421-1910 Visit Website

Trina's Starlite Lounge

3 Beacon Street, , MA 02143 (617) 576-0006 Visit Website
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