Columns

Just Saying: Who’s hungry?

It would be incorrect to say that I’ve gotten used to the plague here in the city. But you can’t help going about your business as if masks and hand sanitizer are not part of daily life. After all, New York state and city have pretty much got the virus under control while the South and West are aboil with it.

Many businesses are still boarded up and commerce is light years from normal. Back in olden times (pre-plague) Jane and I would hit one of our neighborhood’s many decent restaurants at least once a week, and not being able to do that is, somewhat embarrassingly, the most painful of all the discomforts to endure.

Restaurants are now allowed to serve food outside, which is a step forward, to be sure. But the places in our neighborhood are like almost all eateries in the city — there is hardly any outdoor space to play with. Luke’s and Due, right across the street, abut one another, one painted green and the other painted red. We’ve patronized them, oh, say 10,000 times. Each one has space for two tables outside, while the interior space in both is a vast, vacant, tantalizing future possibility.

Around the corner, Caffe Buon Gusto has a little raised deck out front that usually accommodates six tables. It now has three. I’ve not yet sat at any of these tables. It seems inappropriate to hog such a precious spot by my lonesome. So I’m sticking with my routine of eating in most nights blended with takeout orders when I become seriously stir crazy.

Takeout food has its limitations. Pizza and burgers are really the only foods that do well in the takeout world. (Well, I’ll add linguini and meatballs to the list.) The rest of the stuff really needs to be eaten in a restaurant and served by a waiter. It’s not designed to be boxed up. It doesn’t look the same. It doesn’t taste the same. It’s depressing. And no cocktails. That’s really depressing. There are takeout cocktails, but that’s more depressing than no cocktails at all.

The day will come when New Yorkers can socially distance inside a restaurant. But take a place like Luke’s, which is a glorified burger joint. Its whole reason for being is to be crowded, with a sea of blue-and-white table cloths from front to back. For Due, a sort of upscale Italian place, the more spacious seating arrangement might work better. We’ll see. (We have no choice.)

So it was a glorious change of pace when a couple weeks back we strode triumphantly into the Ram’s Head and got one of those highboys out back. What a beautiful setting. Groups of diners sprinkled on the lawn rolling down to the sparkling water. A waiter! Cocktails! Peeko oysters! Great food!

It was like we had escaped from jail.

Last weekend we motored out to Orient Point just for the heck of it and stopped by PORT, in Greenport, for lunch. A waiter! Cocktails! Fish tacos!

Jane is staying on the Island most of the summer, but I head back to the city every Tuesday. After all these years, I’ve come to dislike the jitney trip back and forth, so I am hatching a plan: I will continue to make the trip on the condition that we frequently go to the Ram’s Head. My sanity is on the line.