The Culture of Takeout is over.
Launched in March 2020, the Culture of Takeout was a way for diners to help Charlottesville restaurants endure a crippling pandemic while brightening their lives of seclusion with a restaurant meal at home. Charlottesville’s embrace of the Culture of Takeout is one of the reasons that so many of our restaurants managed to outlast a pandemic that threatened their very existence. Angelo Vangelopoulos of The Ivy Inn explains:
Like every other restaurant, when the pandemic caused a shutdown, we were scrambling to find ways to keep our business alive. The Culture of Takeout helped immensely. We were able to quickly adapt to a takeout model, and the support was amazing . . . The response from customers and how they appreciated the ability to treat themselves to a restaurant meal during quarantine made all the effort worthwhile. Raising awareness about the restaurant community and its struggles last year was key to our survival. If Charlottesville hadn’t stepped up, I’m not sure how we would’ve gotten through it all.
But now, with the pandemic subsiding, takeout is not the only safe way to enjoy Charlottesville restaurants. In fact, among the silver linings of the pandemic is that many of the innovations Charlottesville restaurants launched to survive it will remain long after it ends. For diners, The Culture of Takeout begets The Culture of Options. As on-premises dining surges, for example, restaurants continue to serve takeout, even those like The Ivy Inn that had never offered it before the pandemic.
The recently opened Café Frank captures well the enhanced options of the post-pandemic era: by day, grab salads and sandwiches on the run; for apertif hour, pop in for small plates and a drink; when evening comes, stay for a bistro dinner; or, order dinner online to-go, including family-style “Take the Chef Home” meals.
But, here’s the thing: despite overcoming the pandemic, and despite all the innovations, Charlottesville restaurants still need us more than ever. Many hang by a thread. Just to survive the brutal effects of COVID-19, restaurants with razor-thin margins had to take on new debt, postpone payments on past debt, and cut costs and staff — all in the hope that, once the pandemic subsided, revenues might be enough to recover and avoid closure altogether.
So, as we close the door on the Culture of Takeout, it is time to celebrate anew the restaurants of Charlottesville. Next week we will reveal The 2021 Charlottesville 29, answering the question that this site answers every year: if there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?