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These Are the Innovative Restaurant Ideas the Friends of Eater Hope Will Continue in 2021

Not everything that emerged from 2020 was bad

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Take-away Cocktails For Customers Photo by Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As we (finally!) put a cap on 2020, Eater surveyed a group of friends, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them ten questions: from top standbys to top newcomers, from best meals to restaurants they’ve broken up with. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2020. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Responses do not necessarily reflect the views of Eater and Eater Miami.

Laine Doss (Miami New Times): I think that restaurants are learning how their public wants to eat. And that means more dining at home. I’m don’t really order takeout, but I think people are going to remember the value and comfort of staying in with a meal, a bottle of $12 wine, and Netflix.

Belkys Nerey (WSVN 7): No more menus just scan the QR code!

Giovanny Gutierrez (Chat Chow TV/Eater Miami photographer): More specialty purveyors and products from chefs and people perfecting a single craft from into my belly.

Matthew Meltzer (Thrillist Miami): These short-term popups in existing spaces are great. It gives new concepts a way to try something with relatively little risk, and doesn’t relegate them to a food truck or delivery and take out only, which isn’t really much of an “experience.” The stuff that went into the Fooq’s space and the Naan popup at Taquiza are a couple examples, and I hope we see a lot more of that moving forward.

Gretchen Schmidt (Edible South Florida):1. A new appreciation for local produce and more opportunities to buy fresh, healthy South Florida fruits and vegetables. When the pandemic hit in the springtime, many bigger farmers immediately lost their wholesale customers – restaurants, cruise ships, institutions. Some started selling direct to consumers in the form of produce boxes. In doing so, they opened up a whole new channel of distribution. Smaller farmers with CSAs have seen increases in membership now that South Florida consumers demand produce grown locally. Farmers markets set up online ordering systems for food artisans and produce, adding a new way to reach consumers through pickup/delivery. Backyard gardens have also gained in popularity, keeping local edible garden businesses like Ready-to-Grow, Little River Cooperative and Urban Oasis Project busy with installation and plant sales.

2. Dual-benefit food distribution systems. Temporarily shuttered restaurants got to work making food for those in need, including out-of-work hospitality workers, plans that continue today. Groups like Food Rescue US-Miami, a volunteer organization that collected leftover food from major events to distribute to the hungry, changed things up to work with local restaurants like Chef Creole, Rosie’s Pop-up, Kush by Stephen’s Deli, Cafe La Trova and Big Mama’s BBQ, to feed the neighborhood and keep restaurants making food.

3. Food justice, no longer just a buzzphrase, that was catapulted into action in the summer of 2020. Local groups like Urban Oasis Project, Green Haven Project and Grow Roots Miami are working together to provide meaningful solutions to addressing food insecurity in South Florida through edible gardens and food forests and by providing fresh produce in food deserts.

4. Clever meal and drink kits. Despite safety measures at restaurants, many South Florida diners remain, as of mid-December, uncomfortable with dining out. But they want to support their favorite restaurants. DIY meal kits challenged chefs to think inside the takeout box and come up with enticing meals and cocktails.

5. New ways to do business. Necessity, the mother of invention, has brought out the best in many. Some of our favorites include Jeffrey Wolfe of Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe donning delivery duds and creating special to-go themed wine packages. Burger Beast’s Croquetapalooza, where in lieu of the annual Magic City Casino get-together, he sold boxes of the beloved Cuban treats paired with Jupiña and Materva and Chifles plantain chips for a safe parking-lot rendezvous. LNB Groves’ drive-through weekend pop-up that not only brings in their loyal customers for their smoothies and turmeric treats, but also other artisan food, like Frice Cream and Counter Culture kombucha. And we loved fun ideas that bring together the community to support one another, like Lee Schrager’s summer drive-through bake sales that raised money for restaurant worker relief.

David Rosendorf (Food For Thought): It was more of an early pandemic phase thing when the supply chains were a mess and we were all hoarding toilet paper, but I’m a big fan of restaurants selling staples and prepared items for pickup. My home cooking game got so much stronger when I was able to get house-made pastas from Navé’s Justin Flit at Chug’s Diner, fresh local eggs and produce from All Day, and great cured meats and other things from the Boia De larder, all without visiting a grocery store.

Stacy Moya (Eater Miami Contributor): I love the QR code for menus and to be quite honest, table distancing. One pet peeve of mine has always been bumping elbows with people sitting in the table next to me in crammed restaurants.

Virginia Gil (Time Out Miami): More booze to-go, please!

Alona Martinez (Eater Miami Contributor): The restaurant world can be a lonely and competitive place. 2020 saw a change in this mindset as fellow restaurants banded together to help each other stay afloat. From pop ups to collaborations to sharing resources, let’s hope this uplifting comradery is here to stay.

Sara Liss (Author of Miami Cooks): Restaurants that invested in their own delivery and order apps and stepped up their social media game were on the right track for survival. Also impressed with all the chef-driven little pop-up’s and food delivery businesses that exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit here and reminded us that there’s still so much untapped potential in our dining scene.

Jennifer Agress (Freelance restaurant writer): To-go jugs of margaritas. (Shout out to COYO!)

Olee Fowler (Eater Miami): To-go cocktails, meal kits, frozen pizzas from some of my favorite pizzerias (which blow the grocery store variety out of the water), and being to get just about order anything through delivery. Even Joe’s Stone Crab can be delivered now!