8 Ways to Support Local NYC Restaurants Right Now

You love your local coffee shop so much you call it your Central Perk. That bar around the corner? It’s your Cheers. They’re the local joints where everyone knows your name, and they’ve always been there for you—but now they need your help. Many have had to close their doors completely, while others are relying on delivery and takeout as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Here are eight little things you can do to help NYC restaurants stay afloat (and, in some cases, enjoy a great meal, too).

14 Ways New Yorkers Can Help Each Other During the Coronavirus Pandemic

1. Buy A Gift Card For Future Use

In a recent article, The New York Times reported that small, independent restaurants may never recover from COVID-19. Larger chains can likely afford to withstand a few months of shutdowns, but the smaller neighborhood spots might not be able to. You can support your favorite small restaurants—like the trattoria next door or the taqueria down the block—by purchasing a gift card now that you can use later, once they reopen. Restaurants need funds now more than ever to stay afloat. Here’s an idea: On a night you would usually go out to dinner, think about the restaurant you would choose and, if it offers gift cards, purchase one. If you can afford it, try doing it once or twice a week, or as often as you would normally go out to eat.

2. Continue Ordering Takeout Or Delivery Food

We were beyond relieved to see a recent CNN article that reported there is little risk in ordering food during the pandemic. There’s a long list of restaurants offering takeout and delivery, from casual neighborhood spots like Ruby’s Café and Ivan Ramen to upscale restaurants like Rubirosa and Llama San, where it has been notoriously hard to get a reservation. The icing on the cake is that popular food delivery services like UberEats, TryCaviar and Seamless are dropping delivery fees and allowing customers to request a no-contact order.

3. Stock Up On Your Favorite Restaurant’s Merchandise

Check in to see if your favorite eateries sell hats, T-shirts, mugs or other merch. For example, if you’re a proud bagel enthusiast, order a Russ & Daughters tee, or if you can’t eat your favorite burger at Corner Bistro right now, invest in a tote bag to help with your grocery shopping. And, for dessert lovers everywhere, Baked by Melissa just launched a whole set of tie-dye loungewear to match its sweets. So basically, your WFH uniform is set.

Beyond the traditional swag, perhaps a restaurant you love has its very own cookbook? Go ahead and stock up on those. (You’ll need inspiration for all your home cooking, after all.)

4. If You Can Afford It, Opt For A Fancy Meal In Every Now And Then

Maybe you’re used to splurging once or twice a month on a fancy meal, or perhaps you’re celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday or anniversary during the coronavirus emergency. You can still keep up your dining habits and indulge. A handful of upscale restaurants you probably wouldn’t normally consider for takeout are remaining open, and they could use your business as much as the casual diner around the block can. The idea of eating Carbone’s $30 spicy rigatoni on your couch or picking up a decadent steak from Peter Luger might have felt ridiculous a month ago, but even during these weird and chaotic times, you can still treat yourself to an out-of-the-ordinary meal.

5. Keep An Eye Out For Alcohol Take-out Options

We’re not sure when exactly it became legal for restaurants and bars to offer pre-made craft cocktails as takeout, but we’re definitely not mad about it. Many eateries are offering takeout and delivery booze specials, from full bottles of wine to just-add-ice mixed drinks. You can’t sit down at Dante for an epic negroni right now, but you can order one to go. Other spots, like wine bar Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, are selling packs of natural wines, hand-picked by their sommeliers, and newly opened Peoples Wine Shop and Bar will deliver hard-to-find organic and biodynamic wines right to your door.

6. Donate To A Relief Fund

In this unprecedented event, many restaurants have been forced to lay off their entire staff. Thousands of restaurant workers are now unemployed, facing these already anxiety-inducing times without the comfort of a steady paycheck. How can you help? Donate to one of the many relief funds started by restaurants to continue paying their employees. Eater compiled a great list with dozens of funds, or you can go directly to a restaurant’s website or Instagram page to see how to help. For something less restaurant-specific, there are programs like the Lee Initiative, a nationwide relief effort to bring food and essential supplies to struggling restaurant workers.

7. Shop From Specialty Markets Instead Of Big Chains

Vendors drive hours to set up their stands at the Union Square Greenmarket, so consider going there—or to other small, specialty markets—for your fresh produce, meat and fish. Smaller markets are also less packed with other shoppers, so it’s a bit easier to practice social distancing while you stock up on groceries. Ditto for local cheese shops, butchers and bakeries.

8. Write To Your Local Government Officials

Part of the culture, character and charm that makes your neighborhood so special are the small, independent restaurants that reside there: the noodle shop next door, the closet-sized sushi bar, the mom-and-pop diner. These restaurants closed their doors to keep people safe during the coronavirus outbreak, but many will need the government’s help in order to reopen once the crisis is over. You can help by writing your local government officials with your opinion, or simply go to and send a message.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

From 2015-2017 Hannah Loewentheil held the role of Editor covering entertainment, food, travel and all things nyc.