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You’ve mastered the art of baking banana bread, learned how to make a mean roast chicken and even perfected your grandma’s recipe for penne alla vodka. And it was great. But now it’s finally time to indulge in the chef-caliber meal you’ve been dreaming about since quarantine began. That’s right: Miami restaurants have reopened, albeit with numerous safety precautions in place. Here’s everything you need to know before your next reservation.

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Photo courtesy of Mi talia Kitchen   Bar
Photo courtesy of Mi’talia Kitchen & Bar

Expect empty tables, single-use menus and disposable tableware

Although restaurants have been given the green light to reopen, there are still a number of safety precautions to adhere to, including single-use menus, disposable tableware and even plexiglass shield dividers between tables and dining areas. You should also expect more empty tables than usual (up to 50 percent) for social distancing purposes, as well as personal protective equipment for all staff. We never thought we would say this, but in these COVID-19 times, a not-crowded restaurant is actually a good thing.

Wear a face covering at all times (except when eating)

While you don’t have to wear a face mask in-between bites of steak frites and sips of Merlot, you do have to wear it at all times when not seated at your table, including trips to the restroom. So make sure you bring yours with you.

Photo courtesy of Mandolin
Photo courtesy of Mandolin

Listen to the experts and request outdoor seating

While details on how coronavirus spreads are still murky, most experts agree that outdoor seating is the safest choice when dining out. Why? Simple: The wide-open space and natural breeze are a better alternative compared to small, indoor dining rooms with recirculated air. Lucky for us in Miami, outdoor seating is plentiful. If your restaurant of choice offers an alfresco option, take it.

Always call ahead

If you want to avoid waiting (in a face mask), call ahead to make a reservation. Since most restaurants are operating at limited capacity, reserving a seat guarantees your spot without waiting in a public place. It’s also wise to make sure your restaurant of choice is open. Some eateries are choosing to keep their dining rooms closed to instead remain pick-up and delivery only until further notice.

Skip post-dinner drinks

Bars are still closed throughout South Florida (sigh), including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. However, watering holes that also serve food are permitted to operate with similar safety precautions as traditional eateries. That means sitting at a high-top and waiting to be served, versus approaching a bartender to request a cocktail. Hey, it could be worse.

Photo courtesy of Meat Market
Photo courtesy of Meat Market

Embrace and enjoy the new experience

We know dining out looks different now compared to three months ago. But so do a lot of things (you probably never imagined wearing a face mask every time you leave the house, for example). As restaurants, staff and diners adjust to this “new normal,” remember to enjoy the experience as best as you can and to be kind to restaurant employees. For waitstaff, second nature is filling up your glass with water, not supplying your table with hand sanitizer. Anyway, look at the bright side: You’re finally able to splurge on Miami’s best burger or a fancy meal in the Design District. We’ll cheers to that.

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