2020 was the year that I loved restaurants — and the people who run them — more than ever. They displayed in public the kind of creativity, flexibility and crisis management that usually goes on behind closed kitchen doors. Countless employees have done what no one should be forced to do: risk their lives so we could eat, so they could eat, too. The social safety net proved thin and flimsy — or worse: nonexistent — for many restaurant workers in 2020.
Restaurants also opened during the pandemic, sometimes because they could no longer afford to wait. Many more closed, their deaths painfully premature. Others went into hibernation, hoping to hunker down until a vaccine changes people’s attitudes about dining out. My nine favorite restaurants (and one pop-up) somehow found a way to remain true to their craft during what will surely be the most trying year in their existence.