Over the weekend, Danny Rampage and I decided to try out one of the restaurant patios in Saint Paul, since they have just been allowed to begin serving customers again. You all know I love to cook, but after 3 months of making every meal, I was ready to eat something prepared by someone other than me! We were pretty eager to be getting out. This particular restaurant, a local favorite of ours, had converted their parking lot into a dining area with picnic tables placed at least 6 feet apart for safety. All of the staff were masked. Despite the freshly loosened restrictions, I sensed an underlying feeling of shame, based on the expressions and hushed conversations of the other diners... as if they were worried that they were being judged by passers-by for being out in public and unmasked. The scene was far from vibey, and the prices had been jacked rather substantially, but we were outside of our apartment, sitting in a public dining area and someone was bringing us our food & drinks- a luxury few have had the pleasure of enjoying in quite some time. Far be it from me to complain about price gouging or lack of ambiance given the circumstances. However, the hippie in me cannot remain silent about a different issue- the excessive amount of single-use plastic that this restaurant was showering upon their patrons. Had I known that with an order of 2 beers each, a shared burger, and an appetizer, we would be the recipients of 3 large black plastic to-go containers, 6 plastic cups, 3 plastic ramekins with lids, 3 sets of plastic silverware (each in a plastic sleeve,) and multiple ketchup & mustard packets- I would have stayed home. I cringed each time the waitress placed something before us, as it was all dressed in plastic.
It would seem that if sustainability is important to you, now is not the time to be out enjoying the dining scene. I have to assume that this restaurant was either acting out of health code requirements which forced them to abandon reusable glasses & dishes at the risk of them being contaminated, or they just aren't in a financial position to hire on a dishwasher- since they are only allowed to function at a reduced capacity and outdoors. Either way, between the price of our meal, the low morale of the surrounding diners, the lack of ambiance, and above all- the overuse of plastic, we left pretty disappointed by the whole experience. I wonder if there will be enough people who give a shit about the earth like I do, who will neglect to patronize these places until they revert back to more responsible methods, or if the desire to be out, eating & drinking, and having things feel normal again will overshadow people's environmental concerns. The way I see it is, I've been cooking every meal for months anyway, so what's a few more? I'll patiently wait, while businesses hopefully regain momentum on some of the sustainability measures which were in place prior to “the sickness” wreaking havoc on the world as we know it and changing everything in its path. Tonight's menu: hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes, just like mama used to make!