Epidemic Eating: Spend, Tip, Donate, Volunteer, and Don’t Panic

America is not a country known around the world for having a big heart. Thus, a public health crisis of the magnitude we’re seeing right now stands to devastate the lives of people who, in any other prosperous economy, could confidently rely on a social safety net. At this writing, the US Senate is debating a bill that would temporarily help Americans, but is being rightly opposed by Democrats because the bill will once again offer socialism to corporations and the rich while the rest of us depend on the kindness of strangers.

Among those suffering most in Atlanta are members of Atlanta’s huge hospitality industry. It is utterly crushing to watch all the city’s restaurants and bars close, leaving their mainly hourly staffs without income. Pardon my stereotyping, but I think we all know gay people are a huge part of this industry. There are two things we can all do to help. One is patronizing restaurants that remain open for takeout, delivery, and curb pickup. The other is to support industry employees directly through donations.

It appears that most restaurants are offering takeout options. There are several websites keeping track of availability, but things are changing so rapidly from day to day, you can’t be certain without calling a restaurant to confirm. Also, be aware that takeout menus often don’t include the full menu. Still, the best websites I’ve found for up-to-date listings are atlanta.eater.com and atldish.com. Check out #AtlRestaurantsUnite.com on Instagram and Twitter.

The following are a few places I especially recommend for some diversity: the new Buena Vida and Sol for Spanish-style small plates (buenavidatapas.com), the brand-new and wonderfully quirky Little Bear in Summerhill (littlebearatl.com), Southern Belle and Georgia Boy (southernbelleatl.com), the Malaysian Food Terminal in West Midtown and Chamblee (foodterminal.com), the cheap and homey Eats (eatsonponce.net), Jen Chan’s Chinese and Southern cooking (jenchans.com), BoccaLupo for the best Italian-American in town (boccalupoatl.com), VietVana for stellar Vietnamese in Decatur (vietvana.com), the very Southern-twisted Twisted Soul (twistedsoulcookhouseandpours), and the broadly obsessive Popeyes on Boulevard (popeyes.com).

I am authorizing restaurant employees to stab the tires of people who use a drive-through but don’t tip. Also, be aware that a lot of food does not carry well. Sitting in a box can quickly steam food into an unpleasant state. Feel free to ask any restaurant you contact how they handle this. (You might want to stick to cold dishes or meals frozen ahead.) Many places also offer alcoholic beverages to go now. Please drink. A lot. If a restaurant beyond the city limits allows inside dining, do not! Seriously, don’t be an idiot.

There are many ways to help unemployed restaurant workers and owners. You can buy gift cards from many restaurants. You can donate food or cash to Meals in Heels, which is distributing free meals 4-7 p.m. Fridays outside Felix’s (404-249-7899) in Ansley Square. AtlDish, mentioned above, maintains a list of GoFundMe requests and gift-card offers. Families may find help through Children of Restaurant Employees, which has been around since 2004 (coregives.org).

Staplehouse, the luxury restaurant that was created to support the Giving Kitchen, has announced plans at this writing to provide 50 free meals daily to unemployed workers (staplehouse.com). The Giving Kitchen was created several years ago specifically to provide financial assistance to restaurant people in crisis. With a proven track record, it is a good choice for general donations (thegivingkitchen.org).

Every penny you donate, spend, or tip will help. Last Saturday I walked to Grant Central Pizza in Grant Park, knocked on their windows, ordered two slices, and wandered over to the park to graze with my hand sanitizer – two hours before dinner. This is a great time to eat without restraint. Your gluttony benefits others.

Cliff Bostock is a longtime Atlanta restaurant critic and former psychotherapist turned life coach; cliffbostock@gmail.com.