Finding a safe “Outdoor Dining In Winter” Solution
What if the table WAS the heater?
What if your legs were toasty warm under a tablecloth? What if the tabletop radiated enough heat to slightly warm your face, keep your fingers toasty, even warm your plate? What if the heater wasn’t a propane heater that warmed (from behind) the coat you’re already wearing, emits poisonous gas, or more importantly, requires enclosed spaces to heat efficiently despite every health advisory across the globe right now? Well, I’m hoping I’ve figured it out.
I tested my idea yesterday with some locally-available stuff and it went well enough that I’m having custom-made parts manufactured overseas to turn 14 of our outdoor tables into 14 heaters. I am also working on a custom-built, large, clear vinyl canopy that will span the majority of the Waterfall Patio so that outdoor dining can be enjoyed rain or shine. It is my hope that we will be ready for you by the end of January!
Order for New Year’s Eve Now!
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Morning
We’re taking the holidays into extra innings this week, making the majority of our Christmas menu offerings available for pickup on New Year’s Eve.
You can see the whole menu on the home page of our website at tavernonkruse.com. A direct link to our take-out-ordering site is right here:
If you were one of our guests who ordered for Christmas, please reply to this email with any feedback from your event. Was there anything you would edit in the instructions? Was your dinner as fabulous and stress-free as mine? How did your F-a-H holidays go? Do Tell!
Why 2020 Was One of My Favorite Years…
Sitting at a blackjack table with a hand totaling 17 can be a good thing or bad. If the dealer has a face card up, knowing I’m in trouble makes my palms sweaty and my stomach churn as I await the next cards. If the dealer is showing a six, my 17 sends me into the elation of anticipating good fortune. I haven’t played blackjack in years, but when people ask me what makes me tick, I offer the blackjack example above and tell them, “I like feeling alive: I like feeling like I’m sitting at a blackjack table with 17 and whether I’m happy and excited or scared and sick to my stomach, I just like feeling alive all the time.”
Well, the year 2020 made me feel as alive as I’ve ever been and therefore, in my own twisted way, that makes it one of my best years ever.
There was some misery tied to this year. I shuttered my restaurant twice. I laid off 30+ people twice. Although not one of my family and not a single person on my staff contracted the corona virus, I have friends who lost people they love. As unimaginably horrible as all that sounds, the joys of the year will stick with me at least as profoundly.
I was forced to remember what broke and hungry felt like. I haven’t been either since the late 1980s, but having once bounced a $0.99 check to 7-eleven for a hot dog, I can feel it. It was good for me to have that driven back into my consciousness. Tavern’s efforts during these shutdowns to feed people who found themselves unemployed will provide three memories that helped make this cursed year stick as one of my favorite years ever.
The first memory is of how profoundly our southern burbs came out to join me in support of those whose income security screeched to a halt overnight. It wasn’t the food that was important, nor the generosity of transferred resources from haves to have-nots that I will remember. I will always remember looking out the windows of Tavern Annex, watching the employed standing in line with the unemployed, in equal numbers, six feet apart. They were so appreciative. The unemployed were appreciative of the food and those helping pay for it for reasons easy to understand. But it was the appreciation that all the comfortable, secure people showed for all those who were unemployed that brought me to tears. There was no pride. It wasn’t about charity. It was about community. Oneness. Understanding. Love.
The second memory is a little more personal if anecdotal. When my mom talks about her upbringing, she tells the story of the strong women and afflicted men in her family, with the exception of her café-owning grandfather. During the Great Depression, he turned his café into a soup kitchen and just gave away food. Listening, it’s obvious how proud my mom is that her grandfather would have done such a thing. A couple days ago, I recognized that my small-scale endeavor was similar in some ways to that which made my mom so proud of her grandfather. I sat for a few minutes a couple days ago, happier than I should admit, wondering if what I am doing might prompt my mom to light up about what I’m doing like she always did when talking about her grandpa. I then wondered if maybe my own kids might have a story to tell about how their dad handled the pandemic of 2020. In no way did I take this project on to make my mom or my kids (or you or even me) proud of me; it was a snap decision that could have easily proven catastrophic for my company and reckless as an employer. But it worked, thanks to people like you being the loving people I bragged about in the paragraph above. So maybe this is the moment when you allow yourself to take a couple seconds to be happy about all the things you did for other people this year. I’m 56 years old and still worried about my mom proud of me. Life is funny.
Lastly, and not least of the three: My staff. My staff volunteered to feed people when none of us was sure Tavern would ever be able to write them another paycheck. When the Governor announced that we could reopen, all but two of the 36 reported for work (one of whom was taking care of his elderly and infirm mother and couldn’t risk exposure). This is extraordinary because sitting on one’s couch paid $2400/month on top of unemployment and my every restaurateur friend struggled to reopen because their staff was directly incentivized not to come back to work. Mine did. Thirty-four of us reopened on the 28th of May to the biggest, hungriest, most entertainment-starved crowds in history – and we handled everyone as well as our rusty and overwhelmed team could with big smiles on our faces. It was magical. Why my staff all came back is a story not about me but them. This year was testimony to what I’ve always believed but had never been tested: I am surrounded by the most stand-up, magnificent, conscientious, gracious, humble, happy teammates I could ever ask for. We were so very happy doing what we did this summer – and it showed. And it felt great.
I believe that happiness has a lot to do with what we’re looking forward to, and there is so much to look forward to because the crap we’ve endured this year is no longer an event but (cliché) the new normal. Masks and shutdowns and sickness and unemployment and political turmoil and election year negativity have become the “is.” Vaccines and dinner parties and restaurant reopenings and travel and the finality of inaugurations and 400 million Americans emerging from 2020 with a new lust for life is more to look forward to than I can even wrap my head around. Looking forward to 2021, even while stuck in 2020, makes me happy.
Jazz music. Packed patios all summer. Good health. A much needed 25th anniversary vacation to my favorite resort in the world with a wife that still loves me, excites me, impresses me and accepts me. Two amazing, healthy kids too old to have had added the stress of home schooling. Moving into a gutted-and-remodeled house after enduring quarantine in a windowless rental for months. An outpouring of concern when my Chef’s farmhouse burned down. My mom still alive and setting examples that will be hard to live up to.
So this is my story of a tough year, but it’s my story of a great year because this year proved to be about people rather than viruses and quarantines and shutdowns. You are great people who are an integral part of my story. And I thank you for the joys I found in 2020.