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The Restaurants That Stepped Up For Their Communities in 2021

Crown Heights bar Hunky Dory, New Mexican spot Ursula, and more

Three cocktail sit behind the front window at Hunky Dory.
Pour one out.
Megan Rainwater/Hunky Dory

Welcome to Year in Eater 2021, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2021’s final week, Eater NY will be posting questions daily about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best: Eater editors and friends of Eater. Now: Was there one restaurant in particular that you felt really stepped up for your local community? How did they do so?

Mahira Rivers, food journalist: Honestly, Cuomo said it all: All restaurants are essential. Everyone that kept their restaurant going this year really stepped up.

John deBary, drinks expert, co-founder of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: Ursula, for providing a safe, queer space in an industry that is often not safe for LGBTQIA+ people. Ditto for KIT.

Ryan Sutton, chief food critic, Eater NY: I like to write about my Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood as much as I can but I’m still overwhelmed by what Hunky Dory and Claire Sprouse did for Crown Heights and the larger restaurant community. There was a Cuban dance party. There were too many pop-ups to count (Cambodian, Texan, Filipinix). There were comedy shows. There was a general store. There were great cocktails and food. Hunky Dory felt like the paradigm of an honest-to-goodness neighborhood restaurant. I’m so sad it’s gone.

Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chef, Punch: Claire Sprouse and Hunky Dory really were a bright spot over the last 20 months. Her idea of what a bar/restaurant can be for its community, especially a community that is struggling, has had a huge impact on the way bar owners think about the purpose of their spaces, how they treat their employees, the environment and how (and why) they engage in local politics.

Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.