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NYC Institutions Rao’s and the Friars Club Finally Reopen

Plus, some diners are irked by COVID-19 bill surcharges — and more intel

A customer looks back after getting her take-out order at Rao’s restaurant in East Harlem on December 11, 2020 in New York City. 
Rao’s in Harlem reopened its dining room this week
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Legendary NYC spots Rao’s and the Friars Club are back in business

NYC’s reopening is continuing in full force. The New York Post reports that Rao’s, the storied red-sauce joint in Harlem, has reopened for indoor dining this week for the first time since the pandemic first shut down the city last year. But the operation isn’t completely reverting back to pre-pandemic times just yet. The restaurant will keep its to-go operation live for now — bucking a trend among other high-end restaurants to wind down takeout and delivery sales — as a note of appreciation for customers who ordered takeout from Rao’s throughout the winter, a restaurant regular tells the Post.

Similarly, the century-old Friars Club, an iconic private club in Midtown, reopened its doors at the end of April after a 14-month shutdown that started when a water pipe burst in January 2020 and continued throughout the pandemic. The club underwent a hefty revamp while it remained dark, the Post reports. Its hallmark wall-to-wall carpeting was mostly replaced by herringbone floors, leather banquettes were installed for bargoers in the Barbra Streisand room, and the dress code has been relaxed — coats are no longer required — in the hopes of attracting a younger crowd.

In other news

— Popular cookie chain Chip City, formerly known as Chip NYC, is plotting a new Upper East Side location.

— Arlo Hotels is opening a new spot in Midtown, on 38th Street, at Ninth Avenue, on May 27, according to a company spokesperson. Gerber Group, the restaurant and nightlife group behind other hotel hotspots like Mr. Purple and The Crown, is in charge of five dining spaces here, including a lobby bar and lounge that will open with the hotel at the end of May, a rooftop that will open soon after, and an Italian restaurant slated to open in September.

— Williamsburg bar Maracuja has reopened under new ownership and a new executive chef, Roberto Jimenez, who is introducing a menu to customers showcasing Spanish fare.

— Chef Nasrin Rejali is prepping for a new pop-up Persian dinner going live on May 22. The $130 meal serves two people and is available for pick up or delivery that day.

— According to a new Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce survey, 64 percent of over 200 small businesses in the borough are struggling to fill open job positions.

— Some NYC diners are not happy with restaurants tacking on the optional COVID-19 surcharge, which can be as high as 10 percent, to their bills at the end of a meal.

— Only months: