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The Restaurants That Stepped Up For Their Communities in 2022

Street vendors, a host of queer-focused parties, and meal providers for the elderly were at the top of mind

NYC Street Vendors Rally For Fair Access To Licenses And Against Increased Enforcement
Street vendors at a rally in September 2022.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Welcome to Year in Eater 2022, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers and New York figures. For 2022’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?

Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, deputy director, the Street Vendor Project: There were so many from the street vendor community who really came through and supported their community, such as produce vendors Sabina Hernandez, and Roland and Ana Perez, who Eater profiled in the early days of the pandemic. This year, Maria Lopez, who sells gelatinas and fresh orange juice on Grand Concourse and Fordham Road in the Bronx, was a true leader who stepped up for her community, helping to lead a 24-hour sleepout to demand that all street vendors can access licenses, and establishing a local network of street vendors along Fordham Road in the Bronx.

Scott Lynch, contributor, Hell Gate and Brooklyn Magazine: Not specifically my local community, but since the summer of 2021 Kristin Dausch’s Dave’s Lesbian Bar has been throwing monthly pop-up parties to raise money so they can open a permanent space in Astoria and which, in the meantime, provide a “sanctuary where queer folks can exist fully and wonderfully as their true selves.” I was fortunate enough to photograph Queer Cafeteria in August, their food and music festival at Socrates Scultpture Park, and it was awesome in so many ways.

Jaeki Cho, host, Righteous Eats: Not a restaurant, but the vendors at Corona Plaza formed an association this year, it’s one of the only vendor associations in New York. They’ve stepped up and cleaned up the plaza, enforced rules, and supported each other with scheduling and space. There’s no government agency that’s really responsible for helping them out, so for them to have this independent organization which they operate, to make the market more accessible for everybody, is inspiring.

Nicolas Heller, New York Nico: Saigon Social. The owner, Helen, who opened right as the pandemic hit, has continued to support and feed the senior community through the past couple of years.

Mike Diago, writer, the Bittman Project: Cosme. I run a cooking club through the My Brother’s Keeper program at a high school in Peekskill, northern Westchester. I asked a few of the highest-profile fine dining restaurants in the city if I could bring all twelve boys for a night. Cosme was my first choice and the only one that agreed (we didn’t have much money). They did so without hesitation and showered us with good food, kindness, and respect. For a couple of the boys, I think the experience was life-changing.

Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet, photographer: Zaab Zaab in Elmhurst. I’m always a big fan of northern-east Thai food. It was close to my apartment so I went there when it just started. I’m amazed to see how fast they grow. The duck larb is a must.

Moonlynn Tsai, co-founder, Heart of Dinner: Hands down Helen Nguyen, chef-owner of Saigon Social. Helen has been one of Heart of Dinner’s restaurant partners since we started providing meals for homebound Asian elders and has been nourishing the community as a whole even before she opened and still continues to do so.