Think about the memories you have of your favorite restaurants: The local joint where you and your partner had your first date. The chef who catered your wedding. The sushi place that you dreamed about when you were pregnant. The ice cream shop that served your kids their first cones. The pizza place that could count on your Friday night delivery every week. The local diner that knows to leave the green stuff off your kids’ pasta. The steak-house that’s your go-to for celebrations. The coffee baristas who know your order as soon as you walk in. The splurgey meal on your last vacation. The photos in your instagram of all the gorgeous dishes, fancy cocktails, crazy milkshakes, food truck finds, or indulgent desserts that have made the memories worth sharing.
I can pretty much guarantee that all the people responsible for those memories are struggling in some way right now. And there are so many ways we can help. Especially with Mother’s Day coming up — should you need an excuse,.
But really, these are ideas you can put to use any time at all.
Top: Emmer & Rye’s Pasta and Bread Pantry Box now shipping from Austin
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Mother’s Day brunch with my mom and girls at the Red Hook Lobster Pound, 2019
In curating our list of favorite Mother’s Day gifts that give back to Covid-19 relief efforts, I came across so many terrific gifts that support the restaurant industry in particular that I knew I wanted to share even more ideas here, in one place.
This is something really personal and meaningful to all of us here (if you couldn’t already tell). I grew up in the New York City restaurant culture, with my family on first-name basis with our favorite neighborhood spots.
My children’s dad was a culinary school grad who worked in NY area restaurants his whole adult life, and I think about those hundreds of colleagues and friends and how they’re hurting right now. And our local restaurants in Brooklyn are like second homes to me and to my kids — they knew my girls when they used to clip high chairs to the tables for them, and they know them now that they’re teens, grabbing bubble tea or Belgian waffle sundaes alone with friends.
Kristen’s husband also works in hospitality in the Philly area, and is connected with so many chefs, owners, and employees whose personal stories are crushing.
For perspective, 12.2 million people are employed in food and drinking establishments in the US, and with closures nationwide for the past weeks — many with no opening in sight — this is a huge hit. Spending at NYC restaurants dropped by more than 90% in March alone, and restaurants were only officially closed mid-month.
The restaurant industry is not receiving big federal aid packages like airlines are, and we’re scared to see what the restaurant landscape looks like in a year…or two years.
So if you’re looking for a meaningful Mother’s Day gifts for a foodie, a restaurant fan, or even a mom or grandma who you normally take to brunch on Mother’s Day, I hope you’ll find some ideas here that you love.
Support restaurants by having brunch delivered to her
Wouldn’t it be awesome to surprise your mom with a brunch delivered right to her door? And hey, if she’s far away from you right now, maybe couple that with a Zoom call so that you can eat “together” even if you’re not together.
(In fact, definitely do that.)
Maybe you can even recreate what you’d have with her if you were able to go out. Fried chicken and a ton of sides from Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans sounds fabulous. In NYC, Stacie just turned me onto the new delivery service from Mille-feuille Bakery, if she loves croissants, danishes, or quiche.
Or hey, if she wants to DIY just a little bit, there are so many creative ideas from restauranteurs right now! Check out options like the Mini Emergency Taco Kits — and margarita kits! — from LA’s Guerrilla Tacos. Or the Red Hook Lobster Pound in Brooklyn, which is offering a four-course Mother’s Day lobster feast for four very lucky people. (I miss their key lime pie!)
Or in Manhattan, Jefferey’s Grocery (a restaurant in the West Village, not a grocery) is putting together gourmet meal kits, from breakfast yogurt parfait bar kit or an avocado toast kit, to an organic spatchcock chicken kit — add in some Stumptown coffee beans while you’re at it.
Don’t forget, lots of restaurants are now able to deliver bottles of wine or cocktails too. So if she’s a Mimosa kind of a mom, go for it! Or just send the whole darn bottle of sparkling wine and she can make it herself.
Support restaurants with a cookbook from a favorite chef
Forget Amazon — order a chef-authored ookbook for Mother’s Day right from the online shops of your favorite restaurants that sell them. You might be surprised how many options there are once you start looking! Maybe even signed copies.
Just a few for starters...
Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For by George Weld and Evan Hanczor of Egg
The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas by Eric Silverstein
The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey
Butcher + Beast by Angie Mar of Beatrice Inn
Roberta’s Cookbook by Chef Carlo Mirarchi with Brandon Hoy and Chris Parachini
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking or the Federal Donuts Cookbook by Michael Solomonov
Superiority Burger Cookbook by Brooks Headley
Guerilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of LA by Wesley Avila
If you can’t purchase directly online, call and see if they have one in stock that you can pick up or have delivered.
Support restaurants with a gift card directly from a favorite local restaurant
You know we love gift cards for all kinds of celebrations, and this seems like a win – win: Let Mom pick her own brunch, dinner or dessert, while supporting a favorite local restaurant. I would just call directly; ordering through one of the online delivery apps may take a percentage away from the restaurant.
If they’re not open at this time, contact them directly and see if you can purchase a gift card that can be used later, when they reopen. In fact, check Dining Bond to see if your favorite restaurant is participating — you essentially pay $75 for a $100 gift card to help the restaurant with cash flow now while you reap the rewards later.
If you can’t order a gift directly, sites like Help Main Street have set up a way to do it without taking a cut of profits (above). Rally for Restaurants is a similar effort, hough with a smaller list of participating restaurants right now, but there’s another big benefit — if you order a meal or gift card through them and share it on social media with #RallyforRestaurants, they’ll donate $1 per post to Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation and World Central Kitchen.
Support restaurants with a food subscription from a city of choice
Goldbelly just launched a collection of 3-6 month City Subscription Boxes, each with food from independent restaurants in a favorite eating city of your choice — New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, LA and Miami. The best part is, 100% of all the profits go toward Goldbelly’s meal deliveries to healthcare workers and first responders.
Support restaurants with a custom pantry box gift
I’m hearing more reports of terrific restaurants like Emmer & Rye in Austin putting together pantry boxes for shipping or pick-up. They are able to source so many incredible items that would be challenging for us to track down ourselves, make the boxes fantastic Mother’s Day gifts!
For example, their Pantry Essentials Kit includes items like Thai Chili Hot Sauce, Israeli Pickles, Red Miso, and Preserved Citrus. Though it would be hard for me to not to order their Pasta and Bread Kit (also above), since it includes their incredible sourdough boule and whipped cultured butter which is half the reason to eat there. Mmmm.
Support restaurants with branded merch from their online shops
I for one would love a t-shirt or cap from one of my favorite local restaurants — let alone a mug for all that coffee I’m making at home now — and I bet a lot of moms would feel the same way for Mother’s Day.
Eater has a great article on NYC restaurants selling branded merch and other goodies right now, from Katz’s Deli (totes, tees, caps, socks, mugs, cutting boards) to Roberta’s Pizza (tees, shorts, caps, cookbooks), to tons of cool stuff from Rao’s including a pizza stone, oven mitts, a striped apron, and funny tees — along with their notoriously wonderful sauces.
Of course I’m partial to NYC, but you can find cool gifts from restaurants in any city from coast to coast — I love the tees and caps from Oakland’s Nyum Bai. In LA, EP & LP may have the coolest branded sweatshirts and tees I’ve ever seen, including the Where Love Lives cap, above, or check out the fab swag from Guerrilla Taco.
Or maybe your favorite restaurant or cafe has their own jarred sauces, spice blends, or baking kit that you can buy direct from them instead of from a retailers. Patsy’s tomato sauce? A chiffon cake from Rose’s Fine Food in Detroit? Houjicha Milk Jam from LA’s Konbi? Yes please!
Scroll down to the bottom of this Resy post for a (very) short list of more US restaurants selling cool merch right now or just check your own local faves. They may even offer t-shits you don’t know about.
Support restaurants by making a donation in her name
If she’s blessed enough to have everything she needs right now, we’ve always suggested making donations to a pet cause in her name. This year, a lot of us are clearly thinking about restaurant workers impacted by the necessary business closures.
Here are just a few terrific orgs to consider to get you started:
World Central Kitchen is doing so much, but their Chefs for America initiative (above) is specifically supporting small restaurants that would otherwise go out of business. Donations allow them to keep their kitchens open to make meals for frontline healthcare workers, food-insecure families, and seniors isolated for safety. Chefs for America has already served nearly 1 million fresh meals in NY alone, but they’re also working in 17 other US states and territories.
One Fair Wage has been at the front of the fight for fair hourly wages for tipped workers. They’ve set up an emergency relief fund to offer direct relief to tipped workers, who are disproportionately women of color supporting children.
In 52 cities, Frontline Foods is providing funds to restaurants that they pair with frontline hospitals and medical facilities to provide meals throughout the day.
The Restaurant Workers Relief Program is turning shuttered restaurants in nearly 20 US regions and cities into relief centers for laid-off restaurant workers, offering meals to go, It’s an effort from Chef Edward Lee’s Lee Initiative Program, with support from Maker’s Mark.
Local non-profits are popping up or retooling their efforts to pay restaurants to stay open, in order to feed people in need. This includes San Francisco’s SF New Deal, Rethink Food NYC in New York, and Hook Hall DC which is specifically providing meals to hospitality industry worker and their families.
Southern Smoke Fund is a non-profit offering direct relief to impacted food and beverage industry workers in Texas.
This post on the Resy blog offers 17 additional food-based organizations that need help.
Support restaurants by donating directly to the employees of your favorite Mother’s Day brunch spot
For my family, Mother’s Day brunch out is a tradition and it’s crushing to miss it this year. If you want to support your own favorite servers and kitchen staff directly who’d normally be making your day special, check and see if they have a Go Fund Me or similar fundraising effort that could use a contribution from you.
Just think about how you — or your mom — would feel if that special place couldn’t re-open, or if a beloved server or bartender couldn’t make rent right now. Then give generously.