In Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, the pandemic brought more change to a neighborhood in flux, as locals rallied around their restaurants.
Avi Shuker, an owner of Mimi’s Hummus (and husband to Mimi Kitani, the chef), said he knew immediately that the pandemic could be an extinction event for New York restaurants.
“I woke up the next day and decided to survive,” he said.
Like many other restaurateurs, he and Ms. Kitani, both 40, started hopscotching from one new idea to another. He hauled all the tables and chairs out to the sidewalk, and brought the wine cellar and beer stash up to street level. They finally started selling hummus to go, which he had resisted since the restaurant opened in 2009, fearing that it would leach away restaurant customers. He watched lines of panicked shoppers build outside nearby food markets like the Flatbush Food Co-op.
Mimi’s had long sold Middle Eastern specialties like tahini and rose water, but Mr. Shuker began making runs to wholesalers in Brooklyn Terminal Market, stocking up on staples like milk, strawberries and salad greens. Extra produce from the kitchen was sold from tables out front. Neighborhood regulars began stopping by every day to shop, instead of once every couple of weeks to eat.
“The street was empty for two months, but the people who did come were so grateful, it was a really different vibe,” he said. “At the same time that we were being asked to separate, people really came together.”