Some of the best years of my life took place at summer camps in the mountains and yeshivas in Israel. Part of those experiences included going to bustling restaurants in Woodbourne, where pizza, knishes and hot pretzels were always part of the trip and in Israel where I would meet family and friends at overcrowded eateries throughout Jerusalem. However, times are different now. The stresses of Covid-19 are having devastating effects on businesses everywhere, especially restaurants.
Two established OU Kosher restaurants, Papagaio, in Jerusalem, Israel, and Dougie’s in Woodbourne, NY, are being especially tested considering Israel is in lockdown and there are no summer camps in New York State this year. Though they are both traditionally meat restaurants, they each have fish menus that allow them to stay open on the nine days.
Papagaio is a Brazilian steakhouse, which translated means a parrot that is found mostly in South American countries. They are most famous for their “Brazilian Table,” a dish which offers unlimited quantities of meat. They also have a fish of the day.
They opened in 1996 and their website indicates they have “hosted over 3 million diners.” Now, however, as they are experiencing the side effects of Covid-19, they are mostly focused on following the guidelines and bearing the current hit. They are fully compliant with all the Covid-19 guidelines including distancing tables six feet apart and requiring the staff to wear masks. They also have sanitation stations throughout the restaurant.
An employee explained that they have the capacity to sit 120 patrons inside and 30 outside. Based on Israel’s current Covid-19 guidelines, however, they are only allowed to sit 10 percent inside, although outdoor dining has no limits. With the domestic lockdown and reduction in international travel, they are making up some of the slack with pickups and deliveries.
Dougie’s BBQ & Grill in Woodbourne which opened 18 years ago is known for its burgers and wings. There also has an extensive sushi menu available.
When speaking to Chaim Klein, the owner, I came to understand the stark reality of the upstate situation. He explained to me that because sleepaway camps have been suspended and food is being distributed for free in many areas, business is tough.
When I asked him to sum up Covid-19 in one word regarding the restaurant business he said, “gamechanger.” He said that he has much fewer customers than previously, but expenses keep going up. He does have seating inside, though it’s very limited, and he does offer pickup and delivery. I asked him how he sees the future and he felt that things will return to normal once Covid-19 passes. I felt uplifted to hear such an optimistic sentiment from someone who was enduring the economic wrath of Covid-19.
My summer and yeshiva years are now a memory but it’s a reality for all our children growing up. They are all part of the new Covid-19 reality where they have had to adjust camp plans and sometimes manipulate yeshiva and seminary plans.
Two restaurants, Papagaio in Jerusalem and Dougie’s BBQ & Grill in Woodbourne, are in the crosswinds of the Covid-19 storm which is having serious affects. However, because of their longevity and experience in the restaurant business they are well-positioned to survive the storm.