Notes on Covid-Era Dining

By Billy Eye

Like yourself, no doubt, I’m searching for places to eat and drink where I can feel relatively safe while attempting to reemerge as that bon vivant, debonaire individual the world demands. 

Many well-known bars and restaurants circling the center of town are back to normal — or at least some semblance of it. Open at a somewhat limited capacity, crowds at these eateries and watering holes are a fraction of what they were before the co(vid)llapse.

College Hill Sundries, Westerwood Tavern, Walker’s Bar and Old Town Draught House all reopened a few weeks ago. These joints have outdoor seating, the safest option if you’re socializing with proper distance. Flat Iron was rocking into the new year with touring and local music acts before being shuttered. Rumor was, during the shutdown, it had become a speakeasy, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. No real outdoor area but it’s a big room.

Chez Genèse, where I’ve missed eating the most, is a small bistro, so dining in isn’t an option. You don’t understand. Not having my favorite spot for a late breakfast or early lunch has been a major disruption to my day-to-day life. Thankfully, the restaurant is offering family dinner and Sunday brunch with contactless pickup. Order at chezgenese.com. It’s the next best thing to eating there.

Natty Greene’s Brewpub and Crafted The Art of the Taco are attracting the majority of downtown’s suppers and sippers. Natty’s daily menu is most excellent with plenty of sunshine seating. Crafted also offers spacious open-air dining — and the best chicken wings I’ve ever tasted. 

I frequently find myself lunching outside at Liberty Oak with 12 for $12 entrees and daily specials like Tuesday’s meatloaf or shrimp and grits on Mondays and Fridays. Freeman’s Grub & Pub and Jake’s Billiards are also solid options, although pool tables are off limits last I heard. In the evenings, find ample outdoor seating at M’Coul’s Public House, Jerusalem Market, White and Wood and Sage Mule

New York Pizza never stopped delivering pizzas and sandwiches, but the bar just reopened a little over a week ago. The building was completely remodeled right before the hammer came down, so to speak, so co-owner Leo Gramisci’s toddlers were using the bar as an enormous playpen. Boy were those kids miffed when it became an adult playpen overnight! And that’s not the only change for the better. One of NYP’s two original owners, Ray Mascali (he was there when NYP was located beside the ice rink at Carolina Circle Mall in 1977), is once again at the helm. Gramisci is the brother of one of NYP’s former owners. The pizza is excellent once again, and new menu items are crazy delish. The bar, no longer a hangout for grunge lovers and punkers, is much more family friendly. For myself, it’s a bit of a shame that NYP will likely no longer be a stopover for skateboarders between the skatepark and wherever they were eventually headed after playing pool, downing Fireball, scarfing steak and cheese sandwiches. Thoughtful, hyper-aware young folk. I’ll miss their energy and idealistic world views.

Sadly, one of the city’s coziest spots, Jack’s Corner, truly a Greensboro institution, has closed for good after 28 years of superlative Greek entrees and a uniquely casual atmosphere thanks to its proximity to the UNCG. It speaks volumes that the quality of the food never diminished over the decades. Jack’s sister, Ginah, operates WallStreet Deli on West Friendly. I’ve heard great things about it. Can’t wait to give it a try, but I’ll always miss Jack’s.

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Billy Eye is an urban sophisticate, but you would never imagine that if you met him.

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