Photo courtesy Golden Diner

Behind the LineNew York

Chinatown Restaurants Unite With Neighborhood Dining Initiative (and More)

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The New York City restaurant industry can be competitive, but it can also be incredibly supportive and community-based.

Case in point: The Good Hood Deal, a new $35 loyalty punch card that incentivizes diners to frequent five restaurants in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Chinatown neighborhoods for specific dishes:

After sending a Venmo payment to GOODHOOD-FUND, diners can pick up the card in person at Golden Diner and then use it at the four other restaurants. The card never expires, and profits are shared equally among all five restaurants. And if a participating restaurant temporarily closes, the deal will be honored upon reopening. Card holders are encouraged to call ahead to place their orders.

Golden Diner chef-owner Samuel Yoo and Kopitiam chef-owner Moonlynn Tsai came up with the idea for The Good Hood Deal just days before New York City mandated the closure of thousands restaurants and bars because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The objective, says Golden Diner’s in-house designer, Helen Lee, was to help one another out, as well as provide affordably priced options for the local community. (Golden Diner is also selling $7 meals.)

Since launching the card on March 28, they’ve sold more than 130 out of an initial printing of 200.

“This was never meant to be a huge stream of revenues, but if this can help pay our employees for another week, that’s awesome,” said Lee. “It’s more just about banding together and supporting each other — we’re constantly checking in on each other and ordering meals from each other — and supporting the local community.”

For Kopitiam’s Tsai, that community support extends deep. As part of ReThink Food NYC’s Restaurant Response Program, Kopitiam is helping feed essential workers throughout New York City. Tsai, along with her partner, actor and 88 Cups of Tea founder Yin Chang, also founded Table to Table, an organization devoted to helping local Chinese restaurants through local food tours, at a later date, that will help raise awareness. They’ve also partnered with the Chinese-American Planning Council to bring food to local Chinatown residents in need, and they’re feeding workers who are keeping the streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown clean.

Photo Courtesy Saigon Social

For Saigon Social chef-owner Helen Nguyen, staying open and providing meals to her local community has been particularly gratifying. Nguyen was slated to open Saigon Social on March 13 but quickly changed the restaurant into a takeout-and-delivery operation with the help of backing from nonprofits like Frontline Foods, which delivers food to healthcare workers at local hospitals, and primarily because of feedback from the neighborhood.

“It’s just been amazing to see we’re getting support from our neighbors or from people who may not be doing as well as they should be but they find time and resources to reach out and let us know that they’re there,” Nguyen said.

“That’s one of the most grateful experiences we could take away from everything. It’s such a great sense of community.”

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