(This editorial reflects changes from the print version)
Restaurants in North Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Spuyten Duyvil may have survived the initial onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the battle after the lockdown has taken many casualties. The switch to more take-out has significantly cost those restaurants used to a more traditional business.
On Riverdale, Johnson and Kingsbridge avenues alone, restaurants and diners like Madison’s, Blue Bay Diner and The Riverdale Diner have all shuttered. In addition, two kosher bakeries closed on Johnson.
In Spuyten Duyvil, another kosher bakery on West 235th Street closed, as well as a kosher caterer on West 231st Street.
But not all the news has been bad. A small café that goes by the name Healthy in Dyckman Juice Bar & Cafe opened next to where Vacuum World once existed on Riverdale Avenue.
An anonymous letter writer lamented with The Riverdale Press that, after living here for 13 years, there are fewer kosher delis and bakeries in greater Riverdale. And with many orthodox Jewish synagogues whose members keep kosher, that was frustrating for Passover this year.
This trend is worrisome for a part of the Bronx traditionally known for its wide variety of cuisine. Whether it is for such remaining stalwarts as Liebman’s Deli or Tibbetts Diner, neighbors and others throughout the city have visited these establishments for the great food and conversation.
Ever since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020, a handful of merchant organizations have made it their mission to save these cherished businesses from going the way of Loeser’s or the Blue Bay or Riverdale Diners. They go by the names Riverdale Main Streets Alliance, 4Bronx Project, DineOut Riverdale. And they collaborate with other Riverdale-area community groups trying to save our eateries.
Those three groups — two of which are led by Bronx Burger House manager Laura Levine-Pinedo, Michael Gabert, Flexis Media owner, and Art for AID, led by its coordinator Rick Feldman — are holding another Riverdale restaurant week. It begins Friday, April 15, and continues until Saturday, April 22. The idea is to have people patronize the participating restaurants while providing art projects, dancing and other cultural activities on the sidewalk.
Feldman’s group will advocate for hunger awareness in the community with all leftover proceeds going to The Friendly Fridge Bx, a communal service the allow people to give and take food stored in refrigerators.
In the past, such events were a way of restaurants becoming more familiar with neighbors all while celebrating Riverdale. But now after Covid, the mission is much more essential to the survival of such small businesses.
Whether it’s Riverdale or Johnson avenues — or Broadway or West 235th Street — eateries are so important to the culture of our community. We need to do our part to keep them around, or lest we stand to lose that culture.