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New York is closing restaurants, here’s how to get your favorite Jewish eats

Following the lead of cities in Italy, France, and Spain, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, New York will limit restaurants to takeout and delivery starting on March 17.

“Social distancing,” the practice of limiting contact with others in order to reduce a disease’s impact, is one of the most effective ways of fighting coronavirus. But it’s a hard order to stomach for the city’s Jewish delis, which peddle not just hot sandwiches but social proximity: the opportunity to meet friends, share dishes, and generally kibbitz the weekend mornings away.

Faced with the prospect of indefinite closure, many delis are now relying on what may have been a minor aspect of business: orders to go. The Forward spoke with over a dozen delis and bagel shops in New York City, and with the exception of Junior’s Cheesecake, which plans to close today, all said they would maintain takeout and delivery options.

Customers can call their deli of choice in order to place an order for delivery or pickup, or order through a third-party delivery app like Seamless or Grubhub. In many cases, customers can also buy directly from the counter through (generously spaced-out) takeout lines. It may just be the excursion you need in the middle of a long day inside.

“There is a LOT of space to spread out,” said Russ and Daughters Cafe in an Instagram post outlining new delivery options at its Brooklyn location. “Enjoy a moment of escape by peering into our bakery and see where we make our bagels and babkas.”

But if you’re truly committed to social distancing, is it wise to eat food that’s been handled by others? In fact, epidemiologist Stephen Morse of Columbia University told The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull, “there should be very little risk” as long as the restaurant prepares food carefully. But you might want to consider how you order. Deliverers on staff at local restaurants come in contact with fewer people than gig workers for delivery apps, noted Mull, and are less likely to be exposed to the virus.

And if your pantry is lacking in non-perishables, appetizing stores provide a way to stock up without braving the lines and empty shelves at Trader Joe’s. Many delis, including Katz’s and Barney Greengrass, sell smoked fish and lunch meats by the pound.

“If you know you’re going to be home for a while, order pastrami,” said a staff member at Katz’s. Meanwhile, a waiter at Liebman’s Kosher deli suggested the restaurant’s classic matzo ball soup, which freezes well.

Between soups that comfort the ill and anxious and lunch meats to keep quietly in the freezer for weeks, the dishes that nourish Jewish souls through the best of times are also pretty handy in the worst. If you’re looking to stimulate your palate while supporting local businesses throughout this crisis, remember — eating out may not be an option, but ordering in always is.

Irene Connelly writes about culture and lifestyle. You can contact her at connelly@forward.com.

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