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Weekend Assignment: Eat & Drink in the Neighborhood

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Katz’s: Feeding locals, celebrities and tourists since 1888. They stayed open through Hurricane Irene last year, and Hurricane Sandy this year. You know you want some.

OK, so. It’s Friday morning on the Lower East Side, and we know darn well you New Yorkers aren’t cooking at home every single meal this weekend. There’s been a lot of chatter about supporting our local restaurants here in the neighborhoods briefly known as SoPo (South of Power). Local media, including The Lo-Down, have preached it, published it, promoted it. There’s even a Twitter hashtag, #EatDownTipUp. And if anyone living below 14th Street hasn’t yet read the compelling essay New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote 10 days ago, “Why Downtown Needs Diners Now,” well, it’s worth five minutes of your time.

Monday marks three weeks since Hurricane Sandy came to visit; it’s time to stop talking and put your money where your mouth is.

Our neighborhood is rich in diverse, interesting, locally owned restaurants of every genre, cuisine and price point — and every one lost income as nearly a week ticked by without electricity and their customers could not come. They threw away thousands of dollars’ worth of food that spoiled in their walk-ins. They have repair bills.

There are plenty of options around the neighborhood to splurge, for sure. But this effort does not necessarily involve fancy or expensive meals. Grab an egg-on-a-roll at your corner bodega tomorrow morning. Get your coffee from one of our many independent java vendors on Sunday. Bring home a pizza. Take the kids out for dessert one night. Drink a beer (or two) at your favorite dive bar. Revisit the cafe where you had your first date, or finally get around to trying that new place you walk past on your way to work and keep meaning to step into.

Many local residents are laboring at a variety of strenuous tasks to help the harder-hit areas of our city recover from this unprecedented disaster. In coastal Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, volunteers are staffing packed soup kitchens for 10 hours at a time and shoveling sandy, polluted muck from living rooms. They are hammering plywood, stripping moldy insulation from houses, lugging downed trees out of public parks. Day after day, they are schlepping water, groceries and hot meals up blacked-out stairwells for high-rise residents with no power or heat, still.

Compared to all that, how hard is it to let someone else make you a sandwich?

P.S. If you are interested in the heavier lifting, by the way, there is still great demand. Up-to-the-minute details on volunteer and donation needs are available from NYC Sandy Needs and Nobodies Helping Everybody.

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