If there’s one thing that the coronavirus pandemic has made crystal clear these last few months, it’s how thoroughly interconnected life on Earth has become.
We are now, without a doubt, a global civilization, and as many brands have so graciously reminded us lately, “We’re all in this together.” But the spread of COVID-19 has also had a profound way of spotlighting the differences: the ways in which each of our societies responds to crisis, the things we value, and how our governments support our vulnerable communities — or don’t.
The first days of June were an anxious time for much of the world. Just as protesters took to the streets across the U.S. to condemn racial violence and the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, cities across the globe were grasping for the first signs of life after months of COVID-19-related lockdown and quarantine, thanks to the easing of restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Virtually every major metropolis on earth spent the bulk of spring in some state of shutdown; our responses since have been less synchronous. On June 1 and 2, Paris and Melbourne began to allow dine-in seating, and Berlin reopened bars — prost! Elsewhere, life remained at a near standstill. Bogotá only began allowing carryout from restaurants on June 1, and taking so much as a walk in Moscow — let alone a bite — continues to require scheduling. Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City and Tokyo welcomed this June like every other before it, with little fanfare beyond the usual blooms and ripening market fruit; for them, the spread of COVID-19 is all but a terrifying memory.
The point is, despite the near-universal tragedy caused by the novel coronavirus, the look and feel of our experiences today is anything but uniform, and depends greatly on the place we call home. Last week, Eater asked an international team of photographers and writers to document daily life where it intersects with food and drink in 17 cities around the world on the very same day. What follows is something like a diary of eating on planet Earth on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The resulting snapshots show our disparate realities as we edge ever closer to once again sharing a great meal, a stiff drink, and everyday life, together. — Lesley Suter, travel editor
➾ For 10 weeks, Mexico City has been locked down, with restaurants taking a hard hit: According to the restaurateur chamber, more than 6,000 establishments have closed for good. The survivors are now preparing for the next phase: Starting June 15, restaurants will implement tougher sanitary measures at 30 percent capacity. Today, June 2, people are out and about in spite of the two-week quarantine extension. Downtown, Alberto Sarabia, the lead taquero of famed Los Cocuyos, smiles under his face mask while passing out tacos to customers for the first time after a six-week closure. In San Juan market, Oaxaca products vendor Ricardo Castañeda reports 70 to 80 percent in lost sales. He hopes for renewed tourism and the return of his regulars. “We never closed,” Castañeda says. “We need to eat.” He’s not alone in working through the pandemic; 31.5 million Mexicans depend on the informal economy of street vending and other non-taxed work and haven’t been able to stay home. Across the city’s restaurant and food sector, anxiety is palpable. The light at the end of the tunnel is supposed to arrive on June 15, but nobody knows how the “new normal” will pan out. How can they? This is uncharted territory. — Natalia de la Rosa, Mexico City | Photographs by Juan de Dios Garza
➾ Street food carts are busy at lunchtime. Brick-and-mortar restaurants have no obligation to space out tables. Diners do not wear masks. It’s business as some sort of usual on June 2 here in Ho Chi Minh City. Restaurants and street food carts have been open since late April, when the country’s social-distancing campaign ended. No community transmission has been detected in nearly 50 days, and those businesses that survived the economic shock of the pandemic’s peak can operate normally. But the restaurant industry hasn’t completely recovered. A street food stall owner in the central business district, who introduces herself as Ms. Tu while serving her lunch customers, says that she’s happy to be open again after closing for two months earlier in the year; though she does note that business has only returned to 50 percent of its pre-pandemic level. And with borders still closed to international visitors, restaurants that rely on foreign tourists have been hit hard. A downtown location of the popular Japanese-Italian chain Pizza 4P’s is oddly quiet tonight. But the very fact that these places are open, with maskless customers sitting right next to each other, is evidence of Vietnam’s astonishing success in combating the coronavirus. — Michael Tatarski, Ho Chi Minh City | Photographs by Alberto Prieto
➾ Cibi is buzzing with customers exchanging smiles and knowing glances. June 2 is only the second day in months they’ve been allowed to sit down for a meal at the Melbourne cafe. It almost feels like things are back to “normal,” though hand-sanitizing stations and social-distancing tape on the floor remind everyone the staff is working hard to serve safely. Australia has fared better than most during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as of June 1 restaurants can reopen under strict rules: 20 patrons maximum, social distancing, extra sanitation, and contact details collected from customers. Many are only offering set menus and requesting payment in advance, but that hasn’t slowed the reservations. “These first couple of nights, we’ve seen a lot of regulars who supported us before, and through COVID-19 with takeaway,” says Michael Bascetta, co-owner of Bar Liberty and Capitano. “It’s great to know we have that community here to help us.” Some are continuing initiatives started during the pandemic. Anchovy is selling khao jee pate from a to-go window, Ima Project Cafe is still packaging its popular nori paste and kimchi for home kitchens, and several restaurants are cooking free meals for people in need. “Our community is much stronger together than ever before,” says Ima Project Cafe’s Asako Miura. “But it’s a long journey for sure.” — Audrey Bourget, Melbourne | Photo by Michael Woods
➾ Bars reopened in Berlin on June 2, 18 days after restaurants were permitted to reopen under similar social-distancing restrictions. With each new set of Lockerungen (relaxation of the rules), Berliners have been eager to reclaim a piece of whatever the new normal is, and lately, that means pouring into dining rooms and filling up barstools. What’s absent in public on June 2 is the general anxiety that’s precipitated conversations among friends and colleagues since the lockdown began in March. Eating out in Berlin seems the same as before, with the exception of servers wearing masks. You might notice the social-distancing rules that some establishments have taken it upon themselves to post, but rarely do you see restaurants following the government recommendation to have guests write down their information for contact tracing. Most skip the formality and get straight to the drinks. And diners, too, seem largely unphased by it all: I turned down an indoor seat while dining out on June 2, but people behind us in line happily took the spot. That said, 350 cops in riot gear chased down activists protesting an eviction during my dinner elsewhere (outdoor tables, socially distanced) and hardly anyone batted an eye. Berliners don’t easily flinch. — Joe Baur, Berlin | Photographs by Joe Baur
➾ “Please! Try keeping the distance, and stay at least one meter apart,” reads the sign near the entrance of Le Violon Dingue. It’s held by a mannequin, a caricature of a voluminous French chef, and following his request isn’t easy on June 2 inside the tiny bakery in downtown Stockholm. In normal times the bakery mostly delivers lunches to large offices, so minimal indoor space usually isn’t a problem. “I’ll never forget the 16th of March. We lost 70 percent of our business immediately,” says co-owner Helena Bergqvist. Although Swedish authorities never entirely closed down the restaurant scene, as other European governments did, many people heeded public health recommendations to socially distance. When Sweden reported its first death related to COVID-19 on March 11, the number of people going out to eat dramatically dropped, as did the Swedish stock market and hospitality revenue in general — by some estimates between 40 and 90 percent. Authorities even forced a few restaurants to close temporarily after they let too many people in at one time. Over the last couple of weeks, though, the mood has begun to change, and hope can be found today in the slowly increasing number of group orders at Le Violon Dingue. When requests for 10 to 15 sandwiches come in at a time, you know people are getting back to work. — Per Styregård, Stockholm | Photographs by Petter Bäcklund
➾ Life in Taiwan is back to business, but the new normal for many eateries means temperature checks, hand sanitizers strewn throughout, environmentally nonfriendly single-use utensils, masked servers and cooks, and plastic dividers that separate patrons at crowded tables. — Leslie Nguyen-Okwu, Taiwan | Photo by Sean Marc Lee
➾ On June 2, the grand dome enclosing the White Rabbit isn’t populated by the usual diners gazing out of the 16th-floor windows over Moscow. Instead, it’s full of meticulously packed white paper bags stuffed with food — some containing fine dining setups for customers who will pick them up later, others holding free lunches for the city’s scores of medical workers. Moscow’s Delicatessen restaurant and bar also provides meals to doctors, and today’s menu includes tomato soup and okonomiyaki. In the main dining room, where the large communal dining table once stood, there sits a ping-pong table for staffers. Points are tallied in chalk on the wall; next to them are ticks marking each passing day of quarantine. Restaurants in Moscow have been closed since March due to COVID-19, but rather than declare a state of emergency, President Vladimir Putin called for a period of “nonworking days.” The linguistic nuance is important, as the current setup means landlords can continue to demand rent in full, even as restaurants bring in a fraction of their previous revenue with takeout and delivery. “If something doesn’t change soon, a failure will occur,” says Delicatessen’s bar manager, Ivan Semchenko. “Our government doesn’t support us; we’re counting only on ourselves right now.” — Polina Chernyshova, Moscow | Photographs by Pasha Gulian
➾ Boxes of beer, wine, and gin spill onto the sidewalk outside Dry Dock, a boutique liquor store on Parkhurst Street in Johannesburg, where gourmet restaurants stand side by side with sports pubs, bars, art galleries, and boutiques. Owner Martin Pienaar and his staff are filling 600 online orders for drive-thru, pickup, and courier delivery. South Africa eased its 10-week alcohol ban on June 1 when it entered level three of its COVID-19 response, but it might still be a while before South Africans can indulge in a meal and a bottle of pinotage at a restaurant. The country is emerging from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, which began March 27 and required restaurants to close completely. In early May, restaurants began reopening for delivery between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Food delivery services reached capacity and were unable to fill many orders, while smaller restaurants faced with delivery fees of up to 40 percent struggled to make a profit. And although restaurants are allowed to offer pickup now, many have remained closed as they consider it financially ruinous in an already fragile economic environment. The restaurant industry has pleaded with the government to allow sit-in dining at 70 percent capacity to prevent further industry job losses. And as the minister of tourism drafts a proposal to submit to the National Coronavirus Command Council, patrons and restaurateurs hope the verdict will come sooner rather than later, so as to salvage the $4.21 billion industry. — Iga Motylska, Johannesburg | Photographs by Iga Motylska
➾ Walking around eastern Paris on June 2 — the official launch of “phase 2” of the city’s post-confinement rebirth — is not unlike the experience I distinctly remember from the week following 2015’s November 13 attacks, when locals flocked to their favorite bars and restaurants in solidarity. From the early risers gleefully settling onto café terraces for their first morning espressos to friends gathering for extended apéritifs, intrepid Parisians are determined to reclaim control over a way of life that had been unceremoniously disrupted, both then and now. Until June 22, restaurants, bars, and cafés are only permitted to open outdoor seating areas. So, until 10 p.m. small groups (less than 10, the state-mandated limit) gather around bistro tables and hightops, arranged one meter apart, spilling onto sidewalks, parking spaces, and even some streets. They sip cocktails, order cheese and charcuterie plates from masked severs, and, generally, behave as if their world hadn’t just been rocked by a global health crisis. With minimal social distancing and very few masks, it is as if they are simply catching up after a long summer holiday. — Lindsey Tramuta, Paris | Photo by Joann Pai
➾ If you could get in to Hong Kong today, you could go to dinner here. But you probably can’t. On June 2, all restaurants are open (they were never mandated closed). Bars are open. Markets are open. Pretty much everything is open except the city itself. Nonresidents coming from anywhere other than mainland China, Macao, and Taiwan are not allowed entry, and everyone else is tested on arrival and either sent straight to the hospital or made to quarantine for a minimum of two weeks. For those already here, there are only minor inconveniences to going out — temperature checks, contact-tracing forms, masks, a maximum group size of eight — but at this point, guests lean foreheads in for digital thermometers as if they’d never not bowed on their way in the door. The virus is not the main thing on Hong Kongers’ minds anyway. This morning, hoping to get a better sense of the mood around recent power grabs by Beijing, I passed a Lennon wall of Post-It notes at a pro-protest “yellow” cha chaan teng in Tsim Sha Tsui, and met a young protester who had been on the frontlines of Hong Kong’s anti-government demonstrations off and on since last summer. To my order of a scrambled egg sandwich, porridge, and milk tea, she added only an unsweetened iced coffee. “I’m fasting,” she told me. “All this stress, all these issues made me binge-eat for a long time. Now I fast 20 hours a day.” — Andrew Genung, Hong Kong | Photographs by Andrew Genung
➾ Thirty minutes before curfew, an eerie silence engulfs Yaba’s Industrial Avenue in Lagos — home to a slew of open-air bars and nightclubs. This street, especially on weekends, doesn’t normally go quiet until dawn. But now, it’s without the interminable flash of brightly colored LED lighting, the characteristic backlit signage and DJ booths blaring music, and the usual din of beer-drinking revelers. The streetside sellers of spicy meat skewers, grilled chicken, turkey, and fish have all but disappeared. The city’s initial restrictions, imposed on March 26, shuttered bars and nightclubs; restaurants, classified as essential service, were limited to takeout. On June 2, Nigeria entered the second stage of reopening, but the ban on bars, the heartbeat of Lagos’s nightlife scene, persists. Nationwide curfew now runs from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Without the nightlife, Yaba has lost its flavor and mélange, its vigor and ambience. And no one knows when it — and life — will return to normal. — Linus Unah, Lagos | Photographs by Adetona Omokanye
➾ Slowly, cautiously, Tokyo is emerging from its COVID-19 shutdown. Nearly everyone is wearing masks. Commuter trains are filling up, although rush hour is much quieter than before. And people are tentatively returning to their favorite restaurants. As soon as the state of emergency was lifted on May 25, most chefs activated plans to reopen. Some opened immediately, others a few days later, and most of the rest by the first weekend of June. Even so, on June 2, traditional nightlife areas are a pale shadow of their usual selves. In Shinbashi, the mood is somber. “It’s still less than 20 percent of normal,” says one bored restaurant worker standing outside his kushiyaki grill. “But at least that’s better than last month.” Chef Shin Harakawa, co-owner of the Blind Donkey in Kanda, reopened May 26. Tonight, he says he’s tired but optimistic — and, more than anything, grateful that customers are returning. However, just as the metropolis shuts down for the night, the government announces that infection rates are rising again. The fiery red lighting of the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay is a warning from the city that we’re not out of the woods yet. — Robbie Swinnerton, Tokyo | Photographs by Anna Bedynska
➾ Even with what looks like a third of its bars and eateries still shuttered, Carrer Parlament in Barcelona’s popular San Antoni neighborhood is busy for a Tuesday evening. Gaggles of two and four, with the occasional group nearing the city’s 10-person limit, chatter around carefully spaced outdoor tables crowded with tiny quinto bottles of beer and glasses of vermouth over ice. Some patrons have completely unmasked for drinks, while others opt to keep their masks handy, snugly tucked under their chins. The lockdown that began March 14 has lifted, and after months in which locals were confined to their homes for everything but essential activities, it’s a relief and a pleasure to see families and friends laughing and breaking bread together, unworried about their personal safety in the public space. One day earlier, about 200 people gathered outside the U.S. consulate to protest the murder of George Floyd, with the mossos de esquadra, Barcelona’s militarized police force, in attendance to protect the consulate. Protesters carried signs and wore masks that said “I can’t breathe” in English, Spanish, and Catalan, and chanted, “No justice, no peace” to show their city, and the rest of the world, that black lives matter, here and everywhere. — Chris Ciolli, Barcelona | Photo by Gerard Moral
➾ The Carmel Market is Tel Aviv’s center of food culture. It reopened after a two-month closure in May, but on June 2 the enforced lack of crowding still feels foreign. And yet, there are the bright red heaps of cherries that mark the season, fresh-from-the-oven pitas baked with za’atar, and mountains of olives piled alongside recycled Coca-Cola bottles filled with olive oil. Aging locals sit on overturned jugs, sipping espresso with an air of gratitude — content to be back in their element after a grim few months, where everything more than 100 meters from home was off limits. Elsewhere, it’s only been six days, but cafes, bars, and restaurants are back. New regulations mean masks, temperature checks, disposable menus, and more space between tables. The city closed busy streets to cars and painted parking spots purple to serve as additional outdoor dining areas. In the Jaffa neighborhood, mismatched chairs and Turkish carpets are sprawled outside Mansheya, a modern Arab restaurant and culture hub – the first business of its kind to open since the pandemic began. The novel coronavirus has seemed to fade into the distance in the eyes of locals, who thrive on a beehive activity and are now working hard to maintain Tel Aviv joie de vivre — at least until the second wave hits. — Corinna Kern, Tel Aviv | Photographs by Corinna Kern
➾ Colombia remains under one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world, a fact that has earned President Iván Duque Márquez praise from the World Health Organization, but has triggered anxiety among the people. In Bogotá, mandatory confinement started March 24, and the latest extension runs until June 30, though exceptions allow some businesses to reopen. Until June 1, however, even takeaway was off limits; restaurants were limited to delivery only. But now, if they pass a strict inspection, businesses can allow diners to pick up food to go. On June 2, all sorts of physical barriers block off access to counters, and makeshift serving tables hold signs instructing diners about social distancing. Sanitizer, alcohol spray, masks, and cleaning tools are among the decor. There is no set date for reopening, nor a defined protocol for when that happens, so most restaurant owners are waiting, devising strategies to survive, and trying to prepare for whatever the future may hold. How restaurants fill takeout boxes depends on their creativity and resources, but the stress and commitment to the cause are universal. Farmers, cooks, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, food suppliers, delivery personnel, guards, and even customers are united in the fight against infection. Though Colombians have suffered isolation and uncertainty, they are also resilient and — beautifully — active. — Juliana Duque, Bogotá | Photographs by Alessandro Osses
➾ It’s a drizzly winter night in Auckland and six guests stand outside Pasture restaurant. A couple dressed to the nines wonders about a dish of chlorophyll-green abalone they saw on Instagram, while two regulars pine for the chef’s three-month-aged wagyu. At 5:45, chef Ed Verner welcomes each guest into the restaurant with a drink and leads them to their seat at the six-person chef’s counter facing the hearth — the fire that brings the 21-course menu to life. Just three weeks after restaurants were allowed to reopen, it’s essentially business as usual at the city’s premiere fine dining destination. In fact, it’s booked solid every weekend into August. Today, as with each day before it, the city seems to lighten from the weight of weeks in isolation, when every meal was made (or microwaved) from what could be scavenged from bare grocery store shelves and even the simplest forms of physical human contact — a hug, a handshake — was an illicit fantasy. It’s hard to remember those times when the only remnants are a paper sign-in sheet at the front of the restaurant and a meter between tables. Tonight, New Zealand feels even more like a tiny island nation alone in the Pacific Ocean than it normally does, especially by the glow of a restaurant’s wood-burning fire. — Hillary Eaton, Auckland | Photo by Hillary Eaton
➾ June 2 is Republic Day in Italy, and any other year, Milan would have been a ghost town. Locals would have fled for long weekend getaways and hundreds of restaurants would have shuttered for the holiday. But in 2020, Republic Day falls 24 hours before the lifting of Italy’s inter-region and foreign travel bans, so the Milanesi are, by default, confined to a staycation. Restaurants have been awaking from their slumber since early May, operating at 50 percent capacity and offering takeout and delivery. The diners at the alfresco establishments dotting the usually lively Arco della Pace quarter reflect the shifting mores: a solo diner takes care to avoid any unnecessary human encounter; a party of six clinks spritzes, masks dangling from their ears; a trio greets each other with shoulder pats instead of the customary double-cheek kiss. At Piazza del Duomo, tensions simmer during a right-wing political protest calling for the resignation of the current prime minister over his handling of COVID-19 and his legalization of 600,000 migrant workers during the pandemic. Whether at tables or at protest, the city feels alive and impatient on the eve of the next phase of reopening. — Jaclyn DeGiorgio, Milan | Photographs by Laura La Monaca
➾ The streets of New Delhi are unrecognizable when there aren’t hundreds of people swarming at corners – talking over a cup of chai, fighting over the last mutton kebab. The slow crawl that has replaced the otherwise rapid pace of the Indian capital is a sign that times are indeed bad. Since the lockdown following India’s COVID-19 outbreak in March, restaurants, markets, and butchers, where life converges in the city, remain looming and empty. “People don’t want to eat meat; they believe the virus comes through it,” says Afzal, a butcher in INA, Delhi’s wholesale market. Nearby, a vegetable seller laments his surplus of spinach. Plump mangos sit in carts symbolizing the coming of summer; ice cream sellers bring packages to children waiting eagerly in balconies. There are signs of solace, but they are few. Pushcarts that served chholay (spiced chickpeas) sit abandoned in the corner, and tin vans that usually feed students “Masala Chinese” food have been broken down by the police enforcing the new regulations. “I miss everybody,” says Vishwa Kumar, a local chai shop owner in Chitranjan Park, New Delhi’s Bengali neighborhood, where men would come to read the paper and drink tea for hours. “Don’t ask me about the virus. Talk about something else.” — Sharanya Deepak, New Delhi | Photographs by Seonath Wakrambam