“Really beautiful” is not a term restaurant owners generally use to describe the open-sided tents that have sprouted on patios and curbsides as summer (and smoke) give way to rainier fall weather. But Melissa Miranda sounds genuinely excited about her new outdoor setup at Musang. A chef friend in DC suggested Miranda look into carport canopies, something larger and more robust than the typical 10-by-10 tents, which are sold out everywhere anyway.
“It’s very sturdy,” says Miranda. “Kind of like if you were to have a wedding outdoors.”
Hers is nestled into the patio in front of the restaurant she opened early this year on Beacon Hill, which combines Filipino food with elements of Miranda’s Northwest upbringing. Musang now takes reservations for a handful of indoor tables, but Miranda’s not wrong about her outdoor space—the tent is strung with lights and looks like a reasonably cozy place to eat, even when rain sets in later this week.
Balancing a community kitchen, the takeout, Musang's upcoming cooking classes for kids, and the plant shop that has bloomed, temporarily, in her restaurant's dining room, Miranda deserves a gold medal in the dubious art of weathering pandemics. Now, like every other chef in town, she's thinking about how to keep her restaurant afloat in the dark and rainy months ahead. Outdoor dining offered a lifeline this summer, but will people still turn out for dinner when they need to wear down jackets and rubber boots? For those that do, Miranda has laid in a supply of green fleece throw blankets emblazoned with Musang’s wildcat logo, the handiwork of the talented ladies at Midnight Supply print shop.
The restaurant will launder these after each use, but Miranda took a page from another form of financial support—customers buying merch—and will also offer the fleece throws for sale at $25 a pop. It’s a smart move that I hope other restaurants will add to their cold-weather playbooks.
Recently I was speaking to Jill Gallagher, founder of the powerhouse Seattle Restaurant Support Facebook group, about restaurants' coping measures in the coming months. She pointed to Leavenworth, where winter revelers eat bratwurst under heat lamps and have fun doing it. Chefs will need to get creative, she says, but diners who want to support them will adjust their mindset around what it means to go out to eat. “I think it’s going to be a joint effort.”
Let me get my parka.