Now this is what we call socially distant dining in the Hudson Valley.
Since COVID-19 first took its toll on the region’s food and drink scene back in March, local restaurants have introduced new safety measures and creative solutions to ensure diners and staff have the best experience possible while maintaining social distancing protocol. Across the region, eateries have debuted everything from outdoor tents and spaced out tables to QR code menus and curbside pickup programs to help locals dine comfortably and deliciously.
Of course, when dining rules and regulations are ever-changing, there’s always something to buzz about in the Hudson Valley. Like, ahem, dining bubbles?
In Rhinebeck, Mill Street eatery Smoky Rock BBQ takes the notion of outdoor tented dining to the next level with real-deal dining bubbles. Part Bubble Boy, part igloo, they’re a clever new take on socially distant dining in Dutchess County.
As for how the restaurant came up with the idea, it was a stroke of genius on the part of co-owner Nike Psichas’ husband, Dimitri, back in May.
“He was concerned about what the fall and winter would look like and, in the uncertainty facing the food industry, he wanted to be prepared,” Psichas explains. “He found and ordered them online at the beginning of June.”
If the local demand for tents is any indication, then the couple had the right idea. Now fully established, their dining bubbles are just as eye-catching as they are practical, offering diners who prefer not to eat indoors the chance to enjoy a meal out in the Hudson Valley. The pods, of which there are a total of six, are located on the grounds of the restaurant. Spatially, they’re a roomy 12’ x 12’ in dimension, and four of them seat up to six people while the other two seat four. In regard to how the bubbles are constructed, they’re made of clear, heavy-duty PVC with controls that allow for airflow. Each bubble has an individual lamp as a light source, creating a unique dining atmosphere in the region.
Because the bubbles are delicate by nature, Smoky Rock BBQ does not allow children under the age of 10 or pets inside the bubbles. On nicer days, the restaurant does have outdoor tables that accommodate parties with pets, however. What’s more, the bubbles themselves are not heated, since the addition of heaters would pose a fire hazard. The restaurant advises any guests who would like to dine inside the bubbles to bundle up or bring a blanket to stay warm and cozy.
While the bubbles are still relatively new in the Hudson Valley, Smoky Rock BBQ has already received an abundance of positive feedback from diners.
“Overwhelmingly, people are excited to see something new,” enthuses Psichas. “We had diners tell us that they could not wait to eat in the bubbles and that they were thankful we put the thought into setting up the patio to accommodate even winter outdoor dining. Other customers have expressed that they will be coming to dine with us all winter long because they do not feel comfortable eating inside yet and love that this is an option for them.”
For Psichas and her husband, the addition of the bubbles is an innovative solution during the challenging time resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to setting up the outdoor pods, the couple amped up takeout at the restaurant and increased cleaning protocol as well.
Looking ahead, Smoky Rock plans to continue to offer bubble dining all winter long in Rhinebeck. Once the snow arrives, the bubbles will look more than a little like igloos, creating a winter wonderland experience in the heart of Dutchess County.
“We look forward to offering our customers some comfort by being an escape for them during these trying times,” Psichas notes. “We want our customers to feel safe while enjoying our original NY-style barbecue in the Village of Rhinebeck.”
Smoky Rock BBQ
6367 Mill St, Rhinebeck