From start to finish, the process of putting together this edition of Street’s beloved Dining Guide has been guided by one fundamental question: What has food meant to us in the past year? 

As we’ve navigated everything from stay–at–home orders, to mask mandates, to a nationwide toilet paper shortage, what role have our favorite home–cooked meals, our go–to takeout orders, and viral TikTok recipes played in helping us brave the chaos?

Perhaps food is a source of comfort in a time where headlines feel more like they’re ripped straight from the script of a post–apocalyptic sci–fi flick rather than real life. Or maybe it was a point of connection after in–person celebrations gave way to Zoom calls. Food might have been a point of obsession and insecurity, a reminder of the crowded restaurant meals and resident hall potlucks we once enjoyed, or even an avenue to advocate for the rights of others. And then, of course, there are those who would shake their heads at the notion that it is anything more than a source of sustenance. 

In the past year, food has meant many different things to many different people; attempting to assign a clear–cut label to it is a waste of time. Just as the advent of a pandemic has unequivocally shaken up every other aspect of our lives, it has changed the way we think about the nutrients that we put into our bodies, too.

In the story of the COVID–19 crisis, food is a key character. By examining the new ways that we have learned to relate to it, we reflect on how the world is different—and more complex—than the one we inherited with snack times and basic school lunches.

Through moving personal essays, cutting–edge profiles, and hard–hitting interviews, our Dining Guide aspires to do just that.