Opening a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic is crazy, and critics would say it’s impossible. Sitting inside of 2 Stay 2 Go during the soft opening just proves otherwise.
Food is about bringing people together — something that’s been lacking in this technological, socially-distanced age. Most of us are spending all day in our apartments or dorms, staring at screens and lamenting the good old days when we used to be face-to-face and not mask-to-mask. The opening of a new Collegetown restaurant is exactly what students needed to pull them out of their hovels.
2 Stay 2 Go stayed true to the original ideology of the pop-up — giving students the power of choice, while providing them with a high quality meal. They took into consideration the fast-paced lifestyle of most Cornellians, and catered their business model to the best fit. They 100 percent delivered. Walking down Dryden Road towards the pop-up, the line could be seen from two blocks away. Inside, the excitement was palpable; everyone was there to support the team, enjoy an incredible meal and, as one customer put it, to see if they actually pulled it off.
Daniel Jones ’22, Chloe Kubrin ’22 and Samay Bensal ’21 are fielding orders at the front counter and working on assembly. They recruited their fellow classmates to run the orders to the throng, eagerly lined up, masked and distanced, outside. If the customer isn’t outside, the orders are neatly arranged on a table alongside the wall, organized by last name and ready for pick-up.
However, the real stars of the show are executive chefs Bobby Dandliker ’22 and Noah Horns ’22, and chef de cuisine Darius Ganji ’23. Even though there was a relentless stream of orders, that didn’t take away from the care and precision paid to each dish before it was sent out. While Jones, Kubrin and Bensal were shouting orders to be filled, Dandliker, Horns and Ganji were cool under pressure. You know someone’s doing something they were born to do when at the end of a draining shift, they look at you with a face-splitting smile and say “this is what we signed up for.”
The team has been working long days and even longer nights. The entire project is really a testament to what can happen when the entire community pitches in. On Oct. 6, in preparation for the soft opening on Oct. 8, students from all across Cornell came rolling up their sleeves and walking through the storefront ready to help in any way possible. The support from Collegetown businesses has also been overwhelming. Although the established restaurants in Collegetown could have viewed 2 Stay 2 Go as a threat, they saw the drive these students had and gave them a chance. They’re utilizing the storefront and kitchen of Vietnam Restaurant on Dryden Road, Dos Amigos on College Ave is providing them the use of a freezer and the Statler Hotel has been incredibly forthcoming with any help and assistance they could provide.
At the end of the night, I’ve never seen someone look as equally exhausted and elated as founder Daniel Jones ’22. Since this project has started, the entire team has worked tirelessly to put together a menu, secure a restaurant space, run a successful marketing campaign, purchase ingredients from vendors and still balance their day jobs of being full time students. With all this happening so quickly, there was a cloud of disbelief hovering over their heads, wondering if they were actually going to be successful. As I was walking out the door, Jones called after me, “Make it happen. Those three words are what it’s been about since the beginning.” To see just how far they’ve come in two weeks — from cooking in Horns’s Collegetown apartment to running a full-blown restaurant — they’ve succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible.
When speaking with president Bansal as the countertops were being wiped down at the end of the night, he said “It’s really amazing to see all of our friends coming to support us. We’re really here for them.” Horns added “I don’t think Collegetown is ready for what we’re gonna do next.”
I can tell you what they’re going to do next. Mental health and taking care of yourself is a major concern during the pandemic, and being cooped up inside isn’t doing anyone any favors. The team has been working with the city and the University to transform the parking lot behind Schwartz Performing Arts Center and Cascadilla Hall into safe, outdoor seating for the entire student body to enjoy. One of the best ways to combat cabin fever is by spending time outside with your friends. This aligns with the team’s philosophy of bringing the community together, especially in difficult times such as these.
Facetime isn’t just an avenue to video chat with your friends, it’s an old-school Cornell tradition of staying connected during the pre-cell phone era. So put down your phones, order a high-quality, delicious meal from 2 Stay 2 Go (the southern fried chicken sandwich comes highly recommended) and connect with your friends.
Sarah Austin is a sophomore in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at [email protected].