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How One Nonprofit Is Helping Restaurants Stay Afloat While It Feeds Hospital Workers

Tune in to Episode 195 of the Happy Half Hour Podcast

Welcome back to the Happy Half Hour! We have two special guests for this week’s episode: Brett Roggenkamp, lead organizer for the San Diego Chapter of Frontline Foods; and Rodnia Attiq, owner of El Borrego, a popular barbacoa restaurant in City Heights. El Borrego is one of roughly 40 local restaurants that Frontline Foods has teamed up with to provide meals to health care professionals and other essential workers who are treating COVID-19 patients.

Frontline Foods was started in the Bay Area by an ICU nurse, and since March it has expanded across the nation. Its mission is simple: They collect donations, use the funds to place a bulk order with a local restaurant, and then have those meals delivered to local hospitals. Brett says San Diego was one of the first cities the organization expanded to outside of San Francisco, and since the pandemic began it has directed $150,000 in donations back into our local economy and provided over 12,000 meals.

Brett says their goal is to partner with restaurants that are independently owned and order from them on an ongoing basis. He tells us how they find which restaurants to partner with, and notes that they deliver meals not only to large hospitals and ERs, but also senior centers and the Psychiatric Hospital of San Diego County. They’re currently working on delivering 1,000 meals to employees at San Ysidro Health’s 23 sites.

Rodnia shares that sales at El Borrego were down by 70 percent, and then as much as 90 percent, earlier this spring. The patio at her restaurant is still under construction, so she relies on takeout and to-go catering orders. She says partnering with Frontline Foods helped save her business, and she was able to retain her entire staff thanks to its community fundraising.

In Hot Plates, we talked about how Biga (a longtime favorite of the San Diego Magazine staff for its sandwiches) reopened for takeout, and that Artisan Noodle Tatsuski—a ramen shop that was much hyped before it opened last fall—closed its doors. Chicken Charlie’s opened another pop-up location in Mission Beach right by Belmont Park, so you can still get a deep-fried taste of the postponed San Diego County Fair throughout the summer. All of Homestead Solana Beach’s outdoor furniture was stolen last weekend, and it had to close for a few days because of the theft. But the story has a happy ending: Supporters donated to their Gofundme account to purchase new furniture, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds lent them some patio furniture after seeing the story on NBC San Diego.

We’ve got a lot of great recommendations in Two People for Takeout! Rodnia chose the curries at Bahn Thai, and Brett’s pick is Lucky Bolt, a home-delivery meal service that partners with local farms. Troy’s pick is the pizza (and parklet setup) at Caffè Calabria, and David says to try the vegan Thai food at Grains. My pick is the Chongqing spicy chicken and Sichuan dishes at Kangxi Is Coming. A listener wrote in to recommend the pastas at Cesarina.

Thank you for listening! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Do you have a question for Troy? Need a recommendation for takeout? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at [email protected].

Rodnia Attiq (right) of El Borrego

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