There was an all-too-short collection of weeks post-vaccination and pre-Delta surge in which indoor dining, dinner parties with vaccinated friends, bars and even travel seemed blissfully, pre-pandemic normal. Our collective hot girl summer was lit — for about two weeks. Or was it a month? My sense of time is still pretty messed up, y’all. With the reinstituted statewide mask mandate, citywide proof of vaccination or negative PCR test for restaurants, bars and certain other establishments and the resultant lowered levels of COVID-19 cases in New Orleans, my husband (who is now triple vaccinated due to the boosters being made available to people with certain conditions — for him that’s asthma) and I have made a cautious reentry into indoor dining. Extremely cautious.

Our rules for eating in are that tables should be properly spaced, the dining room can’t be crowded and staff must remember to ask for proof of vaccination or negative PCR test. So far, the majority of restaurants seem to be taking things very seriously and we’ve had wonderful experiences. Lately, my go-to spots in Uptown have been High Hat Café (I’m addicted to the cornmeal pancakes) and Bearcat Café Uptown (do yourself a favor and try the buffalo cauliflower tacos). Last weekend, Mark and I enjoyed a delicious meal with live music by Geovane Santos at Live Oak Café. In the Lower Garden District Seed has seen a lot of me over the past few weeks. A couple of weekends ago I had brunch with a friend at True Food Kitchen in the CBD. Dinner on Tuesday night at El Pavo Real ended up being outdoors, because it was such a beautiful evening, but they met our criteria, and we’ll certainly return soon for indoor dining.

Unfortunately, not all of our adventures have been wins. We’ve left a couple of places because they weren’t asking for proof of vaccination or negative PCR test. Obviously, we are empathetic to the fact that with so much on everyone’s minds, it’s easy to forget to ask. But we can’t take chances on whether the staff member simply forgot or isn’t checking at all, given the fact that Mark is immunocompromised. So, each time, we quietly and politely moved along to find another place to nosh.

We are all navigating this thing the best way we can while simultaneously trying to gain back some sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. That “normal” we all knew in “the before” honestly may not return, but living in the moment, being flexible and taking things as they come have served us well. I’m not focusing on tomorrow, because that’s crazymaking in times like these. Returning to indoor dining, even with our self-imposed restrictions has been a nice change of pace and the state and city mandates have helped usher that along. To me, flashing our vaccination cards (or LA Wallet app) is akin to showing ID at a bar or when buying alcohol. It only takes a few minutes, and in the case of vaccination status, it curbs the virus and saves lives. Enjoying delicious buffalo cauliflower tacos cooked and served by people other than me is a bonus.