This was the editor's letter from the summer 2020 issue of Loudouner magazine.
Like everyone's – in particular those of our restaurant friends – the worlds for Loudouner and the Times-Mirror have been been thrown threw a loop or two or 93 for the better part of 2020.
When we began planning for the annual Loudoun 20 restaurant issue, it was April. Restaurants had been reduced to curbside and pick-up, and many had decided it simply wasn't worth the shuffling and shut their doors indefinitely. To say the future was uncertain was – and still is – an understatement.
Is this really the right time to publish the restaurant issue, we wondered. Will we even be able to produce content for a restaurant issue?
Well, it's obvious where we landed on that question. While we decided to delay the issue a month, we realized not only was it an OK time to devote an entire edition to restaurants and the culinary arts, but it is, in fact, the perfect time to celebrate the industry and all that comes along with it – the hospitality, the craftsmanship, the community.
The stories we've heard since April – many of which are included in the pages ahead – are the best of Loudoun County. Business owners rolling their sleeves up, finding a way to do right by both their customers and their staff. Patrons leaving $50 tips on relatively small take-out orders. A single mother doing everything in her power to protect her immunocompromised three-year-old daughter – and rediscovering her love of cooking in the process.
Can you tell this is an issue I look forward to every year?
And then there's The Loudoun 20 itself. Compiling the list – now in its third year – is always an exercise in patience, second- and third-guessing yourself, heartbreak and, ultimately, satisfaction with the final product.
And that's just in a normal year. Factor in that restaurants are fighting through this unprecedented challenge, and it genuinely pains us to leave anyone off. But we didn't launch this endeavor in 2018 because it'd be easy. We launched it because we want to recognize the best of the best. Loudoun's restaurant industry as a whole deserves it.
This year, we welcome seven new eateries from various corners of the county to the list, all of which have demonstrated a consistent dedication to top-notch food, service and, sometimes, that unique X factor, the intangibles. From the best sushi in town to an elegant country retreat to the neighborhood pub, this year's Loudoun 20 represents the at-once diverse and unifying nature of dining out. Our favorite restaurants can be so many things. There's no question many of you miss the days when your Friday and Saturday nights were dedicated to plopping down at your favorite bar or restaurant or both. I sure as hell do.
We won't say we're looking forward to everything getting back to “normal,” because no one knows what the future of normal looks like. But we will say we're pining for the days when we drink in the friendship, the ceremony and the memories that come with sharing a meal out. We're eager to do that in an uninhibited way, free of fear and worry. We believe that day will come again, and our favorite restaurants will be the key ingredient in that longed-for experience.
Trevor Baratko is the editor-in-chief of the Loudoun Times-Mirror and a founding organizer of The Loudoun 20. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.