I'm a New Yorker. It took me awhile to say it, since I'm a transplant from Kansas. But after 20 years, I have more in common with cabbies than corn fields.
In my opinion, to consider yourself a true New Yorker, you need to be a bit versed in its restaurant scene. Food culture is huge in New York City. You will have a better conversation with a New Yorker by asking him or her "Have you eaten at (fill in the blank with a restaurant)?" than "What do you do?"
Restaurants with celebrity chefs are a dime a dozen in New York City. Sure, I can boast that I ate at Momofuku years before I witnessed Martha Stewart standing outside on First Ave. waiting for a table. But George and I aren't made of money. Restaurants with four or five dollar signs next to their name in Zagat's are special treats. To be sure, though, I would rather save my money for a meal at a Danny Meyer establishment than spend it on the latest fashion trends.
|Martha Stewart (duh!) and David Chang, chef at Momofuku|
For me, the bigger adventures in New York are finding the hole in the wall joints with cheap eats and international fare. Take a sublime and steamy bowl of miso ramen from Rai Rai Ken in the East Village. They don't have tables, so you sit at the counter and watch them cook your food -- part restaurant, part experience. Then, there's the Romanian Gardens in Sunnyside, Queens, that serves creamy polenta with sour cream and eggplant spread that takes rustic to a whole new level.
In case you're wondering, I'm not turning Tao of Poop into a food blog (I should hope not, given its title). It's just taken me awhile to get to my usual mom bit. I needed to reminisce, to get my food adventures out of my system.
Here comes the mom part: my priorities in food have changed since becoming a mom. I will sum it up in one word…"Chevy's". We went on a family outing to Chevy's yesterday. I can now add another new food experience to my time in New York City -- eating at a chain.
|Chevy's Times Square, NYC|
Before you start thinking that New Yorker are food snobs (well, a little), it's not that chains are beneath us. It's that why eat at a chain restaurant, when you can try something new and exotic for just as cheap? Why put up with New York City's dirt, loudness and incivility, if you're not enjoying what makes it unique? I could go straight to the source for a Mamoun's Falafel on St. Marks or go to Vanessa's Dumpling House in Chinatown for fried sesame bread with beef or tuna (oops, I'm talking about the glory days again).
But my priorities in food have changed. Instead of the white tablecloths and fine china of a Mario Batali restaurant, we need a high chair and plates that will withstand being tossed like frisbees. It's no longer cool to rub elbows with the downtown scene in a cramped and loud restaurant. We look for comfortable and spacious booths with wide swaths of real estate to contain my child while giving her ample room to do the toddler spread. We put a premium on durable, plastic surfaces that can withstand artwork made of food smears and flatware used as musical instruments. No more leisurely tastings; we seek out short order cooks and the bill presented before our fork and knife are crossed on an empty plate. Forget the hour long ride to Queens on the seven train; we choose close and convenient.
Indeed, yesterday, Chevy's satisfied on all of these accounts. It was a perfect lunch. We will be back again.
I'm reminded that I'm not just a New Yorker anymore. I'm a New Yorker who's a mom. That makes New York City a new world, and me a different person in it. At least, it didn't take me 20 years to admit it.