This history of the Cheez-it
Plus two weeks of Pete Wells, indigenous food in Chicago, and birria week in Los Angeles
Before we get started, a bit of housekeeping. Close watchers will notice I missed last week’s newsletter. I’m trying to be a bit easier on myself about getting one out every week (last week I was traveling Th-S). But I could also use some help! If you are interested in guest editing Snack Cart, shoot me an email. I could use a few holiday fill-ins. Next week will be the annual Snack Cart Thanksgiving special.
Some folks who use Gmail have told me that since the switch to Substack, Snack Cart has been landing in their Promotions tab. This is a known issue with a pretty simple fix. In your inbox, drag any issue of Snack Cart to the tab you want it to appear in. Click “yes” when asked if you want to filter all future emails that way. Et Voila!
Best thing I’ve read this week: It is very hard to accurately describe, summarize, or preview this story in the New York Times Magazine about the history of sushi in the United States. All I can say is that if you’ve eaten sushi at any time in your life in the US, you can thank Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church (or Moonies). I can’t even REALLY explain why. The story gets hard to follow when it gets to the business intrigue, but we need a Succession-esque HBO show about this drama IMMEDIATELY. This is long, but it’s fun to read online.
A TikTok video of Salt Bae possibly destabilizing the Vietnamese government? 2021 bingo baby.
Mayukh Sen continues to excerpt parts of his new book, this time in Mother Jones with a lovely profile of Chao Yang Buwei. Sen credits her with giving America the term Stir Fry, the concept of which continues to shape American Chinese food and American cooking.
I used to be a piece of shit. Spiked up blonde hair, little bitty jeans, chicken spaghetti at Chickelittis.
November 14th was international street vendor day. Culinary backstreets put together a meta-post linking to a number of their profiles of beloved street vendors around the world. If you aren’t itching to travel already, this will get you there.
This history of the Cheez-it is the history of American industry. Local snack to WW2 staple to something that I will NEVER admit is better than Better Cheddars.
Want to read a bunch of insightful and sometimes catty comments about GBBO? Of course you do.
The degree to which TikTok’s algorithm appears to supercharge memes, trends, and nonsense is something we are just sort of figuring out. Sometimes it’s playing amatuer detective to a tragic and horrible murder. Sometimes it’s trolling Starbucks. Keep in mind that your 15-part Starbucks order is something a real person has to make. Be kind.
This WGBH story is a bit older, but new to me. Read about the history of Astronaut food, which has largely been developed out of Boston’s Natick Army Lab. *Echo effect engaged:* FOOD, IN, SPACE.
My Sister Hope’s Wine Meme of the Week
Please tell your readers that the only wine rule that matters for Thanksgiving is “Don’t Run Out”.
It was my birthday this week, so I ate out a few times in a way that… felt like it used to? If that makes sense? I thought about that as I read Pete Wells’ review of Francie in Brooklyn. He talks about how if there was any place that was worth getting out of the house for, it’s Francie. I hadn’t seen photos of that duck and DAMN.
I’ve been hearing a lot about Dame in the West Village, so I enjoyed finally reading Pete Wells’ review. Dame started as a fish and chips pop-up, and Wells’ review says that while the rest of the menu is still finding its sea legs, the headliner is amazing. He also makes a point that I’ve noticed: outside of high-end sushi, there just aren't a lot of top tier seafood restaurants in New York.
Scott Lynch visits Albadawi, a new Palestinian restaurant on Atlantic Ave which is the offshoot of another spot in Bay Ridge. The menu is explicitly designed for groups or families and looks fantastic. Lynch mentions *a lot* of fake flowers, and I didn’t really understand what he was talking about until the photo at the end.
The Wall Street Journal profiles the Grand Central Oyster Bar, which has recently reopened with much higher prices to compensate for the pandemic and supply chain issues. For a place like that, cost doesn’t really matter.
Robert Sietsema visits a new food court in Manhattan’s Chinatown. While mostly we read about places like this in Flushing, it’s WONDERFUL to have one I can go to between meetings.
Ryan Sutton’s review of Sushi On Me makes it seem like nothing less than the most fun party in the city. I’m just sorry my birthday is already over so I can’t make my wife take me there.
I sometimes criticize the Globe for not having a clear vision in their food section. But if I want anything from them, it’s glamour shots of cranberry bogs. Great job, gang.
Tiger Mama may be going away, but Chef Tiffani Faison talks with Eater Boston about the multiple new concepts she is bringing to the city.
Boston Magazine rounds up the places to get Thanksgiving at a restaurant or to-go. A lot of our favorites here, but man that weekend at the Fairmont Copley Plaza which includes dinner at the Oak Bar should be the setting for a Sofia Coppola movie.
One of the most anticipated openings in Boston is actually about an hour south. Island Creek Oyster Bar has taken over a historic tavern and bar in Duxbury, and will be offering homey takes on classic seafood dishes.
Eater does a lovely piece about Café Sauvage in the Back Bay. It’s VERY close to a review but not quite. Let the Eater local writers do reviews! The people (me) demand it!
I’ve been trying to get on board with the Chicago Reader’s Monday Night Foodball series, but it’s getting kinda boring. So I really enjoyed that they gave Mike Sula enough time to file a real review. He visits HD Cuisine in Wheeling, where a family affair is turning out uncommon Malaysian recipes from a TINY space. Malaysian food is… so good. SO good.
Luisa Chu writes a fantastic article on the lack of indigenous food in Chicago and its rise in other parts of the Midwest. The part of the article where she and the team at Owamni discuss the challenging history of fry bread is really, really good. I also wonder if indigenous food is going to be something that flips the food trend script: starting in the middle of America and expanding to the coasts.
LISTEN, Chicago. I’ve already had it up to here with Los Angeles bringing their bagel nonsense. Just STEP BACK.
Maggie Hennessy, a new name to me, writes a lovely essay celebrating restaurants as a source of community.
Luisa Chu’s reviews are getting better, and nothing brings out someone’s talent like full-throated advocacy of something they love. So it is with her review of Korean Spoon in Glenview. In an intimate essay, she talks about how this is Korean home cooking in a way that’s legitimately hard to find, and she would eat there every day if she could.
The Times devotes a large section to See’s Candies on the occasion of their 100th anniversary. I had barely heard of them, but that seems because I didn’t grow up in California. Jenn Harris writes a lovely column on what the candies meant to her family. I also enjoyed the archival photos in this timeline. The “Guy who once applied to be the head of audience development at the LA Times” in me wonders what kind of numbers this kind of hyper specific regional content does (probably good!). The Snack Cart editor wonders what happened to Bill Addison and writing about restaurants.
Meanwhile, L.A. Taco appears to be creating food content at a faster and greater pace than I can keep up with. It’s Birria week, and they have SO MANY STORIES. They have separate guides for the best beef, goat, and mixed spots. They ALSO have a guide for the best “non-traditional” birria, which includes a birria smash burger that sounds way better than it has any right to.
Cheech Marin has a late-night food delivery business. This reminds me of in college when my friend Alejandro sold grilled cheese sandwiches for $20 in his dorm exclusively after 1 am.
I don’t know if it’s just been a long two weeks, but I also cried reading this story about Riverside’s first licensed at-home restaurant. Cali Tardka is a restaurant specializing in Punjabi food that can be procured via the Instagram black market. Because Riverside is progressive on licensing, the family behind this place was able to stave off homelessness while delivering thousands of meals to front line workers during the height of the pandemic. I mean… YOU don’t cry.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
It’s the Little India equivalent of walking around the corner for espresso and cannoli after a scungilli dinner on Mulberry Street. - link (this is another one with a tremendous headline)