Tik Tok pivots from video
Read to the end for a bunch of great Los Angeles bar names.
Tik Tok is opening 300 ghost kitchens across the country in a move that makes no sense on its face and then makes a ton of sense as you think about it a bit more. Writer Ryan Broderick, in his Garbage Day newsletter, has a theory about alternative reality that I really like. Broderick argues that while pop-up ads in our sunglasses are coming, AR is already here. Real-world events like the Jan 6 insurrection, Adrian's kickback, and Astroworld are as much about online culture leaking into the real world as they are about anything real. That chaotic blend of digital and physical culture is as much the metaverse as floating avatars.
Tik Tok knows a LOT about us, and they are betting on that same offline and online convergence. These kitchens are the beginning of a real-world infrastructure to make money on the viral content at which Tik Tok excels. Imagine a world where you are watching a viral recipe of feta pasta and in one click can get it delivered to your apartment. The metaverse is coming, and it may be delicious?
I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Tik Tok expanding into fashion or beauty products next.
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The thing I learned most from my sister selling fancy wine is that if you don’t EXTREMELY know what you are doing when buying expensive alcohol, you are getting scammed. Anyway, if you’ve ever bought vintage bourbon it was probably fake.
Jaya Saxena explores our complicated feelings about Dry January. Are people doing it to be pretentious jerks? Do people making fun of them need to chill out? Is this being co-opted by the “wellness” movement? (Yes to all of these) Saxena doesn’t go there, but I think our relationship with Dry January is difficult because our relationship with alcohol is so complicated and unexamined. It’s big business, it’s massively destructive, and it’s a huge part of our culture. All at once! We don’t really process that well.
This blog post on the history of PB&J in America is roughly 50% too short, but some interesting early history.
This is oyster content so I am required to post it, but I’m not sure I really enjoyed this post about s‘moysters. Even if they are not bad.
My favorite thing I read this week: By now Snack Cart readers are well aware that Eminem has a restaurant in Detroit called “Mom’s Spaghetti”, but the New York Times sent Luke Winkie to find out more. He dives deep on the place, which includes an attached Eminem museum. This is tremendous, and the quotes Winkie gets made me laugh out loud twice.
Christmas is over, so we don’t have to fake liking Panettone anymore. You can read a culinary history of the Italian dessert and South America, or you can buy it at Whole Foods and never actually open it.
Susan Berfield in Bloomberg/BusinessWeek unpacks the increasingly hostile relationship between McDonalds and its black franchise owners. There’s a long legacy of racial discrimination of franchisees that McDonalds doesn’t seem to have gotten over. Even McDonalds, the brand, has a complicated relationship with the black community. This is a long read, but a really important and interesting one.
John Greenfield in New City Resto explores Tiki Culture in Chicago. This is a Chicago-specific article, but I’m putting it up because anyone who loves tiki should read it. The past few years saw a controversy centered around a bar called Lost Lake, with Pacific-Islander activists decrying tiki culture as racist and appropriative. Greenfield visits a number of tiki places in the greater Chicago area and finds a number of different attitudes. This is a great, great piece of reporting and finds an issue that is more complicated than it seems.
The Washington Post unpacks a racial discrimination lawsuit at Feedfeed, a social media food powerhouse (that I’ve not heard of because I’m an old). There is a LOT of subtext between the lines here, I personally guffawed at the idea of a startup founded by a radiologist ($$$$$) and digital media person (lol) based on their pandemic-driven Hamptons lifestyle. But mostly Jesus GOD most media companies are so poorly run.
My Sister’s Wine Meme of the Week
Nothing sounds better than a fun pop of a Champagne bottle, but the “proper” way to serve a bottle is to open it silently. It keeps more of the carbonation in and, like so many things in serving wine, looks real pretentious. Despite my best efforts I am incapable of doing this. It feels truly impossible.
Quick safety note on opening sparkling wine bottles: Never take the metal cage off and leave the bottle unattended. The pressure can cause the cork to fly out by itself and can hurt someone or break something. Josh nearly lost an eye with an aggressive bottle of cider at Christmas.
Excellent Vietnamese restaurant Anh Hong closed suddenly last week following the culmination of a rent dispute with their landlord. The article has a lot of lawyers giving pretty wild statements, but if I was a landlord I’d be hesitant to boot a place that’s been a solid tenant for literally *years*. However, I’m pretty biased because Anh Hong’s feast of seven beefs was one of the best meals in Boston.
For a slightly more bittersweet look back, Devra First does a great roundup of the last year of Boston food. She highlights some places we lost but also new and enduring places worthy of attention. If you haven’t really paid attention to the Boston food scene, this is the one thing to read this year.
Want to feel depressed as heck? The Globe rounds up significant restaurant closures over the past year, including their farewell messages. I watch these things closely and there are a bunch that took me by surprise.
Kara Baskin visits Tashan in Bedford, where a mall food court empire has built their first upscale location. It sounds fantastic, and it’s exciting to see more ambitious Indian places finding an audience. It’s also interesting that based on how Baskin describes the menu, this sounds more like elevated Indian-American cooking more than any regional Indian speciality.
Devra First highlights Fresh Food Generation, a food truck that is opening its first brick and mortar location in Codman Square. The restaurant has a great story and mission behind it, but I sorta wish First wrote a bit more about the food (there are a lot of photos highlighting dishes but few written descriptions).
The Tribune crew reflects on 2021 by linking to a bunch of their favorite stories and reviews. For my money, the Tribune has improved their food section better than any newspaper in the country this year. This roundup shows how they’ve grown more ambitious and interesting in their reviews as well as explored different angles on eating in Chicagoland.
New Tribune critic Nick Kindelsperger reviews his 12 best bites of 2021. I think Kindelsperger has been fantastic as the new main critic. This list highlights how his broader sensibility has made the Tribune more relevant and fun to read.
Louisa Chu reviews Kasama in East Ukrainian Village. Two fine dining chefs opened a Filipino-ish all-day cafe in 2020 that was excellent, and then in November 2021 started offering two 13-course tasting menus at night. Chu waxes rhapsodic about the creative cooking and calls it one of the best tasting menus in the world. Bold! This review also links to another interesting story about the history of Filipino food in the community. Chu awards it four out of four stars.
Mike Sula at the Chicago Reader reviews Moonwalker Cafe in Avondale. Chef Arlene Luna returns to the neighborhood where she grew up to bring the kind of ur-local spot that more places need. Great breakfasts and lunches, rotating menus, and not taking itself too seriously.
Sula also writes a lovely year in review touting the pop-ups and conversions that have been the hallmark of pandemic dining. He’s optimistic even if the recovery is going slowly.
The New York Times is in town, checking in on the state of the Italian Beef sandwich. Priya Krishna unrolls the history of the sandwich and makes the case that it’s the true totem of Chicago food. She then highlights how different versions are popping up around the city as Chicagoans from different backgrounds put a spin on it. I would absolutely MURDER the Viet Dip hybrid Italian beef and Bahn Mi.
To-go cocktails are back, and the new Governor has won my vote.
Ryan Sutton looks back on the recovery year that wasn’t really in NYC. But even if this year wasn’t the party we all hoped for, there are a lot of great restaurants out there. Sutton names his top ones of 2021.
Sutton also reflects on a trend I’ve written about in the newsletter: the rise in ultra-expensive sushi. Sutton talks with chefs and suppliers about the combination of factors driving the increases. They include shipping cost increases, more competition for scarce ingredients, and the main one: more customers willing to pay for it.
The gang at T Magazine got together to recommend 25 essential dishes right now. A great mix of newcomers and stalwarts in a beautiful presentation.
The team behind Olmstead and Maison Yaki have opened a brand new to-go-only bakery and cafe. And it’s like 5 min from my apartment! Hooray! Also, more places should have savory pastry.
Hawksmoor, a new steakhouse from a British chain, has planted their flag on this side of the pond. Pete Wells says that even if Hawksmoor was created in the model of an American steakhouse, it brings something new to the city. I liked this review if only because I didn’t see how he could make steak interesting and he did!
Robert Sietsema reviews Cielito Astoria in… Astoria. The place LOOKS amazing (in a fun way). Sietsema talks about how the team behind it has struggled in previous locations, but mostly they were ahead of their time Cielito. The Sinaloan specialities they focused on (like birria) weren’t that popular until pretty recently (even if now they are everywhere).
Now that the LA Times 101 is out, critic Bill Addison is back to a normal review schedule! His review of Horses, a new restaurant in a historic Ye Coach & Horses dive bar location, is terrific. He has trouble describing the mix of clever and modern cuisine before summing it up as essentially a Los Angeles restaurant.
Maybe you drove by the sign outside Rick’s Diner saying ‘SPAGHETTI IS BACK’, or maybe you just saw some viral tweets about it. Stephanie Briejo in the Los Angeles Times gives the story behind the viral sign sensation and, yes, tries some spaghetti.
The gang at L.A. Taco reviews their favorite stories of the year. A lot of tacos, if you can believe it.
L.A. Taco also highlights an illuminated map of every single place in Mexico that serves tacos. Having just 1.6 million locations on the map seems a bit low, but this is beautiful to look at and zoom around on.
While New York may have some of the most expensive sushi in the country, Los Angeles is the uncontested sushi capital of America. Tejal Rao in the New York Times writes about the history of sushi in LA, highlights some of the best spots right now, and looks at what makes sushi so special.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
…that mid-town stretch of Beverly Boulevard dominated by ethnic markets and the kind of bikini bars whose names resonate through tough-guy novels: The Last Call, One Eye Jack, Club Ihung, One for the Road. Link