When Guy Fieri visits your restaurant
Plus scroll to the New York section for a good conversation about reviewing restaurants in the time of COVID
I got a few big links last week because of what I wrote about Tik Tok, the future of food, and the metaverse. If you love reading about the future of food, have we got a story for you. Jaya Saxena reports from the Food on Demand conference in Las Vegas, where the setting presages the vision the various delivery app bros are pushing: a placeless, decadent plain where any brand you want can be delivered. Saxena does a great job covering the breadth of this issue, from drones to worker concerns to the places trying to build ethical businesses. This will make you think a lot about the future of food. It will also make you wish a drone would drop some Pollo Loco on your front step right now.
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It’s something only whispered about by restaurant owners, a thing of myth and legend: The Triple D effect. Megan Johnson at the Boston Globe Magazine looks into what happens when Guy Fieri visits your restaurant. I didn’t realize just how hard it was to get on the show, but once you do it’s “a gift that keeps on giving”. Every time the episode airs, superfans visit or call to order merch. Many of the owners Johnson interviews credit Fieri for helping them survive the pandemic. (Normally this would be in the Boston section, but Megan’s a good friend so I’m leading with it. Also, Megan was the perfect writer for this because she loves the D).
Much like Mr. Fieri, I’m an absolute sucker for institutions. If I visit your town, I am GOING to the place that isn’t really that good, but everyone should go once. As such, I really enjoyed this Broken Palate essay about the best strategies for eating at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami. I hadn’t actually heard of Joe’s Stone Crab and then I realized I’d seen it in about 10,000 IG stories.
After Hope mentioned her last week, I checked in on Jess Lander’s latest for the San Francisco Chronicle. She reports on a new study showing a significant decline in wine sales as liquor and hard seltzers grew. Wine in the US has been around for a long time, but it just never seems to become part of the culture the way beer or liquor are.
A new survey of the top grocery stories in the US is dominating my New England-heavy Twitter feed because Market Basket came in third. Market Basket owns, don’t get me wrong, but it’s wild to me that Amazon somehow came in first AND fifth. I wouldn’t have named them until the teens if you asked me to list grocery stores.
Sometimes I read a single paragraph in a food history story and I can see the hundreds of lives and millions of dollars contained therein. So it was with:
In 1928, the J.T.D. tomato was used in a breeding program for what has become the most popular Jersey heirloom tomato, the Rutgers. To create it, the J.T.D. was crossed with the Marglobe, a disease-resistant and historic tomato developed by Frederick John Pritchard while at the USDA’s Plant Industry Bureau. The Marglobe has a strong disease resistance to Fusarium wilt and Nailhead rust, which plagued Florida tomato growers. Once the Marglobe was introduced, it just about saved the Florida tomato industry.”
Humanity rules. Anyway, I had no idea that the reason one of my early roommates was so smug about New Jersey tomatoes was because of Campbell’s tomato soup.
Priya Krishna continues to be on a tear. Her latest NYT story highlights the growing number of cutting edge and innovative restaurants in the suburbs. She looks into the factors that have historically made the suburbs places for boring food, as well as why that is changing. I wonder how much this is actually new. The Michelin guide’s original intent was to highlight places to drive to!
The article most people sent me: This New York Times story on a court ruling that, at least in America, Gruyere is no longer a protected European appellation but rather a generic term. According to the law, Gruyere cheese can be from anywhere, not just from Switzerland. Lots of funny quotes from snooty Europeans in this one. There is some cosmic justice here, as the very same Swiss people angry about this created the cartel that unfairly standardized the concept of Swiss Cheese.
Ho there! I am a humble laborer at Cooper & Watson Ironworks, and though my life is filled with sweat and toil, I await the day this factory will be filled with vegan hibachi restaurants and boutique cocktail bars.
This will feel a bit too on the nose, but growing up my parents had a bottle of French dressing in the fridge that we used for our everyday salads. Unlike you Ranch monsters, I was raised on this stuff. I had kind of forgotten about this until my sister texted me this story that the FDA is no longer regulating French dressing, which it was for some reason! (The story really needed to spend more time on why the hell this was regulated to begin with). Anyway, the rest of the story basically makes fun of French dressing and you can all get fucked. However, it did reveal there is a D.C. lobbying group called the Association for Dressings & Sauces, so I need to work there IMMEDIATELY.
I am quite surprised to find out Criss Angel has a restaurant. I am not at all surprised to find out he has no sense of humor. It’s an illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money.
Adam Gabbatt in the Guardian reviews 45 Wine and Whiskey, the new bar in the Trump Towers that’s half a shrine to the former President, half an attempt to scam any of his fans that might visit. Gabbatt marvels at the tacky decor and the $30 cocktails. From one friend of the Cart, “It’s a restaurant that wants to play ‘Restaurant’ without actually having to do the work that an actual operating restaurant engages in. Like, attracting customers.”
Niche Wine Meme As Explained by my Sister Hope
I am begging you, branch out from the yellow label! Of course there’s nothing wrong with it, drink it if you want to, but just know that there are so many more champagne brands out there and so many new things to try. Ask your local wine store what they’re recommend for a similar price and try something new.
Still need more Guy Fieri? Boston Magazine lists all the spots Guy has visited in Boston. Snack Cart is already pro-Fieri, but man this is also just a pretty nuanced and great list of the best restaurants in the city (plus Boston Burger Company).
Friendly’s is debuting a new fast casual concept in Westfield. The franchise was struggling pre-pandemic and this seems like leaning into transformation. I don’t hate it – “slightly nicer McDonald’s” is a category that does well. As long as I can still get a clown sundae on my birthday, I’m happy.
Those in the know know Mike & Patty’s is one of the best places to eat in Boston. Now the breakfast sandwich specialists are expanding to Newton!
Devra First finds PlantPub cozy, homey, and not a place you’ll miss meat. I’ve always been skeptical of vegan places aggressively trying to sub for meat (there are two iconic spots in Cambridge I really don’t like). This is a fun review with a line about fancy burger buns that made me chuckle real good.
I usually love seeing Boston Magazine do more full reviews. It was also great to see a new name in Julia Clancy. Julia found some strong moments in Back Bay’s The Banks, but found the menu lacking direction and bloated. She gave The Banks 2.5 out of 4 stars. I’m glad to see new voices, but I think this review could have been written better.
Lost Lake, the tiki bar I wrote about a few weeks back, announced its closing like two days after I sent that issue. The closing notes mentioned the pandemic, which is undoubtedly the main cause. However, one thing that came out in a long back-and-forth with a Chicago reader is that the only restaurant that really engaged with Tiki critics is the one that ended up never being able to satisfy those critics and closing. *Snack Cart enters the intellectual dark web*.
Josh Noel in the Chicago Tribune profiles Bo Fowler, the owner and manager of three well-known Chicago restaurants. The pandemic and a massive heart attack have given Bo a new approach to the industry and her life. This is a really beautiful profile.
Nick Kendelsperger reviews Rubi’s Tacos. Previously, we had to go to Maxwell Street Market to have one of the best tacos in the city (and the city’s best tortilla). But now, because of local microloan programs, Rubi’s and the family behind it has a more permanent home. The picture of the Tompo actually had me drooling.
Louisa Chu heads north to Minneapolis, where she declares the Juicy Lucy the best burger in America. I don’t know about that, but I love the Tribune looking more at the greater Midwest. I also did a, “huh!” when she declared a juicy lucy a culinary feat similar to a Xiao Long Bao. For those not willing to make the drive, she highlights spots in Chicagoland to get a molten-center burger.
Mike Sula tells the story of Pig & Fire, a Filipino pop-up/catering business that specializes in roasted pig. Roel Estanilla, the chef, focuses on keeping it traditional and treating the ingredients with respect. Sula’s descriptions of the Lechon are mouthwatering.
The New York Times brings together its two restaurant critics to discuss why they aren’t eating inside right now and what they are feeling more broadly. I really liked this. Obviously Wells and Rao are charming, but honestly it’s just two people shooting the shit about how to do their job. This reminds me of a lot of conversations about the pandemic we’re all having.
There is no more assured Instagram success than a photogenic and hard-to-get pastry. Ryan Sutton says the next one will be the cardamom bun from East Village’s La Cabra. Bonus: it smells amazing!
A few months ago, a friend from out of town texted to ask if a reservation at Dhamaka was worth the hype. Having just eaten at Adda, I enthusiastically said yes and then told him it’s actually not THAT hard a table to get as long as you aren’t trying to get the one-dish-per-night rabbit special (my fucking dream). That’s when it struck me that Unapologetic Foods, the group behind those restaurants, is currently on top of the New York food scene in a major way. They also might be changing the way Indian food is perceived in America. Pete Wells touches on those ideas in his review of their new spot, Semma. If you can eat at any of these places, go now.
Brooklyn Magazine visits Edith’s Eatery and Grocery in Williamsburg. Owner Elyssa Heller has seen the pandemic transform her goals two times already, but she’s finally launched what she ultimately wanted to: an all-day grocery and cafe specializing in the traditional Jewish foods of her youth. There are some unbelievable-looking dishes here (Google Docs corrected that to fishes and I almost left it).
Snack Cart is a huge fan of Ha’s Đặc Biệt, a pop-up that has ranged New York and the world over the past years. They’ve settled into a more established space on the Lower East Side and continue to serve ballsy, aggressive Vietnamese food. This Robert Seitsema review is great, giving a history of Vietnamese places of note in New York. I’m mostly upset that their new location isn’t down the block from my apartment like the old one.
Ryan Sutton checks in on the state of the tortilla in New York. I mean technically he’s reviewing Sobre Masa’s new location in Bushwick, but he spends the bulk of the review dissecting the improvement of masa and tortillerias in the greater New York region. This mostly made me frustrated there’s still not a place to buy *good* tortillas near me.
Smart Mouth profiles Thomas Downing, an African-American restaurateur, activist, and the owner of one of the first restaurants in New York.
Perhaps the Los Angeles Times read my mind that my wife and I are visiting in March, or maybe it’s just #seasonal #content. Either way, this list of vegetarian restaurants is sure to get some use.
Pepsi donuts? Listen, I’m just happy the folks at Randy’s are getting paid.
Javier Cabral reviews Tacos La Carreta for L.A. Taco. This is a sneaky review. It starts off chill and atmospheric, and Cabral has a great voice, but as you read he very accurately picks apart what makes the tacos here special. It’s amazing what you can learn about something with three ingredients.
El Asadero Poblano isn’t just a new Puebla-style taco spot, it’s the evolution of one family’s journey through tacos and Los Angeles. Cesar Hernandez in L.A. Taco writes about the Aquino family, who have a legacy of bringing the Puebla style to LA., and who are making some amazing chorizo in South Central.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
Bahooka’s is the kind of place you’d expect to find near a scruffy tropical seaport—all rusted nautical gear, stolen street signs, and scarred dark wood. Lit like a navy-base bar and with more bobbing tropical fish than you’d find in a Jacques Cousteau special. - Link
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