Fat Boy Gotta Eat was the original idea for a name before stumbling upon Fair Folks & a Goat. All things considered, I think we made the right choice.
In other news, I am back in New Orleans having a fun time working with Peter and Theodora and David. Today we had something like a nine hour meeting with Aurora via video chat to discuss the nine thousand things we have to get done before the week’s end. I thought it would be a good idea for me to take a break from business and share 20 great New York restaurants and the reasoning. I actually started this list before I left, and at this point, three days later, sort of want to get it out to the world, so I can begin another. I never typically make lists in my life unless I am going to the grocery store, and then I write on my hand. I never typically go to the grocery store because I don’t know how to cook too many things. Although, the meals that I do know how to prepare are fantastic. To me. My theory is the less dishes and clean up the better. Which is why I stick pretty much to Irish Cousin, which is a dish I will explain at a later date because it is really really complicated.
These aren’t rankings, ps, I just number them so I know when to stop.
1. Sushi Mambo – Not to be confused with Sushi Samba. Not even for one second. My favorite person is actually the delivery guy whom you might not see. He also sells jewelry, though I have never bought anything from him. They shot the movie Prime here with Meryl Streep. And there is a great wooly chair in the entrance that I have never been able to make sense of.
2.*Cornelia Street Cafe – If you are meeting someone for the first time, go here. The best time to go is for brunch, and if you do order the chocolate bread and the farmer’s breakfast and a bloody mary and sit outside so if you smoke you can just walk into the street. When I first moved to New York, I would eat here regularly, more than regularly, and Lady Gaga- Stephanie- was the waitress. My friend and I used to play this game called “Would you?” and we would go back and forth about her. She had good days and bad days. She was pleasant and sweet.
3. Pearl Oyster Bar – I used to live above this restaurant and order take-out because the lines are eesh. If you sit in the back, it is tight, and you basically are a part of the other parties’ conversations. Some folks enjoy that sort of thing. But it can also be sort of miserable- in fact there are a few other uncomfortable things about this place, but none of them matter because the food is so good. I like to sit at the bar. Also, the Praline Parfait.
4. Le Gigot – I hesitate to tell people about how wonderful this place is because there is never a line. The french toast casserole and cranberry juice. A wonderful place to go on a lazy morning. Crab cake Benedict also delicious. I wouldn’t go with a stranger though- this is more like date two or three or six breakfast. The first morning after someone sleeps over. Unless you never want to speak to them again. In that case, the Washington Square Diner- which is also amazing- is right around the corner.
5. Delmonico’s – One of my favorite short stories in college “May Day” begins here and I always wanted to go as a kid. I have a fairly recent memory of losing myself when a corporate executive told me he was taking his ball and going home on me at a back table. However, this restaurant will forever remain my father’s restaurant to me, and to dine with him here, is a lunch, or dinner like no other, a true Italian American experience. If only they would let us smoke cigars- that is definitely missing.
6. Jean Georges – I ate here this Spring to repay a debt to my first boss and in some ways Manhattan mentor and had a great time. The best part was his hearing is terrible, he is around 80 or so, and he likes to recount his youth and conquests, and in doing so the entire place had a story to tell after their lunch break.
7. Tortilla Flats – My friend(s) and I go here on Sundays and play trivia competitively and sometimes meet strangers. I never feel fantastic afterward. Never. But I am likely to order too much. Here. Everywhere. I sing that same song over and over with my appetite.
8. Cafe Sabarsky – One time, maybe I was 25, when I had my head stuck down in the ground and never thought to look up above West 4th street, a very nice old lady, in her 80’s, a great aunt of sorts of my friend at the time, took us first to the Guggenheim and then here for lunch. I thought I was stepping into a dream. That lunch profoundly affected my idea of elegance, aspiration, and the aesthetic for what I had hoped we would create with this idea of Fair Folks. I want people to feel the way I felt the first time I went to have lunch here. Like all of these iconic New York images that I had lurking around in my imagination had sprung to life, and I recognized them, although I had never seen them before. The funny thing in all this is that after so much time passed- maybe two or three years- and this idea I was being pulled toward was finally coming to life, I returned to Cafe Sabarsky, and I realized that it was nice, but it wasn’t that nice. And this is something I have learned and believe to be true- that distance, whether it be from people, places or things, allows our critiques to outsize themselves in either direction. The good becomes so great. The bad becomes so terrible. You have to be careful about that- especially with people.
9. Harry’s – Pretty much same idea as Delmonico’s, subtract the Fitzgerald story. Cheesesteaks will get you. Don’t eat one if you have to go back to work. A good place to get work done as well. You never know who is sitting next to you. I guess that can be said about anywhere though.
10. Robert – This restaurant is in the Museum of Arts and Design, and has tremendous views of Central Park. There was a contest to name the restaurant, and I submitted “Madeleine’s” and a drawing of a lady who lunches as a mascot, but the idea was turned down. Still my favorite museum in town in terms of the people involved and the exciting things going on. If you haven’t been to the museum, email me, and I would be happy to go with you. Also, a great gift shop. If you buy your mom, sister, girlfriend, wife, earrings here rather than Tiffany’s they will wear them more often. There is another shop like that I know- wink, wink.
11. Joe’s Shanghai – You have to go to the one downtown. It is cheaper. They sit with you tourists, usually pleasant well-fed tourists, and the one in Midtown just isn’t the same. I was psychologically mugged outside the one in Midtown. The same guy who psychologically mugged me the last time. Here is his trick in case you are ever there. He walks down the street with a plastic container of food that you would fill at a deli, or could easily be removed from the trash, gently sitting on his shoulder. He and his accomplice make it increasingly difficult for you and (in both my instances) the woman you are walking with to pass. He then bumps into you or her- doesn’t matter to him- and the food falls and he cries, violently and threateningly, that is my dinner, that is all I got to eat. And then, because you don’t want to look like a schmuck or don’t want to deal with any trouble, you give him 12 dollars. He also has glasses, so beware of that. Like I said, just go to the one downtown and you will never run into him. To me, he is like the troll of Midtown.
12. Square Meal – I recently discovered this place in Carnegie Hill. They always ask if you have a reservation regardless of whether or not anyone else is in the entire place. Which I think is funny. Because I want to say, “Yes” to see their reaction. I will do this next time. It is tucked into a town house on the same block as Yura and they carry their BLT Bites. If you come up to our shop this is a good place to go to breakfast before, or lunch after. I think it is 91st street between Madison and 5th.
13. Shun Lee- If I were a film maker, I would shoot a scene here for sure. I am pretty sure Woody Allen has shot something here. I love the pitch of the dim sum server’s voice. It is almost as if they are screaming at you. PORK SHUMAI, CRAB SHUMAI, CHICKEN SHUMAI! And on and on and on.
14. Fatty Crab- Here is one restaurant, and I suppose the Mermaid Inn is another, where I don’t care if it is downtown or on the Upper West Side. I always order the same thing every time I go here and it is the Beef Rendang and the Dark & Stormy. So good.
15. Snack Taverna – I love Greek food. I also love Greek Beer. A great place for a date, but also a great place for friends. What I wouldn’t recommend is an uncomfortable date, or a double date where anyone doesn’t know each other well. But you know, where is a good place for something like that? Oh I know…
16. The Rusty Knot – I have met my fair share of interesting folks in this place. One time, my buddy put me in a cab, and then tried to fight a handful of punks without me. I guess he thought he had a better shot on his own. Kind of insulting. He was in a suit and they were calling him American Psycho and it was all very funny and around 3 in the morning. I stopped the cab and talked him out of it. They recently changed their menu, and I am getting used to it.
17. August – My favorite breakfast for sometime was their Ham and Egg Galette. I don’t know if that is spelled correctly. Anyway, they took it off their menu, and I emailed them to email me when it comes back on. That was about two years ago. They haven’t. When they do, I will go back to eating it once a week when I am in town.
18. Lima’s Taste – I prefer my friend’s Peruvian cooking because it was the first Peruvian cooking I was introduced to, however, this is the closest thing I have found in the city, and if you have never eaten Peruvian food do yourself a life changing favor and order the Aji de Pollo and you will surely return. If you are a fatty like me, also the chicken causo (sic?), and steak lombatina. Maybe a Peruvian restaurant in New Orleans isn’t a terrible idea. I am a little busy and tied up to help, but if anyone does do it, I promise to eat there often.
19. Lil Frankies – Another place where I like to sit at the bar. I am allergic to red wine. Not in the rush me to the hospital sort of way. I just get all ugly and look like the Devil, turn purple and such, and not really that much trouble to me as much as the folks around me because I can go all uncivilized pretty quickly. That is why I always go to this place with friends, who understand that after dinner is over it is best to put me in a cab and take me home. This type of Italian food you can’t eat without red wine.
20. Pig Heaven – I just went here for the first time on my last night in town and I am in love with it. I am looking forward to returning to prove to myself that it exists. Just go, you will see. Like I was saying about Shun Lee- if I had a movie to film, I would just roll in the cameras and not touch a thing.
I sort of felt like I had to mention some of these restaurants out of respect for my experience and the friends who introduced them to me over the years. I feel so bad to leave so many of my favourites out. I’ll add a bunch more sometime soon. But right now, I am hungry. And when fat boy gets hungry. Fat boy gotta eat!
* Fair Folks & a Goat was founded here last summer one early Tuesday evening at an outside cafe table.