I get in my own way a lot. I realize that.
I only know two ways to do things: overboard, or not at all. I’m that peculiar kind of perfectionist who will stay at my computer until 3 a.m. trying to fix something, or re-cut the same photograph six times because I can’t get the color just right, or watch the entire seven-hour first season of “Downton Abbey” in one stretch; yet I’ll leave a sink full of dirty dishes for days, or consistently talk myself out of going for a run, or never get around to finishing “Gravity’s Rainbow” despite having first picked it up two decades ago. (I’ll read it sometime. I swear.) If I can’t do something the best — if I can’t get it right, if I can’t win — then I’d rather not do it. Continue reading
This has nothing whatsoever to do with bar food or chicken wings. But I love bone marrow, and I recently had some fine roasted bone marrow with chimichurri at Playa in Los Angeles — as part of a scrumptious meal that included the best tamale I’ve ever eaten — so, give it up for bone marrow. Long may it clog my arteries in the most divine way.
One night not long ago, I ran into a friend and mentioned to him that I had been blogging about chicken wings. “Have you gone to Pok Pok yet?” he asked. No, I moaned, but I’d been wanting to go — in fact, I’d made two dates to visit Pok Pok Wing on the Lower East Side, but both plans had been canceled. And although I kept meaning to make a special trip there, order the wings to go and take them home, the prospect of doing all that to eat chicken wings by myself seemed like too much work, and also made me sad.
I lamely tried to explain myself. My friend’s face widened into semi-faux shock. “How can you call yourself a wings blogger if you haven’t gone to Pok Pok?” he asked. He was right, of course. Half my reason for starting this blog was to have an excuse to go to Pok Pok Wing, and I had failed — as an eater, as a blogger, and as a person. [Cue dramatic orchestral score; black-and-white shots of me walking down a desolate city block, in the rain.]
Pok Pok Wing, a takeout joint that opened in March, was the first New York venture from Andy Ricker, James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of the Thai restaurant Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon. Ricker’s signature dish is his wings, which are more or less the only thing on the menu at Pok Pok Wing. (Also, “poks.” Oh, I kid.) (“Pok pok,” in case you’re wondering, is a phrase meant to emulate the sound a mortar and pestle make in the preparation of Thai papaya salad.) Continue reading
Back when I was in my … well, back when I was younger, my friends and I would occasionally go to a sports bar called Phebe’s, because we were young and it was cheap and in the East Village — and at the time, the East Village was where you hung out if you were young and broke and trying to seem cool. I don’t quite know where “young people” who are trying to seem cool hang out these days (Williamsburg?), because I am old and broke and live in old-people’s Brooklyn and just want the young people to get off my stoop. Or I would, if I had a stoop.
It’s not that Phebe’s was remotely cool or even pretended to be, but the fact that it was cheap counted double. Also, we felt like we were slumming it there, since our other preferred hangout was the far swankier Belmont Lounge (in retrospect, I have no idea what we were thinking). At some point, Phebe’s closed for a while owing to health code violations — we assumed because of rats, and I’m sorry, but when you don’t know any better that’s always what you assume — and then, in the way of young people who have the attention spans of goldfish, we forgot it existed. Later we heard it had reopened, but every time someone mentioned it, we’d joke, Phebe’s is still open? Wasn’t it shut down for health code violations? Which, come to think of it, isn’t that funny of a joke or even a joke for that matter, but as I might have mentioned, we were young, and therefore kind of stupid.
Time passed. [--> insert time passing] Somehow or other, I started going to Phebe’s again. I was working a night job, and most of the people I worked with were in their twenties and liked going there for parties. I doubt many of my new colleagues knew that Phebe’s had ever had a health code shutdown, and I didn’t mention it. None of us had any money. We weren’t going for the ambience. Once again, Phebe’s was good enough. Continue reading
I used to walk past Jo’s on Elizabeth Street and wonder what it was like inside. From the sidewalk it seemed like a bistro-y place, not too trendy or crowded, though I did once try to meet someone there for dinner and the front room was too packed. We went to BarBossa instead (known in my head as “that place with the black-and-white floor that starts with B and has feijoada and Guinness cake,” which I keep confusing with Barmarché). And so though I remained curious about Jo’s, other places took priority, and I never went.
When Jo’s turned up on Eater’s Where to Eat Wings list, I figured this was the universe telling me it was time to pay Jo’s a visit. I recruited my friend Hannah, who was drawn, as I was, to the advertised happy hour until 8 p.m. We pulled up to the welcoming bar at 7 and there were plenty of seats, always a nice surprise in a neighborhood like Nolita. Continue reading
I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater, or at least one with diverse tastes. I’ve eaten beef tongue, guinea pig, sweetbreads and kangaroo; if a menu has pork belly, duck, lamb or marrow on it, I have to order it. All four, and I nearly faint with joy and indecision.
But my standby food, the one I go back to time and time again, is chicken. Boring old chicken. It’s easy to cook, easy to eat. Give me some chicken on the bone, dark meat only, and I could eat it nearly every day and not get sick of it. When I was a kid, my parents joked that I loved chicken so much, in a former life I must have been a fox. (Not that kind of fox. Shut up, it’s my parents we’re talking about.) Once, on a visit to relatives, I asked my aunt to make me fried chicken skin — just the skin. I was two.
Therefore, it’s only natural that I’m a big fan of chicken wings. They’re bite-size, dark-meat chicken on the bone that you’re supposed to eat with your hands, and they have almost as much skin on them as they do meat. What’s not to love?
When I decided to write about wings in New York City, I knew one place I had to hit was Bonnie’s Grill in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Not only is it consistently named as one of the best places for Buffalo wings in New York, but it’s also in Brooklyn (represent). I’d had a delicious burger at Bonnie’s once, but I’d never had the famed wings. Continue reading
I love eating at the bar.
Some people view eating at the bar as an act of desperation, a downgrading of the restaurant experience; they view the bar as the domain of the reservationless, the un-fabulous, the pathetic solo diners. I disagree. If given the choice of a table or a seat at the bar, more often than not, I’ll pick the bar.
For me, discovering incredible food is the main reason to eat out (and I love eating out), but all the same, it’s not the only reason. There’s the atmosphere. The service. The people around you, the conversations you have with your dining companions, the food you share, the looks you hungrily give other diners’ plates. It’s the way your server recommends a dish to you, or maybe the way she smiles after you make your pick and murmurs, “Good order.”
When you eat at the bar, the food you’re ordering is the same that you’d get at a table, but the ambience is different. It’s less formal, more about the food than the linens on the table. You chat with the bartender and the people around you, and as long as it’s not some crowded joint where each bite is alternated with an elbow in your back, it’s a far more relaxing experience. I’ve scored no-reservations seatings at restaurants where tables are otherwise impossible to get, and subsequently had fantastic meals that were elevated by where I was sitting (thanks, bartender at Babbo). And yes, when you’re dining solo, the bar’s the way to go. You’re never alone when you eat at the bar, unless you want to be. Continue reading