Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New in New York: Discover "New York's One-Food Wonders"

By Mitch Broder

New York is a swell place for a single person, but it’s an even sweller place for a single food. When a food on its own wants a restaurant of its own, its best shot is here. In fact, the single-food restaurants in this city could fill a book — and I know, because it’s the book I just wrote.

Today is the publication date for “New York’s One-Food Wonders: A Guide to the Big Apple’s Unique Single-Food Spots.” It’s the first and only guide to the dozens of destinations that turn a lone food into a lone star, thus bringing new meaning to “singles event.”

The destinations include places like Egg Shop, Luke’s Lobster, and Caracas Arepa Bar. Their foods range from peanut butter to caviar. They are as unlikely as Rice to Riches, which sells rice pudding, and as old as Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, which is 105.

They serve common delicacies in uncommon ways, like the hot dog with bacon, egg, and cheese at Crif Dogs. They serve uncommon delicacies in common ways, like the goat-milk ice cream at Victory Garden. They serve delicacies they invented themselves, like the stuffed bagel balls at Bantam Bagels. 

The book, of course, tells you all about the places, but it also tells you all about the people behind the places. They include families, friends, couples, and, naturally, singles — all consumed by a food, and all determined to share their vision of it with New York.

This book is my follow-up to “Discovering Vintage New York: A Guide to the City’s Timeless Shops, Bars, Delis & More.” That book tells of the classic spots that have survived for over 50 years. The Wonders constitute an alternate classic. I call them the Other Vintage.

They are vintage in that they keep some independence in the city; they are one last chance for dreamers to live out their dreams. And they are vintage in that they keep some adventure in the city; developers rarely generate places like Sticky’s Finger Joint.

Since there is more to life than food, though not much more, I’ve included a bonus section that features the city’s one-thing wonders. It takes you on an improbable journey from Alex & Bell Accordions to Yunhong Chopsticks. (I’ll let you know as soon as I find a Z.)

And as another bonus, I’ve created the New York Singular Hall of Fame, celebrating both kinds of wonders from the past. Among the one-thing wonders here is Seashells Unlimited; among the one-food wonders is the lamented Hero’s Sweet Potatoes.

That said, this remains mostly a book about available food. But as I write in the book’s introduction, it is also a book about passion. It’s about passion for creativity, which is what brings these places to life — and about passion for something surprising to eat, which is what keeps these places alive.

“Wonders” (like “Vintage”) has appendixes that group its places by category and by neighborhood. With these you can craft a customized trip to debauchery. I hope you do. Many of us overlook the wonders nearest to us. I’d like to help everyone to get over that.

Find what's wonderful in New York in “New York’s One-Food Wonders,” published today by Globe Pequot.