Spawned two years ago from the creatively devious minds of chef David Chang and writer Peter Meehan, Lucky Peach, the quarterly food magazine (published by McSweeney’s) with a cult following, has proved that long-form food writing is still vibrant. The magazine’s seventh issue focuses on a single theme: travel. Featuring articles such as the history of curry, visiting the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world, and helpful tips on how to avoid getting diarrhea while traveling, Lucky Peach will be the culprit behind your sudden itch to hop on a plane. At the issue’s launch party, travel secrets will be revealed by a panel of contributors. But don’t go on an empty stomach: Food will not be served (and isn’t that just a little bit evil?).

Wed., June 26, 8 p.m., 2013


Gold, Meehan, and Me Invade KC

The brisket burnt-edges sandwich at Gates Bar B.Q.

The last week of April, Peter Meehan, Jonathan Gold, and I went to Kansas City for three days of binge eating. The conversations that ensued have been edited and presented in the fourth issue of Lucky Peach — the Summer, 2012 edition. In it we mainly talk about food and music. By my count the three of us managed to eat in 22 places total, though sometimes not as a full crew.

The grisly aftermath of a meal at Gates in which we tried to taste nearly everything.

Visiting places like Stroud’s, LaMar’s, Winstead’s, and Arthur Bryant’s, we partly followed in the footsteps of Calvin Trillin – who long ago maintained that Kansas City food was the best in the world. It may have been a mistake that we took the proclamation more seriously than its author. Here are photos of some of the things that we ate. One of the greatest pleasures of the trip was finding out that the three of us – all veteran critics – disagreed completely about half the time.

The founders of Gates Bar B.Q. in a shaft of holy light

The Stroud’s pan fried chicken was pretty much a hit with all of us, right fellas?

And so were the fried potatoes, at least as far as I was concerned.

Stroud’s cinnamon rolls have their fervent admirers, but most patrons end up taking them home for breakfast the next day.

The interior of Stroud’s

Here’s a place we skipped for lack of time — and appetite.

The double hamburger (foreground) and fry-onion ring combo (background) at Winstead’s caused us to ponder the nature of burgers in Kansas City.

At midday, the interior was diner-like and somewhat dark.

LaMar’s cinnamon roll was too big to fit in the picture’s frame.

Breakfast at Town-Topic

Open 24 hours!

Tamales from La Posada Spanish Grocers

Arthur Bryant’s on Brooklyn Avenue, by sunset

Woodrow Bacon was pitmaster at Arthur Bryant’s for 60 years.

Despite the colorful plate, the first pass at the legendary Arthur Bryant’s was none too great; we went two days later and it was better.

Probably the worst thing we ate in three days was the burnt-edges soup at Jack Stack Barbecue.

On a second visit, the milkshake at Town-Topic was formidable.

These ribs from Oklahoma Joe’s — across the state line in Kansas City, Kansas — generated the greatest controversy of the trip.

Oklahoma Joe’s is located in a gas station.

We checked out every barbecue we could find, no matter how unpromising.

The ribs at Winslow’s BBQ weren’t bad.

LC’s is located on the southeast edge of town — also in a gas station, though one no longer operating.

The burnt edges sandwich at LC’s. What’s not to like?

On a second visit to Bryant’s, the smoked sausage sandwich was a delight.


The Meatball Shop’s Hero Worship

The world has never known a more perfect meatball hero. The bread is a demi-baguette from Il Forno Bakery in the Bronx, crusty without being so tough that the ingredients squirt out the sides. The cheese is excellent fresh mozzarella—not the packaged stuff that masquerades as mozzarella, smothering most of the city’s meatball heros like a vengeful heir with a pillow. Chunky and bright red, the sauce has a bit of zip to it, but does not overwhelm the other ingredients. And what about the meatballs? They’re of small circumference, beefy, and slightly herbal-tasting.

I acquired this magnificent sandwich at the Meatball Shop, a new restaurant on Stanton Street that does only one thing, but does it very well. While the $9 price tag may seem excessive, especially with a similar-size hero available at every pizza parlor in town for $5 or $6, note that this one comes with a baby spinach salad topped with lemon vinaigrette and thinly sliced apples, transforming your hero into a balanced meal.

The Meatball Shop sits just off Allen Street in an unprepossessing Lower East Side location. As is often the case, the hubbub in the open kitchen is your Off-Broadway show, as employees juggle meatballs like circus performers. When you tire of watching that, you can admire the wall of deconstructed meat grinders, which provide a lesson in mechanical engineering if you look long enough. As a venue for gorging an Italian hero, the Meatball’s mellow interior is unparalleled.

The hoagie I ate that first day bulged with balls made entirely of beef, but the restaurant insists on making several more varieties, some of dubious worth. Yes, vegetarians will probably be content with their designated hero, even though its faux-meatballs taste too much like lentils. The pork orbs are spicier than the beef, and nearly as good, while the chicken spheres are on the bland side—as things made out of chicken breast usually are. And the salmon variety, aimed at pescatarians like a loaded blunderbuss, are truly awful: coarse-textured, oily, and an odd shade of orange. “It’s everything I hate about salmon, all in one tiny package,” mused my colleague Peter Meehan, who brought his newborn daughter Hazel with him one evening.

On that same occasion, the daily special meatball was lamb, and it proved better than the beef. (“Stick with mammals” is good advice where meatballs are concerned.) Rather than putting it on a hero, I elected to consign it to one of the other fates the restaurant offers: plopping a serving of three ($7) on a bed of mashed potatoes ($3) and flooding them with mushroom gravy (free). Not bad. The sauce is one of three that may be chosen as an alternative to the chunky tomato sauce (the others are “spicy meat” and Parmesan cream). Indeed, once you depart from the core menu of heros, there’s a plethora of perilous paths your meal can take. There are meatball sliders; meatballs gravied or plain, tendered with focaccia; and meatballs served on beds of risotto, polenta, rigatoni, spaghetti, salad, braised greens, or roasted veggies.

The options are so multifarious, you might be tempted to slap your hands to your temples and scream. Which is probably why the restaurant uses a system where you mark your order with a felt-tip pen on a plastic-covered menu, rather than making a waiter stand at attention as you parse all the options. Hint: Treat the potential accompaniments as stand-alone dishes, and don’t worry about the restaurant’s confusing meatball-matching schemes.

In this way, my companions and I enjoyed a simple dish of spaghetti and tomato sauce. At $3, it was a terrific deal. Similarly commendable are the garlicky white beans, braised market greens, and roasted winter vegetables, while the “freshly milled polenta” was dull and not worthy of its adverb and adjective. The accompaniments make the Meatball Shop an excellent place to dine with kids, who will find the simplicity of, say, rigatoni with tomato sauce or a bowl of three unadorned meatballs just the ticket.

And there’s one more thing that both adults and kids will love: the desserts. Only one is available, an ice cream sandwich featuring five options each of ice cream and cookies. We totally grooved on the chocolate-laced meringue cookies matched with plain vanilla ice cream, and the mint ice cream bookended with brownies, while we didn’t think much of the ginger snaps paired with caramel ice cream.

But, hey, I wonder what the chocolate chip cookies would taste like with three lamb meatballs in between?


Serious Coffee Comes to Williamsburg

A very serious, very well-located coffee bar opened today in Williamsburg. El Beit, on Bedford between 8th and 9th streets, gave coffee away all weekend in order to welcome the neighbors and practice their service routine. We stopped in for a delicious latte on Saturday, and tried to keep up with Dan Griffin, the manager, who taught us all about the beans.

Coffee freaks are kind of like wine freaks, in that the object of their passion is similarly complicated (geography, economy, process), and if you’re not one of them, you have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about, but it sounds really good and you want a cup/glass. Luckily, our friend Peter Meehan has the mental capacity for all this, and you can get a good education from this article.

The coffee at El Beit is supplied by the North Caroina company Counter Culture (also at Café Grumpy and Ninth Street Espresso), and, as Griffin put it, goes way beyond “fair trade.” Counter Culture owner Peter Giuliano has much more involved relationships with the farmers than most people on the business side of things, and Griffin says he pays them better than fair trade, too. For their most special coffees, which will change constantly, El Beit uses the Clover, an $11,000 machine that Griffin summarizes (many times a day, we imagine) as “a cross between a French press and a vac pot,” and “an amazing machine.” It brews one cup at a time, in about a minute, so the beans are ground fresh every time, and the “brewing parameters” (water temperature, grind size, brew time) can be adjusted based on the beans. “It’s—hopefully—gonna completely change the way people think about coffee,” Griffin said.

A small cup of Clover coffee will cost $2.75. “I think it’s worth it,” Griffin said. The beans used for these cups come from micro-lots, and the Clover requires more coffee and more labor per cup than other methods. But there will also be blended-bean coffee available, also from Counter Culture, at more familiar prices.

Although Griffin dislikes the term “consultant,” that’s probably the most fitting title for him. El Beit’s owner is Bassan Ali, a Lebanese designer who still works in product development at Coach and is no coffee expert. But he is dedicated to doing things right, for which Griffin seems very grateful. As a career barista, he couldn’t afford to open a place like this himself. As he put it, “We’re very lucky that other people have jobs we wouldn’t want to do.”

Ali’s lease started in September, and he spent months completely transforming the space, which was previously a cafe. Most of the materials inside are salvaged, including butcher-block tables and the old barn wood that covers the outside of the bar.

As with wine, coffee like this can be intimidating to the casual drinker, but Griffin’s enthusiasm doesn’t seem to come with any snootiness, so just ask a question, and then listen carefully.

El Beit
158 Bedford Avenue


Now Hiring: Rich Families, Stadium Opportunists, Fox

OK, kids. Time to put on your thinking caps. What chef has three restaurants in New York, at least one dog and one child, lives or works out of Tribeca, and is looking for a personal assistant?

An “Upscale-Casual Contemporary American Restaurant” is currently looking for a pasty cook. These guys toil away in windowless basements, so it might be hard to narrow it down.

Park Slope is getting an organic vegetarian take-out place, which needs some cooks.

A new wine bar thing on Ludlow is looking for “enthusiastic individual” and starting interviews tomorrow.

If it is your dream to have Gordon Ramsay and a camera crew from Fox come into your restaurant to do a version of Nanny 911, but with a lot more verbal abuse, well, this is your big moment. Kitchen Nightmares is looking for restaurants with, perhaps, horrible communication problems or whose food costs are too high to survive. Lucky you.

Prospect Heights, or should we say “THE UP AND COMING PROSPECT HIEGHTS NIEGHBORHOOD; WHICH IS SOON TO BE HOME OF THE NEW BROOKLYN STADIUM” is getting a new pizza place. The owners are looking for a chef to design the concept.

In further Prospect Heights news, Aliseo Osteria is in need of a sous chef.

The Mudspot is looking for a cook who can bake and is interested in the world of “Caffeine Sunshine.” We love this place because it feels like college. If you went to Oberlin.

Five Front is hiring cooks.

Peter Hoffman is looking for cooks at Back Forty. Perhaps it’s you who can take the place from serviceable to crave-able?

An Upper West Side family is looking for a private chef who loves making organic baby food and throwing fancy dinner party, and also doing the dishes.

Red Mango is ready to take New York. They’re hiring in the Village, Midtown, and Flushing.


Peter Meehan’s last meal

Peter Meehan, who has been writing “$25 and Under” for The New York Times since 2004, is freaking hilarious, and said more funny things than we could fit into this column. The
Times recently cut the column down to every other week, a move that baffled us. (Read more at

Have you had too much time to think about your last meal? I only thought about it for like an hour, but I still haven’t written my column for tomorrow . . . There are things I’d have to get out of the way the week before the actual meal, like lunch at Prune, a Katz’s pastrami sandwich, the eggplant sandwich at Frankie’s Spuntino, dinner at Ssäm Bar, and another visit to DiFara. The last time I was there, it wasn’t quite up to snuff, and I wouldn’t want to die thinking Dom had lost it.

When was that? December 26, a dumb day to go—you know Dom’s got a Valpolicella hangover. I made a list for the official meal.

OK, start at the top. Sashimi from Tsukiji market. I’ve never been there. There’s a lot on the list I’ve never had—things I don’t want to die without eating. Like, I would get the chance to raid a Korean housewife’s kimchi pantry. I’d like to look into her urn.

Wow. Not in any undignified way. I’d also have oysters at East Coast Grill in Cambridge, chicken skin yakitori—we could do that at Yakitori Totto or some clandestine businessman spot in Tokyo. I’d probably have some dog, preferably in Vietnam. You know, I’m dying—I’m probably going to hell anyway.

Go for it. Then porcini à la plancha at Ganbarra in San Sebastian, some really good jamón Jabugo, and I want to try the chicken-feet dish from the El Bulli cookbook —they’re flattened and fried like potato chips.

Yum. Then, Shanghai—I would rest eternally more easily if I knew where to get the best soup dumplings. I’d have the fried watercress salad at Sripraphai, the lamb ribs from Daisy May’s. Could we get Marcella Hazan to make me Bolognese?

Totally. Paula Wolfert would make a cassoulet. I’ve never been certain whether I like it; when you’re dying, it’s good to have your mind resolved. Then Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, that meat guy from the U.K., would make me a piece of meat, and he could lecture me and use phrases like “clapped-out ewe.” There’d be a tasting of raw sausage. Do you go for cheese at this point?

Why not? OK, maybe some warm madeleines, and something runny, like l’époisses, and some Parm—you know, a wheel to dig into, augmented by a farmstead selection by Anne Saxelby. I’d have some really good espresso from Portland or Seattle, a Frog Hollow peach, and then a bottle of 1977 d’Ychem—if they made it that year—and a bottle of sleeping pills.

Apparently, men are supposed to shoot themselves in the heads, and pills are for girls. Is decapitation good? A samurai could do it.

A sword does seem more opulent. Yeah, I’m going with sweet wine and sleeping pills.