Snack

Too Many Cooks: Where Are You a Regular?

July 24, 2015

You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Today: We divulge our loyalties.

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Over the past few months, a number of folks on staff here at Food52 have packed up their old apartments and moved into new ones—which, of course, triggers lots of warm-fuzzies for neighborhoods of years gone by, for where we live now, and the spots we frequent there.

We asked the staff: Where are you a regular? If you're not a regular anywhere, where might you like to be one? 

Micki: I can't really speak to being a regular anywhere, but I can speak from the other side. I worked at Flour for 3 years, and my favorite part was getting to know the regulars. Some days I would keep a tally—how many people do I know by name, how many do I know at least by order—and the numbers were always up in the hundreds! 

Doughnuts

Carmen: I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit that I'm a regular at Dough on 19th and 5th. I have a slight doughnut problem (read: obsession), and Dough just does them right. It's just close enough to the office that I can have a treat after work, but far away enough that it's not an everyday occurrence. My favorite is probably their plain glazed: all the essential doughnut flavors (that frying oil taste you don't want to think about too much, the fresh yeast, perfectly sweet glaze), and without anything extraneous.

Jane W.: Michael and Aaron are my buds who co-own wineshop on East 9th Street. When I moved to the block last summer, Michael so graciously offered to accept deliveries for me. Our relationship strained a bit when I ordered a chair... but we're cool now, so if you ever stop by for their free tastings on Saturdays, definitely say hi for me! And we can't forget Seven Grams, the unofficial coffee sponsor of Food52.

Leandra: I am WAY too proud of the fact that I'm a regular at Spunto in my neighborhood, the West Village. Yes, the Village is known for great pizza (John's, Bleecker St., Joe's) but I prefer this lesser-known, spacious, thin-crust spot. There's ALWAYS a seat, everything is affordable, and I literally go there every Friday night. Typically I'll be with my sister or husband, sometimes I just text a few friends, telling them that I'll be camped out there for the evening if they want to come by. 

Gelato

Stephanie: G for Gelato! For anyone ever in Toronto, they are very nice and friendly and have tasty things. Mostly I go for coffee, but there is occasionally gelato involved, too. I've reached order recognition status since I maybe sometimes go there twice a day...

Riddley: Cafe Madeline in Flatbush, Brooklyn. I’m there on a daily basis. My favorite thing is the granola bowl. It doesn’t sound special, but the yogurt-fruit-granola-honey combo is super satisfying and better than any I’ve ever had (maybe they use some sort of special granola or yogurt? Probably not, but still). I want to reach the level of regular where I don’t have to ask for a side of extra-drippy almond butter to drizzle on top. 

Ali: There was one server at Yai in Los Angeles that wouldn't give me a menu and instead would recite my order to me, just to confirm that I wasn't planning on ordering anything new—again. She even knew to forget knives and forks in favor of chopsticks and spoons. There's also Shan Dong in Oakland, where I ate heaps of pea shoots, dumplings, and "spicy meat sauce noodles" very regularly—to the point where the owner knew me and when I visited a few weeks ago, even asked where I'd been all these months!

Pretzels

Erin: Nowadays, I frequent the NJ Pilsner Haus just south of where Derek and I live far too frequently, for a grapefruit radler and some combination of their killer Austro-Hungarian food (the piping hot soft pretzels are a particular fave). Derek and I are also recognized (for better or worse) at the hilariously cheesy Italian place on our corner, which boasts the largest portions and glasses of wine I have ever seen (welcome to New Jersey). 

Catherine: During my first two years of college, I was a regular at the only coffee shop in Davidson, North Carolina, Summit Coffee. Not being a much of coffee drinker, the two owners knew me by my frequent tea and pastry purchases coupled with early mornings writing in their shop. When I came back from a semester abroad my third year, I interviewed to work at Summit and spent my last two years at school baking muffins and chocolate chip cookies in their kitchen! I'm on the hunt for my "regular" spot in NYC. Suggestions are appreciated. I'm in the Murray Hill area!

Bridget: Palo Santo in Park Slope is close to my heart. When I first moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan it was during a tumultuous period for me. I signed my lease and was walking back to R train on 4th Ave and Union when I looked into the charming ground-floor brownstone restaurant with two small seats the bar. I walked in during a wine tasting. The owner/manager invited me to join them, and then I ordered some greens from their rooftop and oysters. From that point on it was my spot. Always, ALWAYS get the little homemade corn tortillas with sliced avocados, drizzled with oil. And whatever the ceviche of the day is, say yes. They do it Peruvian-style (I think) with these crunchy chickpeas.

Noodles

Samantha: When I lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (up until a few weeks ago!), my husband Alex and I were regulars at Little Dokebi, a Korean spot next to McGolrick Park. We got to know all the servers and bartenders, and they always poured me a glass of Cab Franc when I walked in the door (and they all knew I would only order ban chan if they had the mayonnaise noodles). We were also always at Crema, a tiny coffee spot on Driggs and Diamond that has the best cold brew and chai I've ever had (Sorry Seven Grams! You are good, too). We became so friendly with the couple who owns the shop that I worked there a few Saturdays when one of them was sick, and Alex is designing their website. They cheered us on as we trained for the Brooklyn Half, they were congratulatory when we got new jobs, and they love our dog. The owners Jin and Young Rim are the best!

Merrill: My regular spot is a mere two block from my house: a bakery and cafe called Du Jour, which is owned and run by an amazingly talented and lovely couple, Vera and TJ Obias. I stop by for coffee and a cheddar-chive biscuit or a pain au chocolat many mornings on my way to the office. On the weekends, I order the same brunch dish so often that when we served it for Clara's third birthday party (which we naturally had at Du Jour, where they are not only tolerant of small children but actually seem to enjoy them), they listed it on the menu as Eggs Merrill.

Wine

Lindsay-Jean: I'm a regular at our neighborhood wine shop, Everyday Wines. I can't use sophisticated language to tell you all about the nuances of the wines I like to drink, but luckily the owner, Mary Campbell, knows my palate better than I do, and always recommends the perfect crisp rosés in the summertime and big-bodied reds in the wintertime.

Jeremy: To me, being recognized is one of the best things a restaurant can do to make me come back again and again (beyond having great food, of course). My favorite experience started at a previous job where I had to travel through Los Angeles about every two months. As part of my travel departure ritual, I would have dinner at The Gorbals (Ilan Hall's restaurant) the evening before I flew home. It was a favorite of mine for traveling solo as they had a small counter overlooking their tiny kitchen, and the kitchen staff, Ilan included, was friendly and very chatty. But the best part was that I could come back after being gone for 2 months and they treated me like a guest who came every other day, remembering that I was from Virginia and details from my work.

When Ilan opened the NYC version of The Gorbals in Brooklyn, I went to visit shortly after starting at Food52. And even though it had been over 2 years since I had been to his restaurant in LA, Ilan came by when I sat down at his new chef's counter with a puzzled look on his face asking where we had met before. That recognition makes his restaurant a place I will go back to as often as I can. 

Soup

Lauren K.: I used to work summers during college at a little spot called The Farm Cafe outside of Santa Cruz, California—and even years later, the owner, Steve, (who was gruff and taciturn to pretty much everyone) would whip up a batch of my favorite soup the day after I got back into town—all I had to do was stop by and say hello to him, and he'd tell me to come back the next day for soup. 

Photo doughnuts by Alpha Smoot; photos of gelato and noodles by James Ransom; photo of pretzels by Emily Hilliard; 

Share stories of your own neighborhood haunts in the comments below!

5 Comments

JAH July 27, 2015
Alex and Sam -- Lee enjoyed this post also. He hung out at the Waverly when he lived on Grand Street back in 1981. Thank you for such fun Caroline!
 
Alex W. July 27, 2015
I guess I'm a regular at becoming a regular. Samantha already mentioned a few that apply to me but this article got me reminiscing some other past haunts.<br /><br />While in college and studying jazz piano at The New School I became a regular at the Waverly Diner on Waverly and 6th Ave. I'd show up around 2 or 3 am—after the late sets at Smalls or the Village Vanguard—so often that the servers (Kumar and Bobby) would shout greetings when I'd walk in and immediately place my order (french toast and a small orange juice) before I even sat down. New York City was absolutely overwhelming to me as a fresh-faced 16-year-old from a small town of about 3,000 people and the Waverly was critical in helping me gain my footing here.<br /><br />Fast forward ten years to 2012 and I'm trying to make it doing freelance web-design. Every day I would bring my laptop to Court Street Grocers in Carroll Gardens, get a cup of coffee, a Macho Man sandwich (pork shoulder, cabot cheddar, coleslaw, pickled peppers, duck sauce on garlic bread), and set to work on any number of projects, often going back to the counter for some carrot cake or babka. At some point, I realized that the food was more consistent than my work so I asked the owners, Matt and Eric, if I could pick up a few shifts working the register. It eventually became a 5-day-a-week thing and I became the one recognizing and chatting with the regulars.
 
Rebekah G. July 25, 2015
I love this post and want to become a regular somewhere! Our Whole Foods has so many long-time staffers that I know a lot of them now. I think being a regular changes with the ebbs and flows of life, especially in our culture where everyone moves so often, but it's worth prioritizing for sure.
 
cv July 24, 2015
I dine out infrequently these days, but for sure, I am a regular at my city's farmers market. Every Sunday rain or shine unless I'm out of town. After the farmers market, I always walk over to a particular independent coffee shop.<br /><br />There's also a favorite sports bar plus one beer garden that I patronize about once a week, but I don't think showing up at a bar weekly is all that "regular." :-)
 
Hannah @. July 24, 2015
I live in Sydney, Australia and - like some of you - have worked on the other side of the counter as well. My last cafe job ended about ten years ago but, all these years later, I still recognise old customers (and remember their coffee order!) <br /><br />At the moment, my favourite local haunt is a cute Cafe in our locar area called Envy. It has a really nice, secluded outdoor area and you really feel like you've escaped the hustle and bustle of the city.<br /><br />Hannah, Whisked (www.whiskedblog.com)