How Urban Development Shaped the Way 19th-century New Yorkers Ate

“New York City is famous for its food culture, whether it’s a $500 tasting menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a bodega bacon, egg, and cheese. It’s possible to find food from every corner of the world, no matter how obscure. Restaurants make, and sometimes unmake, entire neighborhoods.

This is a city that eats out. But that wasn’t always the case. Rewind just over 200 years, when New York was caught between being a Dutch colony and a city, and dining out was a rarity. As the city urbanized, how its residents ate profoundly changed.

An oyster cart, circa 1885

“Food serves as a nice medium to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of New York City history,” says Victoria Flexner, the founder of Edible History, a supper club that creates dinners themed around specific historical moments. Recently Flexner and chef Jay Reifel hosted a meal at the James Beard House that told the story of New York City’s urban development in the 19th century through how its residents dined out.

As the city became rapidly industrialized in the 19th century, a new system emerged to feed these workers: the mobile food cart.

While politicians, businessmen, and other white-collar workers went to oyster cellars and restaurants for their midday meals, lunch came to the working class. Vendors would park outside of factories and docks and, for a few pennies, would sell items like gingerbread, yams, oysters, and corn.”

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Refined British Restaurant Found Hiding in a Brooklyn Bar

Image result for Cherry Point new york

“Cherry Point sits on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, a few steps from the corner where Bedford Avenue, having flowed all the way across Brooklyn from the shores of Sheepshead Bay, suddenly comes to an end. The area is marked by a cluster of restaurants. Some have a washed-up feeling, as if they’d all been drifting along in Bedford’s currents and had been stranded there. A few stand out in the landscape.

In the fall, Cherry Point took a decisive turn into the second category when a new chef took over, but not everyone in the neighborhood seems to realize it yet. People still tumble in for happy hour, when servers whose hairstyles take a minute to adjust to will pour three-gulp martinis, manhattans and Rob Roys (due for a revival) in little Nick & Nora glasses for $8 each, and then after happy hour ends at 7 p.m. most of the crowd generally drifts out to find somewhere else for dinner. The space, with its old-timey wainscoting and its central bar, is easy to mistake for a tavern.”

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Why small wine lists may be ideal for restaurants

“Picture yourself in a fancy restaurant known for its wine list. The host hands you a heavy leather volume, or maybe an iPad, to peruse pages upon pages of bottle selections.

Maybe you’re in the mood for something specific, so you navigate to the category you want. From there, you focus on a country, a grape and finally, you make a selection from 10–12 bottles. But if you don’t have a predetermined wine in mind, you’re left guessing what your companions like and what will complement their meals. Sure, the floor sommelier can help, and it’s exciting to have s many options, but it can also add a layer of complication and intimidation.

Enter the small wine list. If a big tome conveys gravitas and leather-bound luxury, a small printed list speaks to elegance, simplicity and ease. Instead of flipping through numerous pages of bottles before you even look at the menu, you can order wine at a glance and focus on your date, friends or family.”

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