Rules for a successful food tour. « blogging for burgers

Rules for a successful food tour.

I awoke this morning to a pounding headache and a feeling of nausea that started from deep within the depths of my body.  I was weak.  My eyes couldn’t focus.  I was congested.  I was exhausted.

No, I did not awake to a cold or a flu.  I woke up in a black hole after a night of raging out on the town.  Not just any kind of raging, but a food/bar crawl, sampling wares from many places in New York’s East Village.

We scoured the neighborhood like animals, looking for food and drink possibilities.  Our goal was to somehow have every continent represented in our consumption (it was achieved with the exception of antarctica… maybe we should have gotten some ice).

We stopped in at numerous locations, such as…

  • B-Bar
  • Decibel
  • Baoguette Café
  • Crif Dog
  • Blue and Gold Tavern
  • Drop Off Service
  • Zaragoza Mexican Deli
  • Led Zeppole

Yes, that list reads like a direct-response TV advertisement.  In my hungover stupor, I thought about how a group of four people could possibly go to so many places.  Sometimes Burgergal and I have trouble making a decision on ONE place, and that’s half the number of opinions.  The more I thought about it, the more a clear set of guidelines emerged from last night’s revelry.

I therefore present to you, my devoted readers, a basic set of rules so that you, too, can enjoy a night out on the town and experience the joys of a food and drink hangover.

Rule #1: Pick a good neighborhood.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but a successful food/pub crawl is all about location.  You need venue density, because odds are pretty good that you will need a back-up plan if a restaurant can’t accommodate your group or if a desired location has an incredibly long wait.  You also don’t want to have to travel much between locations.  Think about it: if you start out at Schiller’s on the LES, how much steam are you going to have when you come out of a bumpy, jaw-clenching cab ride up to Morningside Heights?  Sure, Schiller’s might have a great bar scene and Melba’s has great chicken and waffles, but that travel is a guaranteed buzzkill.

Rule #2: Do your research.

I am usually pretty lazy in this regard, but fortunately Burgergal keeps a running tab of places she wants to check out.  When the idea of a food tour came up, she was armed with a list of places in close proximity to one another.  Her choices spanned cuisine types and price points, so that there was certainly something for everyone’s tastes (this builds upon Rule #1).  Uberchef and his lady also came in with some ideas, so that made the pot even richer.

Without a pre-determined list of venues, there is going to be downtime, and downtime = fatigue set-in.  There is always time to add venues (more on that later), but starting from scratch is way more difficult than building upon a solid foundation.

Rule #3: Don’t arrive famished.

This may seem counter-intuitive since the whole point is to eat and drink a bunch, but this is key.  Here is why:

“I’m pretty hungry…” –> “Let’s just pick a place” –> “I don’t care where we go, I just need something to eat.  Seriously.” –> “I’m tired, I’m going home now.”

That is an unstoppable progression that is sure to put someone in a bad mood (either you or your significant other).  So do yourself a favor and have a snack beforehand.  Then kick off the night with a quick cocktail and brief discussion of what lies ahead.

Last night, for example, we started off at B-Bar.  That is by no means my favorite bar in the neighborhood (far from it, actually), but it was a) convenient b) centrally located and c) is not a “destination” that could be a time-suck.  We had a quick drink to get a slight buzz going and then hit up Baoguette Café (our first food stop of the evening).  Especially during the week, you need a little decompression time, and it’s hard to do that on an empty stomach.

Rule #4: Be flexible.

Even in the best neighborhood with the most choices and an extensive list of options, odds are pretty good you are going to get shut out somewhere (after all, the odds are equally good that others want to go to the same places that you do).  You’ve gotta be flexible and be able to roll with the punches.

Last night, Burgergal wanted to go to Caracas.  That was her #1 choice.  We got there and faced a 90-minute wait.  Yikes!  We then walked down the block to Blue and Gold for a quick $4 Macallan and a re-group.  We decided to hit up Crif Dog instead.  While Burgergal didn’t get her arepa, she got a bacon-wrapped chili dog.  Not a bad alternative, I’d say.

Rule #5: Bring cash.  The paper stuff.

It comes in handy.  As convenient as credit cards are, splitting things multiple ways is a pain in the ass.  Seoul Brother, our (occasional) East Asian correspondent, told me once that in South Korea, late-night crews put together a pot of money at the start of the night and bounce from place to place until the money is gone.  It goes against the American way, but it prevents you from finding a $275 bar receipt the next morning.

Rule #6: Leave every place hungry for more.

Don’t blow your load on an awesome spicy Banh mi from Baoguette right at the beginning of the evening.  Slow and steady wins the race.  You want to be the one putting back fried Oreos like a champ at the end of the evening.  Do yourself a favor and keep the noshing small.  Share with your compatriots if you can.

Think about it this way: what tastes better, a slice of crappy pizza at 3pm or a slice of crappy pizza at 3am?  Pace yourself.

Rule #7: Give yourselves a collective goal.

Our goal last night was to consume something representing every continent.  While our success was questionable, it gave us the motivation to keep going and it focused our wandering.  It was also just plain fun and spurned some interesting debates (my personal favorite: a beef hot dog represents the US/North America because of Chicago all-beef style, while a pork and beef dog represents Austria/Europe because of Vienna-style wieners).

And keep your eye on the prize: spotting the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck on Avenue A was tempting, but that would have killed me for sure.  It’s hard to put back an Australian Pale Ale after a Salty Pimp.

With the above things in mind, you are sure to have an awesome night!

And some highlights of the evening: Zaragoza Deli (awesome tacos, specials change nightly, grab a beer and hang out for the atmosphere), Led Zeppole (donuts are awesome), Crif Dog (no explanation necessary).

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