The downside of the tens of thousands of NYC eating options is that they all can’t last forever. Due to severe competition, greedy landlords and fickle trends, some really great, unique eateries vanish overnight. Here is my homage to a few deserving ones…
Mama’s Food Shop (10-21-12) – My beloved Mama’s Food Shop has closed after 17 years as my favorite cheap eats destination. I have been frequenting Mama’s from the beginning, enjoying heaping plates of fried chicken, mac & cheese, and greens for the absurd price of about $12. The cafeteria style service and the East Village vibe were so comforting to me and the many people I have introduced to Mama’s. With all of those portraits of Mamas looking down at you, you couldn’t help leaving Mama’s with a big smile and bigger belly. Spud and I will miss Mama’s dearly. While we only visited a few times per year, we thought Mama’s would always be there for us, serving mounds of soul food when we needed it. But that’s just not the case. People, please get on the phone now and call your own Mama, or better yet, pay her a visit! Here is my love letter to Mama’s from January 2010.
Mundo & La Papa in Astoria (11-01-12) – This duo by the same owners have both closed now. Mundo had been a personal favorite, and had lasted over 7 years serving a truly unique menu of Turkish and Argentinian dishes with lots of style, and a wonderful host. We will miss their Red Sonja, insane Vegetarian Wrap, and Ottoman Dumplings. La Papa, a baked potato mecca, was obviously Spud’s dream come true. It was a shrine to the tuber with amazing baked potatoes and unlimited toppings. Favorite: All American with cheddar, bacon, broccoli and pickles. Hopefully the owners will be back with a new truck that I can stalk.
Jacques Imo’s – It is still very popular in New Orleans, but unfortunately the NYC location only lasted 4 years. It had all the kitsch and grub of genuine N’awlins, and I am not sure why it closed, but it could have been due to location. Columbus Ave on the UWS is not the best place for a theme based destination eatery. Or it could have been the excessively heavy food. Either way, it may have fared better in midtown or a more touristy location. I will miss the food and fun though. It is nearly impossible to find solid, classic N.O. cooking in NYC.
Mo Pitkin’s – I actually never got around to eating here, which I am bummed about because it was certainly an unusual experience. It always had live music, and a fun Jewish-Latino menu representing of its alphabet city neighborhood. I mean where else can you get a “Cuban-Reuben”???
Shopsin’s Wow, talk about a one-of-a-kind! Shopsin’s was a New York original if I’ve ever seen one. It was so special that they made a documentary about it a few years ago called “I Like Killing Flies“. The movie wasn’t bad, but the menu is the special thing. It is by far the largest menu I have ever encountered. I think there are 100 different soups alone. Check it out below (that’s only page 1 of 2!). Plus, the rigid, cranky owner has his own list of eccentric rules posted on the doors. I have heard rumors that it has sprouted up in a new location. Hopefully it will be the same…
Update: The current location in the Essex Market (120 Essex Street) is not the same as the stand-alone. It’s a small afterthought in the market and while the crazy menu remains, the setting does not fully showcase the eccentric personality of Kenny Shopsin or his rogue style. The food is still wild, and it’s worth going to, just to have to make the world’s toughest menu decision.