You like food newsletters? Sure you do, everybody likes food newsletters
Plus an oyster trail in Maine, noodles and grief in Boston, and tacos in Disneyland
You might notice things look a bit different this issue. I’ve moved Snack Cart over to Substack. Unfortunately, I was not offered a huge deal to spend the next year building out my audience (YET!! Get at me Alden Global Capital!!!!!).
First, the news you can use: I’m not planning to start charging for Snack Cart anytime soon. Substack hosts email lists for free so at least I can stop paying $80/month to send (or not send) the Cart. It also has a nicer and more SEO-friendly web presence.
For those that care about six-month-old digital media drama, I’m pretty comfortable throwing in with Substack for a bit. Most of my thoughts were summed up well by Ashley Feinberg in her first post. There are some writers I absolutely can’t stand on the platform, but that’s true of literally every platform. Substack is doing a simple thing well and right now it’s the best tool for me (though I’m also looking seriously at Revue).
Will the UX of Substack help me explain to my Mom this isn’t a blog? No, it will not.
What does it look like to make a living on a newsletter? Casey Newton (formerly of The Verge) wrote a great piece looking at his first year of running an independent newsletter. It’s a lot of work, but I agree with him that I wish more writers would consider it. Especially writers who want to focus on their local community.
Food newsletters are still figuring out their space and there are some awesome ones out there. Last year TASTE highlighted newsletters as the future of food media (and interviewed me!). I thought this would be a good opportunity to highlight a few of my favorites:
Family Meal - Ricky Gervais once described Steve Carell’s performance in The Office as “doing what I did, only better and getting paid more”. That’s generally how I feel about Family Meal. It’s Politico, but for the food world. It’s a twice-a-week (one paid) summary of food’s gossip and drama with a bent towards industry people.
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy - If you want something with a more personal viewpoint, this is great. She writes a mix of home cooking and restaurant/industry stuff. I really enjoyed (even if I disagreed) with her recent post on salt.
Vittles - Probably the best food newsletter out there, and I said that BEFORE they published an issue about Jonathan Gold’s use of the second person. It’s London-centric, but in ways that are interesting to outsiders. I also appreciate how it’s grown from one person to multiple authors while still feeling like it has a cohesive voice.
Tim Hayward, the restaurant critic for the Financial Times, writes a broadside against fake meat. He points out that none of these companies care about animals or sustainability, but rather a form of meat they can patent. I agree that the hedge funds investing in fake meat don’t care about the environment, but I disagree that that means fake meat is bad. I don’t think we will ever get people to stop eating meat. The bulk of the meat eaten in the world is… barely meat! (consider the chicken nugget). If we can convert a lot of that to fake meat, it’s a huge reduction in animal suffering and waste. Hayward calls fake meat “Meathadone”, ignoring the fact that Methadone isn’t intended to be great for you, but is much much better for you than heroin.
Elizabeth Bruenig uses her Grub Street Diet to remind us that writers are, like, good at writing. This is one of the best one of these I have read in a long time. She makes being a parent sound exhausting, hilarious, and doable. People on the Internet got mad she said she doesn’t care about GMOs, but knowing her they would have been mad about something else. This includes both a good recipe for baked ziti, a story about doing mushrooms, and a digression on socialism and leisure. It’s good, people.
Elazar Sontag drops a substantial story for Eater: The Great Shortage. The new reality for restaurants across the country is shortage of everything: food, building materials, and workers. The pandemic may be receding, but the world hasn’t finished changing.
Speaking of which, BOOZE SHORTAGES IN PENNSYLVANIA EVERYONE FREAK OUT AND BREAK SHIT.
UNITE HERE is organizing the staff at HelloFresh, the largest meal kit company in the world. Come for the story of an increasingly-organized service sector, stay for the insights into the meal kit industry, which was essentially saved by the pandemic.
Speaking of unionization, the Nabisco Workers Strike is over. Over 75% of the union voted in favor of it, though some argued to hold out for a better deal.
César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier are two of the biggest names in restaurant history, but (perhaps rightly) were not above a hustle. This TASTE article from 2018 summarizes the sordid parts of their careers.
My wish has been fulfilled! Jenny G. Zhang is writing pretty regular food articles for Gawker. She is doing absurdist food reviews like this one of Costco Chocolate Chip Muffins. She also highlights Burger King’s new celebrity meals. Celebrity fast food partnerships are something I completely missed until I ordered one last week. I’m old and washed now.
TASTE profiles food brands across the country that are hiring formerly incarcerated individuals. Not to be too Matt Yglesias (I am on Substack now), but I wish this article had mentioned macro-economic trends. This is framed as good companies and heroic nonprofits, but it’s also downstream of the government’s pandemic subsidies. Employers are desperate for workers, and so they’re willing to invest more and hire from marginalized groups. The article would be stronger if it had more context around how the pandemic and increased worker power are part of this trend.
The Counter publishes the first in a trilogy of stories that promise to be absolutely essential. They dive deeply into the prison labor food industry. No one really knows how big it is, but across the country prisoners can be forced into agricultural work for almost no wages. It sounds dramatic to describe the carceral state as modern day slavery, but reading about a prison where mostly black inmates, incarcerated for life, work for $0.04 per hour farming corn and soybeans… what else do you call that? This was a dense but important read.
JSTOR now has a… blog? Sure! Why not?! Their post on the history of the taco truck includes links to a ton of scholarly journal articles I sadly don’t have the money or time to read.
Everything is a subscription company, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Taco Bell is.
Speaking of subscriptions, don’t miss an issue of Snack Cart. Delivered weekly to your inbox.
Kim Severson visits Virginia to profile Leni Sorensen. The cantankerous and profane culinary history is newly famous after her appearances in Netflix’s High on the Hog. She’s lived a heck of a life.
Pete Wells likes Shukette, a new casual Middle Eastern spot. He says that New York is overdue for restaurants presenting a more modern take on Middle Eastern food considering how many other cities have them. There are some misses, but the food is fun and big-hearted.
Brooklyn Magazine highlights the recently-opened Mo’s General off the Lorimer stop. It’s a pizza shop, it’s a general store, it’s a combination pizza shop and general store (from part of the team behind Olmstead).
New York Magazine profiles William Mullan, an urban forager who discovers, maps, and photographs apple trees around the city. New York is so great and weird, man.
Last week we read some deep dives into how difficult it is to be a food delivery worker. This week, the City Council is poised to pass a cluster of bills designed to provide some relief for them.
Ryan Sutton revisits 188 Cuchifritos in the Bronx. This is an outpost of a declining style of cuisine in New York: the Puerto Rican and Dominican lunch counters that specialize in fried pork. This review made me think again about Eater dropping the star system. Reviews with stars means when a new restaurant of a certain level of “importance” opens, food people all wait around to find out how many stars it will get. That puts pressure on critics to use their limited space and time to visit “important” places. No stars reduces that pressure on Sutton and lets him write about more varied kinds of places. Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve had some blood sausage and I gotta get up here and get some.
Robert Sietsema goes to the newly opened Sami & Susu, a Brooklyn pop-up that has found a forever home on the Lower East Side. This place is hard to explain, as it’s Israeli, but with food that is also Turkish, Eastern European, French, and Lower East Side Jewish.
Terrence Doyle writes a beautiful essay about the Noodle King in the Longwood Galleria food court. While his father was battling cancer, Noodle King provided a welcome respite from the food at the hospital as part of his daily visit. Doyle says that a bowl of noodles can’t save a life, but I’m not sure he’s right.
Bar pizza finally hits Boston proper. Thankfully no one has yet taken my idea for a Chow Mein Sandwich truck.
Kara Baskin interviews Emile Kamadeu, a Cameroonian immigrant, jack of all trades, and owner of newly-opened Sahel in Lowell. My guess is because of how expensive Greater Boston is getting, we’re going to see much more interesting food in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities over the next decade.
I don’t usually promote events (that would meanI have to get the Cart out on time) but I have like four different friends connected to this one: Head out to the new indoor-outdoor bar Sake Day East at the Charles River Speedway to celebrate World Sake Day. There will be a food, oysters, and lots of sake. I can think of literally nothing more pleasant. (Friday, Oct 1, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.)
You like food halls? Sure you do, everyone likes food halls! Devra First reviews the new one located at the Boston Garden/North Station megaplex and I kid but boy does it sound great.
MAINE HAS AN OYSTER TRAIL AND NONE OF YOU ASSHOLES TOLD ME.
No matter where you are from, you can probably remember a beloved seasonal restaurant. The kind of place whose open signaled the beginning of summer. In Chicago, it’s Mario’s Italian Lemonade. The Tribune profiles this generational affair.
Can a world-famous beer brand make it in a town like Chicago? We’ll have to wait and see.
I had never heard of a cevapi before, but the Serbian sausage sandwich is taking Chicago by storm. As I was reading this review of Kiosk Balkan Street Food and trying to picture the sandwich in my head, a giant photo scrolled up. Reader, I gasped.
Pilsen has a new Chinese mega-market and food hall. The team at the Tribune takes it upon themselves to review every stall at the new 88 Marketplace (no relation to the many other 88 markets worldwide). There are some big winners (milk tea, hot pot), and a few places that seem as if you could skip (Pho).
Dave’s Red Hots, the oldest hot dog stand in Chicago, is even older than we thought. After the Tribune published a story about Dave’s, extended families came out of the woodwork to fill in the blanks and provide more early history. This is why local newspapers are great.
Chicago Reader previews all of the great cookbooks with Midwestern ties dropping this fall. Someone buy me that history of Wisconsin supper clubs please and thank you.
I no longer hate Disneyland, but I will never understand Disney people. However, I would like Disneyland more if it had more tacos. LA Taco profiles Taquería El Poblano in Compton, whose owner has dreamed of selling tacos at or near Disneyland for years and whose wish has come true.
Pastrami tacos? Pastrami tacos! #PastramiTacos
I… I cannot really handle the egg-based pun in the headline of this review. Click through if you dare. I did learn something about omelettes, though.
Out of context J. Gold of the week
Lately, I have been going to Aladdin Falafelso often that my truck practically guides itself into the restaurant's tiny parking lot, a cheerful sandwich place in the usual Westside mini-mall, jammed in next to an underachieving tandoori chicken joint and surrounded by storefronts that seem to change ownership more often than money-laundered C-notes at the Republican National Committee - link