07.07.2019
Black Midi
Schlagenheim

Black Midi (or, if you're following their their own style guide, black midi) appeared in England this year, as English bands occasionally do, surrounded by some of the most hyperbolic praise you've ever heard, fully mysterious, mercurial, seemingly ready to redefine the very nature of guitar-based Western music as we know it. But this was only coming from people who'd seem them at one of their many infamous live shows at random London clubs over the course of the year; they had recorded nothing so there was no other way to judge.

Then they released a couple songs, and it was like, "Oh shit. This might be for real."

Then they released a few more, played some American shows (in Minneapolis of all places!), and did a full performance filmed for KEXP, and the mystery wasn't quite as mysterious anymore. But they were clearly still very talented and just bathed in potential.

Then they released their debut LP Schlagenheim, and all the hype and potential and insanity has turned into something far more simple: Black Midi is a very good mathy post-hardcore band. They don't sound like nothing we've ever heard before; they sound like Battles, they sound like Shellac, they sound like At the Drive In, they sound like Hella. But! They sound like Black Midi too. And they sound very very good. The other thing about this group is that they're all babies—teenagers when they started, they're all 20 or 21 now—but they sound like they've been playing with each other for a decade. Absolutely tight, absolutely slotted.

There is some "jazz" in their music, in that they're listening to one another and I'm sure there's improvisation at work, even though I'd not want to push that angle too far. They're just 4 fucking talented instrumentalists totally locked in and not afraid to make weird, heavy music in 2019. No, they're not changing the game or redefining the meaning of music in the 21st century, but they're running laps around a lot of the other bands who tried to do what they're doing 10 years ago, when it was a cooler thing to do. So shit, I'll allow them some hype for that.

This time next year they'll be broken up. I'm sure of it.

06.22.2019
Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars

I haven't listened to enough latter-day Springsteen albums in my life to properly place Western Stars into context. To be totally honest, I haven't even listened to enough old Springsteen albums to do so either. Still, I am shocked—shocked—at how good about half this album is. This is some of the most beautiful music I've heard all year. "Hello Sunshine" floored me when it first circulated online earlier this Spring; I listened to it about 10 times that day and it hasn't lost a bit of its power today. "The Wayfarer" could've been an all-timer tune with the E Street Band in the 70s, but works just as well in the rhinestone cowboy context of this record sung by a very different kind of 70's Bruce. "Drive Fast," "Stones," and "Somewhere North of Nashville," "Chasin' Wild Horses" and the title track "Western Stars" all cover similar acoustic ballad territory but are equally powerful. "Sundown" is corny but hearing Bruce belt the chorus like the finale of a Grand Ol Opry Vegas revue is riveting.

The rest of the songs are awful.

Truly. The gap between the good stuff and the bad stuff on this album is unlike anything in recent memory. Clearly some of these tunes were recorded at different sessions with different producers and different musicians, and it shows and it's a bummer. It's crazy to say a 2019 album by a nearly 70-year-old Bruce Springsteen inspired by Glen Campbell and George Jones and 1960s California country western pop ballads could've been one of the best albums of the decade (and his career?). It could've been the anti-Cash: aging icon makes an album about the pain of being an aging icon, except instead death and despair it's sunshine and hope. Like I said, the good songs here are fantastic. But if he just could've hooked up with the right producers and collaborators to fill this thing out—Van Dyke Parks? T Bone Burnett? Brandi Carlile? Owen Pallett? Matthew White? Dare I fucking say Jon Brion?—this could've been a head-spinning album. At the very least someone should've told him not to put "Sleepy Joe's Cafe" on there.


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06.18.2019
Cate Le Bon
Reward

I went into this liking Cate Le Bon a lot. Her music is weird and unique, but has a calming sincerity to it, and is always 100% her. The couple lead singles I heard to this new one Reward had me on the edge of my seat, ready to call it the album of the year, and not need to listen to anything else between now and January. To quote something I wrote in an unnamed comment section somewhere, "I loved the songs on the last Cate Le Bon record, but I feel like these new ones actually love me back." And they do. The rest of the album though, is closer to more-of-the-same. Which is still great. But like I still want to listen to other things too.

06.18.2019
Wuhling
Extra 6

Here's the chain of events:

• I logged on to Facebook and saw a post I made one year ago about Steve Albini winning money in the World Series of Poker tournament.
• Curious about how he fared or if he entered this year's tournament, I googled "Steve Albini World Series of Poker." On Google, obviously.
• The search results were all from last year's story, but I went ahead and clicked on one of the links to refresh my memory on the story.
• In the intro to this story, it was mentioned that he'd talked in the past about being a poker player. This linked to a different article, and I clicked.
• This new story was from nearly 10 years ago, and talked about how a regular commenter on a popular poker message board, who was long rumored to be Albini, finally came clean and introduced himself. He then offered to answer any questions anyone on the board might have about his career in music.
• Some of the questions and answers were posted in the article, and one of them was about which albums he felt regret about—instances where he felt he could've done a better job, or didn't have the time to do his best work, etc. The answer he gave was the album Extra 6, a 1996 record by the mostly-forgotten post-rock band Wuhling. He said their first album sounded great, and he did their second, but for some reason it never sounded right to him, even though their songs and performances were solid, but he was never able to perfect it.
• Curious, having never heard of Wuhling, I Googled them (on Google, again). I certainly didn't recognize them or this album, but I listened to a bit of it on a random YouTube link, and enjoyed when I heard. They sound very much like a 1996 post rock group—shades of Slint, a little Tortoise, a little Mogwai, even more Slint, with the refreshing bonus of a minimalist female vocalist on most tracks. I decided I def want the album for my collection.
• Couldn't find it. It's not on iTunes/Bandcamp/Amazon or any other legit mp3 retailer. It's not on Spotify. Not surprising I guess, considering they were a German band who released just 2 albums in the 90s. Maybe I could find their CD at Academy Records or some weirdo NYC music place, but that could take a while.
• I couldn't even find it on random shady mp3 sharing blogs. Nowhere! So:
• I went the shadiest route of all: I used a tool to download the one YouTube version of the album as a single mp3 track, opened it up in my audio editor to separate the tracks, and bingo. All because Facebook reminded me about Steve Albini's 2018 poker victory.

More importantly, this album is actually pretty sweet. I've listened to the thing about 6 times since yesterday. It's nothing too crazy or particularly unique (did I mention Slint yet?), but it's totally solid and extremely listenable. I get Albini's complaint about it though; it sounds good, but it's flatter and duller than his usual samurai-sharp recordings. Some of that is probably because I'm listening to an mp3 rip of an mp3 rip of a YouTube upload of an mp3 rip of a 20 year old CD, but that's here nor there. This album is rad, Wuhling seems like they were cool, and the internet is weird.

05.31.2019
Sing Sinck Sing
Are Sing Sinck Sing

Sing Sinck Sing is a new project (are you keeping track?) of one of the ringleaders of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Efrim Manuel Menuck. It's a beauty, an intense collection of droning analog oscillators and maybe some guitars and some voices, still as harmonic as you might expect from the Godspeed guy. But what strikes me most about the Godspeed guy, as I've come to realize in the last couple years, is he really might be one of the best writers in music, which of course is ironic considering how most of his music is instrumental. I believe I went into detail about this theory back when I wrote up the latest Godspeed album, but just the song titles on this Sing Sinck Sing record are captivating to read. "Do The Police Embrace?" / "A Humming Void In An Emptied Place" / "Joy Is On Her Mount And Death Is At Her Side" / "Fight The Good Fight" / "We Will" (these last two on their own might sound too college-freshman on their own, but in the context of his decades of work there's a certain pugnacity in their basicness). Even the name "Sing Sinck Sing" is an enigmatic wordfuck.

05.30.2019
George McCrae
Rock Your Baby

I was shocked to learn, just last year, that Yo La Tengo's modern classic "You Can Have It All" is in fact a cover of an old 70s soul/disco song. I suppose it makes some sense; doing tasteful covers of record-bin classics is a longstanding part of Yo La Tengo's modus operandi, and the song always had a sprightly bounce that stood out on that album. Anyway, I found the original on YouTube, enjoyed it, and moved on with my life.

So then at the beginning of this week, I checked on in Stereogum's "Number Ones" article, part of a daily series running down every Billboard #1 single since the 1950s (it's truly a great series, giving new context to songs you've heard thousands of times, and offering some surprises as well. Recommended!), and that day's #1 was "Rock Your Baby", an early proto-disco hit by George McCrae. You've heard the song before, I'm sure, but as I was listening to it, something struck me: it sounded like Yo La Tengo. I mean, it didn't sound like Yo La Tengo—nobody was ever going to think "Rock Your Baby" was a deep cut from I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, but it had this droning organ and crude synthetic drum that felt like something Yo La Tengo would do, as if "Rock Your Baby" was a part of their musical DNA, maybe from their youth. Then reading down the article a little, it's mentioned that McCrae is the one that originally recorded "You Can Have It All"! I had no idea that was his song when I made the connection from a different song! But really, something that George McCrae was doing seeped its way into those mad genius Hoboken Gen Xers 15 years later.

Part 3 of this tale is that while I was trying to unravel this "Rock Your Baby"/"You Can Have It All" situation, I found myself really, truly enjoying this record. Disco was just becoming a thing, and this (as you can read in that Stereogum article) was technically the first ever #1 song to be recorded specifically for disco clubs. But it doesn't have that gold-foiled, coked-out jumpsuit vibe that later disco would piledrive into the floor, it has some gentle soul to it. The whole album is a completely enjoyable listen, and I've been putting it on a lot this week. I'm not going to try to push some nonsense "George McCrae was a secret genius" line, because that's not the case—although "You Can Have It All" and "I Get Lifted" (later sampled on "Gin And Juice" and 100 other 90s hip hop tracks) are damn fine pieces of record-making. But this album is just a total pleasant surprise for me, and I'm going to keep coming back to it for a while.

05.29.2019
The Shins
Oh Inverted World

Imagine a world where the Shins released Oh Inverted World and then broke up or disappeared or perished in a plane crash or imploded into a black hole or whatever else would lead them to not release any music anymore. Also maybe Zach Braff also found that same fate in that same black hole. Oh Inverted World would be legendary today. Sure, it's always been admired and lauded to an extent, but I think that the subsequent years of consistently okay-to-good Shins releases have obscured it.

Listen to this album with fresh ears. It's phenomenal. Everything about it is perfect, from the unique melodies (I love when a songwriter is able to find paths through chords that are fully their own, like musical fingerprints, which James Mercer does—or did—better than nearly anyone else in indie rock at the time), to beautifully expressionistic lyrics, 90% of which I have no idea what they even are to this day, simple instrumentation just barely twisted into a lo-fi psychedelic audio palette, flawless sequencing, upbeat jams, melancholy ballads, and a very pretty (albeit very early 00s) cover. It's all so simple, yet composed and performed so beautifully that it becomes its own (inverted?) world.

I wrote something like this in my post on the last Shins album, but to sum up: the Shins never went Full Weezer. They haven't embarrassed themselves, they haven't released any duds or genre experiments or collaborations with Billy Ray Cyrus. But there's been a slow dulling of the edges, that started all the way back with their follow up to this one. Things got shinier, the simplicity disappeared into studio perfection, and when that became too boring and they tried to move back into scarier territory, they'd seemingly gotten too good to accidentally create a work of transcendence like Oh Inverted World.

This has never been my favorite album, or even on my all time top 10 (if I was to make such a list). I have no particular emotional bonds with it, despite listening to it a lot in college, but it's not a specific nostalgia trip for me. But when I listen to it now, it's like a hot knife into my ribs. It's so pure and good. I've never broken down crying listening to it, but I wouldn't be surprised if that happens at least once by the time I'm 70.

05.20.2019
Vampire Weekend
Father of the Bride

Father of the Bride is Vampire Weekend's Blonde. But not their Blonde on Blonde. Or is it Blond? That's what the cover says. No, I think it's Blonde.

04.29.2019
Sunn O)))
Life Metal

The guys from Sunn O))) dress like wizards, but Steve Albini actually is one.

04.29.2019
Possible Humans
Everybody Split

Possible Humans are extremely Melbourne in that weirdly specific way that bands from Melbourne are. Dry and jangly and direct and melodic with just a hint of bitterness. The first few songs are great, but then I zone out a little, so I don't know.

04.29.2019
Billy Woods
Hiding Places

Billy Woods isn't the most charismatic, energetic, transformative, convivial, melodic, magnetic, revolutionary, or even entertaining rapper, but he writes like a damn Pulitzer winner. Three brief excerpts:

But the sun crept,
diggin' at that empty house as the shadow stretched
The dog ran off, didn't come back yet

Overseas connection choppy, she's gettin' worse
Your sister talked to the nurse, everybody in church
Everybody wants to know if you comin'
But they won't say the words

I don’t wanna go see Nas with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

These are just three kinda random pulls, but every song on this album plays out with the tension and release of a very good short story. And not in like a "um actually rappers are really storytellers have you ever listened to Ghostface?" kind of way. Even though Ghostface is great. But Billy Woods is on his own level as far as wordsmithing goes. And the beats he works with are dark, minimal, and weird, making this whole album a gripping listen, if not a very fun one.

07.07.2019 - by Steve
Captain James CrabhouseBaltimore
Steamed crabs

Ate a bunch of crabs. Had to tear their guts out and stuff. It was a primal experience and the crab tasted good. Got a little tired of it though.

07.07.2019 - by Steve
Boog's BarbecueBaltimore
Barbecue pit beef

Camden Yards is a very important ballpark, in that it changed the way that every ballpark since has been designed and built (for better or worse, but I'll go ahead and say better). It's still a great place to watch a baseball game, and a charming piece of architecture, even if it's been copied and and bettered in many ways in ensuing years. I like Camden Yards.

Boog's Barbecue, found out in right field in the alley by the iconic warehouse, is in its own way a very important food stand. It's become tediously normal now, a stadium showcasing unique local foods and restaurants rather than simply offering hot dogs and nachos, but in the early 90s Boog's was one of the first. Every time a TV announcer talked about how beautiful Camden was, they'd always mention Boog's. Or laugh with each other about how "Boy I can't wait to get some B-B-Q before this game is done!" It became a thing.

Beyond that, I don't have a whole lot to say about Boog's, but it was actually pretty good. I was prepared to be fully underwhelmed, because that's usually how things work, but no, it was very satisfying. So go to Camden Yards, it's still great. And get some Boog's.

07.07.2019 - by Steve
Luigi's DeliBaltimore
Meatball sub

We went to Baltimore. While in Baltimore we stayed in the former-working class, former-gay, now-still-kinda-gay-but-mostly-low-key-gentrified neighborhood of Hampden, which is very much defined at this point by its connection to John Waters. There's a lot of flamingos around. You'll see them.

Anyway, even though there were a handful of 'cool' and 'good' restaurants and eateries within close walking distance of our place, I found myself craving a meatball sub. This is silly, because I live in Brooklyn (did you know that?), where I'm constantly surrounded by meatball subs at all times of the day, but rarely get them. Thankfully one of the cool and good restaurants here in Hampden was an Italian deli called Luigi's, with a meatball sub right up on their menu.

Again, I will note, I currently live in Brooklyn. There is no shortage of Italian delis here, or at least regular delis purporting to be Italian delis. The fact that I used up one of my meals in Baltimore on an Italian deli is fully ridiculous. But wouldn't you know, I'll be damned, this was a very good deli—operated entirely by some very tatt'd up Baltimore weirdo punks—and a very very good meatball sub. Although "sub" is actually a misnomer; Luigi's makes a meatball chub. The meatballs were sauce were delicious and homemade and of course the stars of the show, but instead of the standard method of cutting the bread down the middle, hoagie style, the chub involves taking an entire loaf of bread, cutting it in half, and then digging out the inside of the loaf, bread-bowl style. They then stuff the hole with meatballs and sauce, and cork it closed with some of the leftover bread pieces. This sounds like a silly novelty, but I have to say, it made it way easier to eat than your standard meatball sub! No mess, no sloppy deteriorating bread. It was great! Brooklyn delis should take note.

06.22.2019 - by Steve
Roll N RoasterBrooklyn
Roast beef sandwich

If you follow me on any given social media platform, or perhaps on occasion even speak to me casually or professionally or otherwise, or maybe if you've sat in the same subway car or lingered within 100 feet of my open apartment windows in the last 3 weeks, you've probably heard me claim at least once that Roll N Roaster is the best restaurant in New York. Look, I know it's actually not. That's just hyperbole, ok? But what it is is a beautifully odd, oddly perfect, perfectly out-of-touch fast food institution in the equally out-of-touch deep Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. It's one of those rare places that genuinely feels like it's from another era—untouched, unchanged, balancing on a terrifying equilibrium since 1970 of being successful enough that they didn't have to reinvent the wheel, but not so successful that monied interests tried to harness its name. Yellow formica booths, golden bubble glass features, sign-painted menu boards—Don Draper could've eaten at this place. He would've hated it but his kids would've loved it, so he'd just let them eat while staring at the window and thinking about the ocean. I'd bet money that multiple movies and shows have filmed here. I'd tell you which ones, but I can't seem to find any info. But Anthony Bourdain filmed here, and probably swore.

Why Roll? Because they bake their own rolls. Why Roaster? Because they serve roast beef sandwiches (on the rolls). It's also somewhat kinda almost close to Coney Island, which has a roller coaster, so I think that must've been part of their thinking. But even closer by, just a mile north on the same road, is the ancient Brooklyn restaurant institution Brennan & Carr, which I wrote about a few months ago. I have to think that R'N'R's decision to go into roast beef was inspired by Brennan & Carr's famous roast beef, but they do a much better job. My sandwich was damn good, much more tender and fresh than B&C's, and even better than some of the sandwiches I've had at Minneapolis' own roast beef institutions of Wally's and Maverick's. I got it with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, which were actually (I think) homemade, and just as delicious. And root beer!

Roll N Roaster is not the best restaurant in New York City. But it's a true and rare gem, and I'm almost sad I discovered it because now for the rest of my life I'm going to have to worry about whether or not it's still around. 5 years from now, I'll see a rollercoaster on TV, and suddenly my mind will snap to "Oh shit, I hope Roll N Roaster is still around!". But some day it won't be, so you better go there next time you're here. Maybe just, like, go to Momofuku first.

06.18.2019 - by Steve
Hand Pull Noodles and Dumpling HouseBrooklyn
Pork rib noodle soup

These hand pull noodles and dumplings aren't up to the standards of Xi'an Famous Foods, which for me and a million other people in this city is the standard, but hey, it was good. And cheap. And nearby.

Addendum: Everyone knows Chinatown in lower Manhattan, and a lot of people know about the even-China-er-own of Flushing, Queens. But there's a couple burgeoning little Chinese/Asian neighborhoods in deep Brooklyn that offer a whole lot of decent looking food options (and a lot of hot pot) that are far enough away from the young and beautiful people of New York that they fly a little under the radar. All the dying and angry old Italians might not be too happy about it, but as long as you can get a solid bowl of soup and dumplings for five bucks on a random corner in Bensonhurst, it's hard to see a downside.

05.31.2019 - by Steve
Tacos El BroncoBrooklyn
Tacos

There's a running thread in my New York food adventures, which I may or may not have written about already, and you may or may not have read about already, and it's this: Mexican food isn't that great here. I can't say that's true across the board, as I'm sure there's some exceptional Mexican spots to be found somewhere, but it seems to suffer from the same problem as this town's pizza, bagels, and deli sandwiches. It's as if every place, whether it's a counter service taqueria, a sit down joint, or a truck, gets all the same ingredients from all the same distributors. But unlike pizza and bagels, where the redundant offerings are at least of generally high quality, the average New York taco is just mostly fine I guess.

This does bring us to the Tacos El Bronco truck, which you think might be a "but here's the exception!" moment, but naaah. It's just as okay as every other one. But then it becomes even more disappointing because just a few hours before stumbling upon the truck in Sunset Park, I'd just read El Bronco mentioned on a short list of Best Tacos In Brooklyn. So I had my hopes up, and it didn't happen for me.

05.30.2019 - by Steve
Philadelphia GrillBrooklyn
Philly cheesesteak

Cheesesteak: Pretty good. Employees: Extremely deep Brooklyn and kinda intimidating and probably named Vinny. View of bridge: Superb.

05.20.2019 - by Steve
Wafa's ExpressBrooklyn
Falafel bowl

There's a recent New York Times review framed and hanging on the wall of Wafa's Express that closes with one of the most overwrought and hilariously food-criticesque sentences you'll ever read: And the scent: orange blossom and rose water, in the ashta, in the syrup and in the air, like a benediction. It's a counter-service falafel and shawarma place for cripes sake! And yet, shit, it's not wrong?

05.11.2019 - by Steve
PelicanaBrooklyn
Korean fried chicken

Korean fried chicken is very much a thing, and within the world of Korean fried chicken, Bonchon is generally the thing. I had Bonchon once, and honestly wasn't terribly impressed. Pelicana, meanwhile, seems to be a second fiddle of Korean fried chicken chains; the Qdoba to Bonchon's Chipotle. There's a couple of them around here, the first I saw in a (three level) food court in Koreatown, the other taking up a quaint corner bar space in Fort Greene. And I gotta say, based on just a single trip to each, I like Pelicana better than Bonchon. Juicier, spicier, just as crisp in very Korean chicken kind of way. It was extremely satisfying. Maybe a little overkill on the sauce, but that's a lousy complaint.

Addendum: While I was writing this, I did some quick research and discovered there's a Bonchon location in Minneapolis?? And it's been there since 2017?? Why didn't I know this!

04.29.2019 - by Steve
MomofukuManhattan
Spicy pork belly ramen, sausage buns

The gist: Extremely hot ramen, sweaty bros next to us couldn't handle it, incredible sausage buns, chicken wings that looked unbelievable but where only just pretty good. Momofuku is for real and surprisingly affordable and accessible. Just maybe think real hard about going spicy.

04.29.2019 - by Steve
Tony Luke's Brooklyn
Philly cheesesteak

My quest for the best cheesesteak—both in New York and in America at large—was made somewhat easier recently when Tony Luke's, a seemingly beloved Philadelphia chain, opened their first out-of-Philly location in downtown Brooklyn. It was essentially happenstance that led me there, on only the 2nd day of their opening, even. So it was a little crowded. But I wanted a cheesesteak that day anyway (thus the happenstance), so I persevered, stood in line, and holed up at the standing bar in a corner to eat it. I will say this: Tony Luke's makes a very good cheesesteak. Probably the best I've had in New York so far, though the one from Shorty's was damn close. Easily better than the one I had at Geno's (or was it Pat's?) in Philadelphia, which isn't exactly the gold standard, but maybe more of a baseline for all cheesesteak judging. And the greasy Philly ambiance of the place is just weird enough—homemade ads for hilariously bad looking B-movies which Tony Luke Jr. himself seemingly produced and starred in adorn the walls, as well as pictures from his notable work as an extra in fucking Invincible starring Mark Walberg of fucking course—and the theme to Rocky plays on a loop from a TV up in the corner. So, come to think of it, you better go eat at Tony Luke's as soon as you can before all of the staff quits en masse.

04.06.2019 - by Steve
John's DeliBrooklyn
Johnny roast beef

I've been slowly eating through a list of Brooklyn's greatest old-school sandwich joints. This is a sandwich town, they say, and I'd like to think I'm a sandwich guy. I haven't posted about all of them on here, because basically they've all brought me to the same conclusion: pretty good I guess, but not amazing.

I can't make any conclusions of why this is. Maybe it's that everyone gets the same ingredients from the same distributors. Maybe they don't just make'em like they used to. Maybe they were never great to begin with? But even though I've gotten to visit some weird deep Brooklyn neighborhoods, heard some sweaty Brooklyn accents, and seen some fantastic old-school hand painted signage and menu boards (hey Lioni's), this sandwich odyssey has left me where I was when I started: The greatest sandwich I've ever eaten is still the roast beef from Clancey's Meats, and the greatest Italian sandwich I've ever eaten is still from (world's largest sigh) Jersey Mike's.

Anyway, the Johnny roast beef from John's Deli is at least interesting enough to post here. Just look at that photo. We've got some fresh sliced roast beef (although not as fresh as the aforementioned Clancey's), some caramelized onions, and a liberal helping of their "famous" beef gravy. It's simple, but it's not something you can find at the thousands of other delis around town. And it's tasty! And rich! But man, if this is really one of the great New York Sandwiches, I don't know what to think of this place anymore.

04.05.2019 - by Steve
Thai Farm KitchenBrooklyn
Kao thod nhaem klook, pad thai

The week we moved in to this apartment in the lovely Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, we ordered in some Thai food. As one does. I'd been warned in advance that the Thai food "scene" in New York isn't as good as you might expect, and that most places in town (with the exception of one particular restaurant in Queens, but we'll save that for another time) serve basically the same decent generic American Thai food you can get anywhere between here and Des Moines. So with expectations low, I was caught off guard by how good, and how unique the food from this Thai Farm Kitchen was. Nothing particular drew us to this place over the 3 or 4 other nearby options; it was just a new-ish, cute-ish little joint in the middle of our weird, not-quite-yet-gentrified Russian and Bangladeshi neighborhood. But the menu had some interesting options on it, and the food we got was all fantastic. We lucked out.

Fast forward, like, two months. I'm doing laundry across the street on a weekday night, and I notice there's a line out the door (mid-winter, mind you) at Thai Farm Kitchen. The next week it's the same. Then we try to go there to eat on a Saturday night—two hour wait. We try again a couple weeks later—hour and a half wait. The place is constantly packed. The secret is out, not so lucky anymore.

Turns out, as we guessed after the first couple attempts, that in fact the New York Times wrote a very positive review of the place, and that seems to be simultaneously a holy anointment and a kiss of death in this city. Great for them, because I'm sure they're suddenly making double the money the ever imagined making in their first year. But damn, we found our little place, and now we're stuck out in the cold!

Anyway, we finally got in the other night, and it was no fluke. The food is up there with the best Thai I've had anywhere, the menu is just left of standard (they serve their pad thai with fried calamari, which doesn't sound exciting, but it adds a lot!), and the staff is downright charming. By this time next year, we ought to be able to get a table there on a weekend again.