The internet is a palm reading for the world. Right now, the top three searches on Google are Rick Perry, Mall of America, and Miranda Cosgrove. The most emailed articles on the New York Times are about an inspiring gold-hearted girl who died of cancer at the age of 9, Obama, and how to choose the right lightbulb. The most funded projects on Kickstarter are for a watch kit, a camera clip system, and a movie about jazz.
On Tuesday, I went to a dinner by "above-ground supper club", City Grit, that served the top 10 New York dishes from Foodspotting. Whereas many supper clubs rely on the unusual and extreme, here the dishes were the opposite. Imagine a 10-course dinner of Top 40 hits, Mad Men and Justin Bieber. In New York, where restaurants are often treated like Girl or Boy Scout badges, many times we seek innovation, novelty, bragging rights. But Foodspotting's top 10 dishes are not necessarily what we want. No, these dishes are what we need.
And what do New Yorkers need? The proof is in the banana pudding (literally). Here are the dishes and my guesses on why they're so popular.
Deviled Eggs - Maybe your mom made these. Or maybe they remind us of simpler times, when pears and brie were considered the height of sophistication. Or maybe we just like mayo. Try: Smith's, Prune
Shrimp Dumplings - Every culture has its own easy package of veggie, protein, and starch. Dim sum, after all, means "gift from the heart." Try: Chinatown Brasserie, Rickshaw Dumpling
Mac & Cheese - A dish that's hard-wired into us. Melty, toothsome, buttery, aromatic. As with chocolate chip cookies, no man or woman can resist this siren song. Try: Sarita's, Delicatessen
Corn with Lime, Cotija Cheese, Cayenne - It's hard not to love a dish that's running on all cylinders: sweet, starchy, creamy, spicy, sour, vegetal, charred, fatty, fresh. Try: Cafe Habana, Num Pang
Artichoke Pizza - This is a very specific dish that's particular to Artichoke Pizza in the East Village. I suppose in a city that has pizza in its bloodstream, we also like the eccentric super-specialist. Like Woody Allen or something.
Meatballs -- Normally when you cook meat, you leave the fat behind. It drops down the grill, or you leave it in the pan. But in meatballs, the bread crumbs soak up the fat. That's why we like them (applies to meatloaf, too). Try: Mia Dona, Buttermilk Channel
Belgian-Style Fries -- Twice-fried, a food science miracle of crusty and pillowy. Try: Pommes Frites, Resto
Pastrami Sandwich -- Part taste, part quality, part New York deli lore, the pastrami sandwich is not likely a favorite around the country. But in New York, it's manna. Try: Carnegie Deli, Katz's
Blue Velvet Culcake from Little Cupcake Bakeshop
Finally, Cupcakes -- Is this a fundamental human hunger? Or just a passing trend? That's like asking, Nature or Nurture. Probably a little bit of both, and let's just leave it at that.