The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Recent New York City Eats and a Scary Hostess

Lately I've been going to bed at around 3 a.m. or later. Why? Because the Internet is another boundless dimension where all I do is waste time as my muscles atrophy and my eyesight worsens and my brain cells die.

Actually, it's not all the Internet's fault. I've been fiddling with LSDJ a lot lately and it's one of the biggest time sucks to ever grace my computer. I treat this fiddling process as a learning experience, but in my mind, when I'm learning something that has no use outside of "fun hobby," it goes into the steaming pile of "wasting time." I don't waste time by doing nothing/mindless activities; I consider "wasted time" as anything that isn't TGWAE, work, food, housekeeping, or photo-related. Like fiddling with LSDJ and updating my manatee blog.

On the bright side, I'm never bored. On the dim side, I'm not sure I'm ever teaching myself anything useful that the rest of humanity could actually benefit from. All I can hope for is that the manatee blog brightens someone's day. Someone's very sad, boring day that can only be redeemed by the power of photos and words about the lumbering, tubby sea cow.

Oh well. Hey, how's it going? Okay.

Before I get to my story about the Scary Hostess, here are some posts I've done lately for Serious Eats New York. Despite the ongoing posts about Iceland in which I've managed to stretch a one-week trip into two months of posts, I actually do live in New York City and, since I'm not a robot, eat food here as well. It's a lot easier to write posts for Serious Eats instead of my blog because 1) it's my full time job which means 2) I can actually write stuff during the day while at the office and 3) they give me deadlines.

Cafe Kashkar
Cafe Kashkar

Lambsplosion of Uyghur Food at Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach: I'll have to write about this epic day on TGWAE at some point, but basically, I went to Brighton Beach with Diana, Greg, Kathy, and Edd for the purposes of helping Diana on her photoshoot and frolicking in that fun substance we call "sand." We followed our beach romping with dinner at Cafe Kashkar because Kathy and I had eaten there before and really liked it. It's still good. (If you're wondering if this trip also include the carrot cake from M&I, they had unfortunately run out by the time we got there. SAD.)

dig in
Eeeeuh yum!

Budae Jjigae from Pocha 32 in Koreatown: Pocha 32, a divey bar/restaurant decorated mostly with bottle caps and fish nets, seems to be a good place to go if you miss South Korea. Their menu features huge ass bowls of street food meant to be shared between you and your posse of Korean food-loving friends. Carol brought me there so we could get the budae jjigae, or army base stew, a spicy broth filled with hot dogs, Spam (or some other processed pork product), ramyun (ramen), cheese, rice cakes, slices of pork, cabbage, tofu chunks, carrots, watercress, and...god, I don't know. Stuff. Stuff that all came together quite well. I'd eat it again.

giant bowls
NOODLES...oodles of them.

Sujebi and Seafood Pancakes at Arirang in Koreatown: Sujebi, torn noodle soup, was one of my favorite dishes in Korea. Luckily, it wasn't long after I got back to NYC that I get to fulfill a sujebi craving. My favorite version at Arirang so far is the chicken soup (over the kimchi and the seafood). And don't think of eating there without also getting a seafood pancake. It's one of the best things ever. Ever. Also make sure to eat there with at least two people because portions are freakin' huge.

Sul Long Tang

Seolleongtang, Ox Bone Broth, from Gahm Mi Oak: The people have spoken, and they say Gahm Mi Oak has some solid seolleongtang, but perhaps more importantly, awesome kimchi. Seolleongtang is a Korean dish of noodles and rice in ox bone broth that you salt to taste or else you'll wonder, "Why the hell is this soup so bland?" Add salt and you shall unlock its minerally secrets. A pile of scallions doesn't hurt either.

But there was something about their radish kimchi that made a lightbulb pop over my head, coupled with a "ding" sound, and maybe an angelic glow. It was tasty. It was, "Uh so I'm going to shove more of this in my mouth now and I don't know why, I just can't stop myself," tasty. Before, I would eat kimchi merely because it was there; this time, I was driven by a force that I didn't recognize. I have since identified that force as "kimchi craving"—felt by millions around the world, and now it has come to me.

And now that Scary Hostess Thing

My blog is generally free of negativity and bad things a-happening, as is my life. Eating experiences are mostly positive, or at least neutral. That's why I don't talk about crappy food or horrifically bad service; I'm lucky to say that I rarely come across either.

Since I like this wave of happy thoughts, I wasn't sure if I should air my grievances about an atypical experience I had at PDT on Tuesday. But maybe that's why I should blog about it; because it was atypical. And then you can regale me with similar stories. It goes a lil' something like this.

Ed (Serious Eats founder, my boss, cool guy who likes pizza, etc) wanted us to visit PDT, the cocktail lounge tucked inside Crif Dogs, so we could eat and photograph their hot dogs for a "Cool Hot Dogs and Stuff in NYC" post. (For those unfamiliar with PDT, they serve hot dogs from Crif Dogs, but some with special toppings you can't get at Crif Dogs.) Neither of us had been to PDT before so we weren't sure what it would be like trying to get in.

"Can you make a reservation?" asked Ed as we were preparing to leave the office.

I called, asked the hostess (soon to be Scary Hostess) for a reservation at 7 p.m. and was told they were booked for the night. Okay...understandable, but...oh, crap. I "hmm"-ed and turned to Ed to tell them it was booked while awaiting further instructions.

"Is there any chance we can get in if we just show..." I started.

And then there was a distinct click. And a ringtone. In most other situations I might think I got disconnected—cell phones do that—but I was 99% sure that this was a hang up. Did she think I was rude? Did she already deem me unworthy of deserving any attention after five seconds of conversation? I don't know. It didn't seem like a good omen, but I didn't really have a choice; Ed wanted those hot dogs.

He called them right away, inquired if we could get in just by showing up, and we were off.

About half an hour later we made it to PDT with Kathy joining us since she lived nearby. Scary Hostess let us in since we fell into the three-person-maximum for bar seating. She was clear about the three person maximum, perhaps in case we were thinking of sneaking more people in. (We weren't.)

"Is there any chance we could just get hot dogs?" Ed asked. We knew the answer was probably "no," but it didn't hurt to ask.

"No, you have to buy cocktails; this is a cocktail lounge." And this was the weirdest part (a feeling shared by the three of us, at least): she repeated "This is a cocktail lounge," like a broken record, three times (or so), each time sternly with the sense that she was taking to idiots. Or something. It was kind of noisy in there and it's hard for me to explain. I think each of us was about ready to explode from the disdainful tone, but the explosion was outranked by thinking, "WTF?" and being hungry for hot dogs.

She said we would have to buy cocktails if we wanted hot dogs. Understandable. I'm not saying I'm against this policy; it's just that we were as far removed from the Danny Meyer school of thought as possible. Maybe Scary Hostess was having a bad day, or had to deal with lots of ignorant customers and didn't see the point in trying to be polite to get her point across. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that's naive. Another person would just say that she was drunk with power, or use more colorful language.

We sat. Ed realized we could get by just by getting beers for $5 each. (I wouldn't say we were trying to be cheap; Ed and I just don't like alcoholic drinks. Obviously, we shouldn't be at a cocktail bar, but we weren't there to linger.) And then, unexpectedly, one of his friends who works at the bar appeared and right away, the iron fist of rudeness was lifted and replaced with happy rainbows and kittens because he was the nicest guy ever and made sure we were taken good care of.

"Get them these beers...and those hot dogs...and tater tots. Anything else?"

The thing is, Nice Guy would've been nice to anyone. Of course, you'd probably going to be more hospitable to your friends, but for the most part, everyone else who worked at PDT seemed to fit into the Nice Person category. We just got unlucky with Scary Hostess, who isn't there every day. Of course, after being told who Ed was, Scary Hostess turned into Hospitable Hostess. I think she apologized to Ed when we left.

I'm not saying that we deserved special treatment; I'm saying that no one, assuming they aren't assholes or anything, should have to be treated that poorly no matter where they go. You could ask why Ed didn't try to arrange some kind of hot dog shoot in advance. For one thing, he wouldn't want to announce his arrival or possibly get special treatment, and I'd think he'd want to see what the average person would go through if they wanted to go to PDT. I don't think our experience was even average, though—just unfortunate. There was nothing wrong with PDT's cocktail-and-food policy; it was just the way it to us. And other stuff. If I liked cocktails I'd go back to PDT (it's known as one of the best cocktail lounges in NYC, with the extra plush of having good hot dogs and tater tots), but I don't so I probably never will.

I think it was the first time I ever experienced just how big of a difference it could make to go somewhere as an average Joe versus being a food critic and friend of someone who works at the establishment you're going to. Surely not an uncommon occurrence, but it kind of sucked to see in motion.

ANNND THAT'S LIFE, the end. Many people have experienced worse. I think I'm still lucky.


Su-Lin / June 18, 2009 6:32 AM

That's very very unfortunate, and if I'd been in your place, it's highly likely that I would've been more unkind in my post.

How were the hot dogs though?

Kat / June 18, 2009 7:32 AM

Wow, it really sucks that they were so rude to you! I've been to PDT five or six times and they've always been really nice to me, even when they're totally booked, but I've definitely heard stories about the hostesses being rude. Maybe there's just one bad egg? Or maybe I've always just been lucky enough to get the nice one. Regardless, it sucks that you guys were treated so rudely.

Did you like the hot dogs? :)

Lee / June 18, 2009 8:07 AM

Well, it's nothing to do with food service, but when you talked about her repetition of a phrase I remembered something. I wanted to buy postage stamps and the lady demanded, 'WHAT COUNTRY' at least 5 times with increasing rudeness each time I said 'Sierra Leone'.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt too, but other times the only reason is that they are just a horifically ignorant, rude, smelly pirate of an employee.

kim / June 18, 2009 8:27 AM

Don't worry about it Robyn. There are different individuals out there and I guess we could try to think that that hostness was having a bad day that time. We all have bad days and being a hostess is really no easy job. If that happens a second time by the same person, then there's a problem, if not, I'd let it slide this time. After studying therapy, I find myself feeling empathy nowadays, :)

Btw, love your photos as always.

SuperChomp / June 18, 2009 9:06 AM

Cafe Kaskar has such an awesome looking frontage.

When my friend gets back from Korea, I must get her to find us a good Korean restaurant to try some of these things you've mentioned. The Ox bone broth especially appeals.

Scary hostess's behaviour was totally unnecessary. So rude to just hang up on you. Whether she's just had a bad day is immaterial - that there is unprofessional. Imagine all the other people who spoke to her that day (or any other day). I hope she felt really stupid when she found out who you were, maybe it'll make her realise she should be more careful about the way she treats her customers. I don't think the management would be very pleased if they knew what attitude she was carrying around as the first person the public comes into contact with at their establishment.

roboppy / June 18, 2009 9:23 AM

Su-Lin: In my head I was more unkind than in this post. Ha..ha.. :P But it's like...whatever, not really a big deal. Just a warning for anyone else who tries to go to PDT and gets the one rude person.

Hot dogs were pretty good. The one with fried mayo was easy to like. :)

Kat: I think it might be one bad egg; Kathy said there's another host who is super nice. Meep. ;_;

Hot dogs were pretty good. Although I think I ate more tater tots!

Lee: Damn, that's frustrating. In our situation I don't think we said anything that would warrant a repetition; she just..uh..repeated herself cos she wanted to. Which was weird.

Kim: I can't imagine being a hostess or anything that would require lots of interaction with...PEOPLE. But if it's not your strong suit, probably time to enter another field.. ;)

SuperChomp: I was wondering how PDT felt about their first point of contact being that...unpleasant. But they have no shortage of customers, so it probably doesn't matter that much. Anyone who's a regular would surely be treated well, and they have plenty. Eh well!

Adam / June 18, 2009 9:33 AM

Well, it's one of those "secret" hipster cocktail bars. They're all like that. Can't say I'm surprised at this story.

Emily / June 18, 2009 9:39 AM

Yeah, PDT's hostesses can be hit or miss based on the multiple times I've been there. But I'm not surprised at what happened either -- all of those "hidden bars" and speakeasies popping up everywhere have that inevitable air of pretension, and you're bound to run into one of those bad eggs, unfortunately. Sorry to hear you ran into that problem!

anna / June 18, 2009 11:52 AM

Aww, that sucks! You should've asked for your tater tots in a cocktail glass. Then when she was all "YOU NEED TO BUY A COCKTAIL" you'd be all "um, HELLO" and pretend to drink 'tots. That's what I'd do. Well, that's what I'd do if I didn't like booze so much.

bionicgrrrl / June 18, 2009 1:45 PM

Horrible!!! No one should be mean to Robyn!!! Grrrr.... I remember I had an encounter with a bad hostess at PDT also. When I asked if there was a room for four, she just shook her head. She didn't even open her mouth. It was definitely bizarre. Perhaps she was a mime. But anyway, I've been there on other occasions, and everyone has been really nice. I love the Mason dog there and the yummy cocktails. In fact, I'm kinda worried it'll be impossible to get in now that Serious Eats is going to write about it. Oh well, I guess secret bars can't be kept secret for long.

roboppy / June 18, 2009 7:01 PM

Adam and Emily: It's a good thing I don't like cocktails or else running into those people all the time would drive me INSANE.

Anna: They should actually make a tater tot cocktail. Essence of tot mixed with...something. ...okay that might be gross.

bionicgrrrl: She just shook her head? What the...that's really weird too. I can't say I've ever run into that before.

I don't think SE will propel PDT into super crowded territory. ;) I feel like PDT is the least secretive of the secret bars's been around for a while? Or maybe I say that because I know someone who used to work there and it seems to be the "secret" bar most of my friends have been to. And now I have too...:O

Greg / June 18, 2009 7:34 PM

I've had 50/50 bad experiences with hostesses at PDT too. They're rarely friendly and usually carry an air of "we don't really need you here" snootiness. I've formulaically learned to cut through their crap by 1) calling at 3pm when reservations open up 2) not asking for any favors except to sit at the bar and 3) ordering enough in drink $$'s to not make it seem like I'm there just for the hot dogs (the drinks, albeit, are awesome). Conversely, the bartenders are nice as can be.

Danny / June 18, 2009 11:00 PM

That's kinda funny how they did a 180 from rude/random to nice/friendly. It should be no surprise though that if you know the owner, you'll get some nice treatment. Still, can't wait to see those hot dog pictures!

Laurene / June 19, 2009 12:19 AM

"(If you're wondering if this trip also include the carrot cake from M&I, they had unfortunately run out by the time we got there. SAD.)"

Arghh!!! (Wailing & gnashing of teeth follows.)

roboppy / June 19, 2009 2:32 AM

Greg: That reminds me, there are two things that would keep me from going to PDT or any other secret bar: not liking cocktails and not being able to afford em. WEEEEEEEEOOHHhhhh

Danny: It was a huge 180. It would've been okay if it was like...a 5 degree difference from "nice" to "nicer," but when its 180, nice or rude both feel fake and pointless.

Laurene: I mostly stuck in that bit for you. Sadness.. :(

J / June 20, 2009 8:16 PM

not really that bad, PDT gets a lot of press, imagine the number of people (who aren't foodies / food critics / expert NY food bloggers such as yourselves) who walk through that phone booth with the same shtick. hot dogs but no drinks? i can see how that could get a little irritable after the 100th iteration of the same experience.

roboppy / June 20, 2009 9:21 PM

J: I do wonder how many non-foodie people just wander in randomly (not that it's that random since you have to call to get in?)...and how many of them would think they sell special hot dogs different from the ones Crif Dogs sells.

Captain / June 21, 2009 3:21 AM

At first I thought that line said, "I've been fiddling with LSD a lot lately."

Esther Hahn / June 23, 2009 1:21 AM

ugh. i hate attitude. one time i worked at one of dave myer's restaurants here in la because i thought i would like to become a restaurateur one day and i ultimately quit two weeks in because the manager constantly gave me mega attitude. as if he were king of the world. i totally agree with you that every person deserves to be treated with respect. that manager looked down on me thinking i was some wannabe actress regardless of the fact that i graduated from an ivy a month earlier. but even if i were a wannabe actress his treatment still would have been uncalled for.

on a more pleasant note, i've noticed you're eating a lot of korean food in nyc since your trip. i'm assuming you didn't OD on it while in korea?

roboppy / June 23, 2009 11:58 PM

Esther: I think I will never work in the restaurant business. ...yeaahhhh.. :\

Totally didn't OD; if anything, the trip just made me want MORE KOREAN FOOD! Hence why I've been eating so much of it. I've only OD-ed on the Korean take out around the corner from my office, hehe.

Something random from the archives