The Downward Spiral of Being a New York Foodie

With all the food options in New York, it’s hard living in the city and not call yourself a foodie of sorts. Having your favorite hole in the wall joints, knowing the best deals for $1 oysters / AYCD brunch / reverse happy hours, splurging on the occasional tasting menu, and praising the city’s celebrity chefs for their culinary brilliance on a first-name basis.

For many of us yuppies with disposable money and time, eating in New York has become a personal conquest — to try as many different best places as possible. Being knowledgable and well-versed in the city’s food scene is one of the most valuable social currency around many dinner tables. Being tuned in means you’re eating well, you’re eating selectively, and you’re eating with other like-minded epicures.

But similar to dating the millions of fish in the city, you’ll never be able to experience every single restaurant the city has to offer. It’s even a feat to go to every Michelin-starred, James Beard awarded, NYMag critic’s choice, or even highly Yelped restaurant in the city. But it doesn’t stop people from trying. Doesn’t stop them from 3-hour long waits, 11pm dinner reservations, or three-figure bills for that coveted seat, meal, spoonful of the perfectly developed flavor profile, and of course, the social media documentation. Upon which, the whole experience will be the envy of other foodie friends who missed out. And now that you’ve checked this off your foodie list, onto the next test of culinary prowess and patience.

Eating in New York is akin to summiting the highest heights with your fork as the staff and your digestive system as the porter. All the while, reaping the delicious benefits. Social currency AND omnomnom-inducing meals? What’s not to love!

Besides the occasional upset stomach, a whole lot of inferiority complexes. Usually, a conquest includes an end goal, something that the protagonist strives for. What is the end goal of the New York foodie? To eat at the best restaurants in the city? The most amount? At what point will they have finally reached the holy grail, aka the best meal of my life, and be able to rest their weary stomachs? The despair of this never ending journey is mentally, physically, and of course, financially taxing.

Even worse is being unable to actually enjoy the meal once finally served. There’s a series of questioning that kicks in with the first bite — is this better than what I had last night? Possibly, but was it worth the cost of entry? Is this the best dish of its kind I’ve ever had? Probably not, but where did I have the best? Where else can I go to make a fair comparison? Going through a whole meal of foodie judgement is exhausting and debilitating to the experience. Let me just satiate my hunger and enjoy the taste of the food that’s in front of me.

Think back to your favorite restaurants in the city — the staples that you hit up when jonesing for a satisfying meal. How many of them need reservations? Or are elaborate 20-course meals? They might even have less than 5 stars on Yelp, gasp. But you love them nonetheless. Because the food is great, the service is warm, and it’s not full of pretentious foodies. Too bad it’s rarely Instagram-worthy.

How can you possibly quantify something as personal and intimate as taste, and turn it into a competition?