Last night I set off from my Upper West Side apartment to go see Manhattan blacked out south of 34th street, particularly the East Village where some of my friends live. How would my old stomping grounds look after Sandy put it under water? More importantly, could I find a delicious, hot meal in the dark?
Five minutes after waving goodbye to my bus and the food situation becomes clear. Food trucks are what's happening. NYU kids cluster around the two food trucks in the area, one serving up Mexican, the other cheesesteak. The regular halal stands are all gone, and the two running trucks are getting plenty of business. But 14th street is still busy, with a steady stream of traffic lighting up the sidewalks along Union Square. I want to know if I could get something gourmet in the darker neighborhoods, where foodies usually swarm.
I overhear there were restaurants running in the East Village, but I can't find one. Out on Avenue D, across from the public housing projects, there's only one bodega with a line. The lights are out, but people are getting served through the slot in the bulletproof glass. Closer inland, the only generators running are pumping water out of basements, save for one. In a community garden, a few people have lights running and a barbeque. They're serving some drinks next to a Puerto Rican flag, so at least the neighborhood regulars are getting a hot meal.
Houston Street is dead. East in the projects is as dark as a country road in the middle of nowhere. Katz's, everything is out. I find one food truck in the Lower East Side. A college kid fixes his bike in the light, the only one on Essex Street. The chicken pita is so warm, so delicious. As I eat it and walk over to Orchard Street, I find one restaurant running, serving food in the candlelight. The foodies have found what they're looking for. There's also a wine bar running by candlelight, but it seems full of weirdos and I steer clear.
I keep going, but I don't find anything in Chinatown. It's dark there like you wouldn't believe. The only lit store is running off a van.
If there were any buildings with power in SoHo, I don't see a single one. I have to get over near NYU again to find food and drink. A couple girls are stopped by a bouncer at one of the two working bars. He asks for their IDs and if they need to charge their phones inside. It's pretty packed in there, and everyone is still on a hurricane honeymoon. I make my last stop at Ben's Pizza. The lights are out, but the huge pizza ovens are going in the dark. The line is sizeable and people are mostly ordering full pies to take home. A homeless man gets up from a table in the dark and starts asking for a slice. The two guys behind the counter start getting brusque with him, and he gets louder, so I leave. I’m getting antsy waiting in front of The Gansevoort for a bus that never comes. I wish I'd just gotten a scotch at the last bar instead of hunting down the only pizza in the Village.
So yes, you can go down to the blackout and hunt down some already tasty food, made more delicious by the excitement of the dark. Just remember those less fortunate than you before you make the trip. Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik