Edward Tweedly

Mobile meal in Manhattan
New York had so many different kinds of restaurants, it always seemed a shame to choose just one for dinner. So I wondered if I could expand the range of tastes at a meal by changing restaurants between courses. Appetizer in one place, soup in the next, and so on...

Greenwich Village seemed like just the sort of place for a dinner on the hoof: any cuisine you wanted was there, or nearby in Chinatown and Little Italy. And it must still be bohemian enough that if you went into a restaurant and just asked for a starter, they would sell it to you, rather than quoting rules at you and making you eat a whole dinner or none at all.

I found a suitable companion who also wanted to try something new in the Village that wasn't illegal or dangerous (as far as we knew). We started early: we weren't sure how long this might take, and anyway restaurants would be more accommodating when they were still quiet and the waiters weren't exhausted or the chef angry yet.

I parked the car (I know where to park free in New York, London, and Rome, but that is another subject) and we started in Bleecker Street at about Union Square. That's the 24-hour supermarket beside the little fenced-off piece of land that's supposed to grow the kind of vegetation they had off Broadway before the Americans came.

First place we came to was a Greek restaurant (this was a long time ago, all may be changed now). It seemed like a good start: it was a little place that was still almost empty, so we asked if they'd sell us stuffed vine leaves and a glass of wine, and no more. We had to explain it again, and I don't think they understood why, but they got the message that we wanted to exchange money for food, and that was what they were there for too, so yeah, no problem.

We walked along Bleecker looking for something more exotic if possible for the next course. Across Sixth Avenue, as you call the Avenue of the Americas if you're pretending to be a native, not that that's easy with a British accent in New York. We found a West African resturant, with an orange-colored soup for sale. They pointed out that people normally ate a whole dinner when they came in. We agreed that that was almost certainly normal, but pointed out that it wasn't what we wanted; and furthermore our plan shouldn't intrude on the dinner sittings and table reservation plans because the place was totally empty anyway. This seemed to make sense and after some thought (or pause for effect) they agreed. As well they might, selling pumpkin soup at exotic cuisine prices. It was good though.

Next we found a French sort of restaurant for a main course. No arguments here, we were just having a real dinner, but without the early and late bits. Viande au camouflage, or some such classic French dish.

We walked down Sixth and across Canal (if I remember the street plan) and into Chinatown, now dark but still always with the look and smell of a Chinese fish and vegetable market. Because that's what the streets are. We ate a good dish of chicken and noodles, but this isn't a food review. Onward to the next one!

Into Little Italy, and it was still warm enough to sit outside and have canoli and espresso. And amaretto. With a feeling of achievement: we had walked our way through dinner. Not quite into the history books, but at least into fond memories.

We had had five different national styles of cooking too. That gave me the idea for the next project: A New York mobile meal with five cuisines from five continents, with five different drinks. Eaten in each of the five boroughs of the city, with five different modes of transport between them.

I moved on before I had time to try that one. It might need some planning anyway: anyone got a good idea how to get back from Staten Island fast enough for dessert?

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