Illustration: Margalit Cutler
Alex Edelman needs to be honest. “Why am I writing my Grub Street Diet in June all about a piece of food that happened in April?” the comedian asks. It’s for your entertainment, he explains: “A few weeks earlier, I finally caught the COVID lung demon, and after the pestilence I was from Florida about my COVID safety – I was maskless, eating out, going to raves, inviting strangers to spit on me and lick the subway floor.” It was, in other words, a good week, and it was also the last leg of Edelman’s Off Broadway show, just for us, at the SoHo Playhouse: “Whenever the end of a race is in sight, I make my way to the final week.” And don’t worry if you missed it because the show returns this Monday, June 13th at Greenwich House Theaterso you only have six more weeks to get it.
Sunday, April 24
Breakfast. Sunday is my day off. We do at least two shows on Saturday, so I woke up, exhausted, around 9 am. The day before, my girlfriend, Hannah, had left for LA, so I was kind of Eeyore, really missing her. If Hannah were here, we’d have something healthy for breakfast, but since I was alone, instead of having the most important meal of the day, I played video games on my phone, which is my worst habit.
I don’t know if any of you are like that, but I eat more excitingly when friends are in town, and David and Sophie were here from the UK, so there was good stuff out there. They’re not going to vacation at a Sweetgreen, are they? David knows what he’s doing gastronomically, and we ended up at Quality Italian downtown. The atmosphere was “Our lawyer and his wife love this place” but the food was really top notch. The table asked for too much, and no one regretted it. There was a Caesar salad that transcends, some Broccolini, a Milanese chicken pizza with honey, and a corn crème brûlée that gives your tuchus the excuse of ordering an “accompanied” which is essentially a dessert.
Dinner was with Benj. Do you know people in your life that if they asked you to hang out with them at the DMV, would you do it? Benj is one of them. He could make a Siberian train station look like your local cafe. He exudes sympathy. A bunch of friends were there, and then we ended up at Blue Ribbon Sushi on Columbus Circle. I’ve never been there before. The sushi was delicious and simple – and expensive.
My small gripe with New York City sushi is that I can’t find many middle class places. Do you want to pay $800 for a omakase that you could tell your grandchildren? Okay, here are a bunch of options. Oh, doesn’t that work for you? Well, your alternative is a place that does all-you-can-eat sushi for $6. The only problem is that the sushi is bad, and instead of toro, they use their childhood goldfish.
LA has a place called Fumi Sushi. It’s a little pricey, but not ruinously, and it’s full of Persian Jews every time I go, which I love. I think many of the places I identify as hidden gems in Los Angeles have already been discovered by Persian Jews.
Please don’t eviscerate me in the comments if I’m wrong about this sushi thing. I am happy to be productively contradicted through a direct, personal recommendation.
Monday, April 25th
It was a show day, so I had a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. I really needed to establish a breakfast ethic for the week. Without Hannah, I’m useless. I packed up enough to go to Hutch + Waldo for an espresso. I think a few years ago the world decided that Aussies could call themselves coffee experts because of the white stuff, and Hutch + Waldo – on the Upper East Side – really nailed it. I thought of a pastel and decided to keep myself hungry for…
… A late lunch. I met with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of the Central Synagogue. She is one of my favorite New Yorkers, and I was more than happy to wander around her synagogue. it’s on 57th street and kibitz, but it was that dead area where restaurants stopped serving lunch and still haven’t started serving dinner. We stopped at a few places before ending up on 60th Street at a Greek restaurant called Avra that I had never been to before. I had spanakopita, which was really good and had a lovely texture.
After I did my show and finished, it was 9pm. My energy to eat and hang on was sapped, and my appetite was ruined by the YumEarth Fruit Chews I ate at the pre-show. Dinner was half a Sherry Herring herring matje sandwich in my theater dressing room. The downtown bougie-ness was just a memory.
Tuesday, April 26
I decided to recover in front of breakfast. I boiled eggs and threw in tomatoes and spinach I bought at Fairway. I congratulated myself mid-prep for being so grown up and responsible. The pan would sit in my sink, dirty, until the next afternoon. Leaving things in the sink? My worst habit.
I went downtown for a meeting and decided to end up at a place called the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown. Okay, so usually in my relationship, I’m the guy who sniffs out fun restaurants and adventurous hikes like a truffle pig and Hannah – who leads a busy life – has to please her boyfriend and be dragged along, but my knowledge about this great place is totally her doing. Her friends Bella and Sasha told her about it, and now I’ve been alone twice. Golden Unicorn has been around since 1989, which makes it as old as I am, but it is much tastier. They serve dim sum to a mostly Cantonese crowd, and when Hannah was last there, she had a bunch of steamed buns that were literally decorated like piglets, and the two of us squeaked when they arrived. That day, my appetite was tiny, but I ate vegetarian dim sum that I felt I ate at the exact, perfect time.
The show was at seven. A screenwriter I revere was in the audience, and I had a banana beforehand to fill my stomach and myself. I also used something called a mechanized neti pot, which literally is something that attaches to the nose and washes out the sinuses. It’s like being gently drowned, and I perversely love the sensation, which leaves a salty sensation in the back of my mouth. Also, it was the last day of our company manager, Claudia, and our producer, Lavoie, had bought Magnolia cupcakes. I had one, but only in solidarity. And a second, to lead by example.
Dinner. After the show, I went to Via Carota, which I was dying to try. My friends live down the street and they wrote down our names while I was still on stage. When it was our turn, I had showered and changed and was on my way. We ordered a lot of things and shared everything, which is always the way to go. The star was the green insalata and a recurring joke about the octopus. Midweek – if I can get it – an Italian carb dinner is what I have after the shows.
Wednesday, April 27
Breakfast. Coffee. Then I had a meeting at a hotel near Central Park. I forgot I had coffee, so before the meeting at Maman, I had coffee. Maman is a NYC network that I didn’t know was a network until it was too late, and now I’m a fan. I Citi I cycled around town for a meeting. I take a ton of Citi Bikes and I think I’m a riskier cyclist than you might think. It’s my worst habit.
For lunch I met my friend Rabbi Iggy. Two rabbis in one week. My Orthodox ancestors would have been proud – and perhaps a little shocked by the variety. Iggy is a rabbi with wonderful children, an accomplished husband and a sleeve full of tattoos. We ate at seven different places together – we kept up – and we never had a bad meal. Our previous one, Hutong, was unforgettable because of an impressive duck and a server who was replaced mid-meal by someone who continually spoke ill of his predecessor.
On this day, we went to a place called Her Name Is Han, a delicious little place in Koreatown. Iggy got budae jjigae, a spicy beef stew with three types of ham – the ancestors hold their pearls – and I got a chicken bapsang, a boiled chicken soup, scallions, black sesame and yuzu.
Yuzu is the new truffle. She’s in the fuckin’ everything. I’m serious. We are one year away from yuzu in eggs.
For dessert we tried mint chocolate chip ice cream at Odeon, but it was closed for filming. We picked kouign-amanns at a bakery in an office building called Frenchette. It was my first time.
Dinner: Jill Kargman and her husband Harry, two of the nicest and most wonderful people, were having their late night birthday party at Sadelle’s. The invitation said to wear pajamas and that there would be breakfast for dinner. I arrived from my show really without pajamas. Everyone was. There was a lot of dancing, and I wouldn’t have been comfortable if I didn’t just have COVID, but because I was swimming with antibodies, I ate about 100 french toast and danced until I was blue in the face.
Thursday, April 28
This day was totally haimish. It’s a lot of Jewish food.
First, Barney Greengrass. There are some great new Jewish delis in town (Gertie in Williamsburg, I’ll see you!), but I still love Barney Greengrass’ sawdust floor vibes. I love that. I love the hefty menu and the brusque waiters and the awful lighting and the Jewish clientele and no music. I went with my friends Sammy, Maude, Syd and Romilly. Gary Greengrass—yes, relative—was on the phone when we walked in. He’s always on the phone.
I had latkes, a sandwich with sable and eggs. I also had coffee. I never drank, but at the beginning of the pandemic, Hannah hooked me, and just a few weeks ago, she found out she was allergic. Now I’m the only coffee drinker in our house.
I wish I could be more supportive because there has been a wave of anti-Semitic violence directed at kosher restaurants. In 2021, someone threw a brick out of Pat’s window on Pico Boulevard, which was confusing because it could be disgusting anti-Semitism or someone who had recently eaten at Pat’s.
In the middle of the afternoon I went to Chelsea Market and ended up in Miznon. I love Middle Eastern food, and Miznon is part of the constellation of Eyal Shani restaurants dotted around New York. They have this cauliflower that they advertise as world famous. I understood. I’ve never been able to elucidate exactly how it’s known worldwide – friends in Reykjavík tell me they’ve never heard of this particular dish – but It is brillant. It’s just sea salt and olive oil and cauliflower, and I ate it in a pita.
I love Chelsea Market because you can jump in and try things on. Dessert was vegan oat milk and soft tahini topped with crumbled halvah from Seed + Mill. This kind of fits the profile of an Israeli lunch. I was positively thrilled. It’s vegan! So it’s healthy!
That night, I had a set at the Comedy Cellar. Comedy Cellar is definitely my favorite club in New York – maybe the planet? – and it’s not just the crowds that pack Macdougal and 3rd’s little lyrical boxes, but the food and company as well. I grabbed the wings, got some tea, and watched two-thirds of the Charlie Chaplin movie they were showing on the cafe wall while Gary Gulman and Ryan Hamilton—two of my favorite comedians—kibited. Damn, I love kibitz.