NYC v LA Round 3: Food

If you want to read what this series of posts is all about, go here.


So I thought I’d do a pros and cons for each of the cities (NYC and LA) based on 15 categories of my choosing – i.e the kind of things that are important to me about a place that I chose to live. For example, since I don’t have any children, so you won’t see “education” on the list, but I do love to eat sandwiches, so “food” will definitely be on the list.

Keep in mind these are MY pros and cons…pros and cons that I have come to after living in LA for five years (2000 – 2005) and then living in New York for five years (2005 – 2010).  This is intended to be a fun (and funny) list, and is not to be taken seriously, but I hope some of you, especially those of you who have lived in both places (or experienced them) will enjoy it. Come back tomorrow for Round 4.

03. FOOD

People are going to kill me for this, because NYC has great food.  Pretty much any food you can imagine, and some of the most amazing restaurants in the world.  But it’s a long held belief (stereotype?) that NYC has mediocre Mexican food (one of my favorite cuisines) and it’s pretty well proven out.  I’ve found a few places I like, but nothing that beats the Mexican food I had in LA.

In NYC I will miss:  Ithaca, Urban Lobster, Pearl Oyster Bar, Katz’s, Corner Bistro, Acme, Sabor a Mexico, Olives, and the powerful margaritas at Cilantro.

But in LA I have long been missing (and sometimes dreaming about):  Bay Cities, Malibu Seafood, Casa Vega, Matsuda Seafood, Fritto Misto, Kay & Dave’s (best hamburger I’ve ever had), Little Toni’s, Taverna Tony, La Serenada, Fred 62, and even Baja Fresh.

NYC does have one secret weapon working for it and that is LOBSTER ROLLS.  Many of you have heard me rave about how much I love these and I will miss them immensely when they become more difficult to obtain (LA has only two restaurants that definitely carry them as far as I can tell – but I’ve yet to do the taste test).

But LA has a secret weapon too, and that secret weapon is YELLOW MUSTARD.  You would not believe how difficult it is to get simple yellow mustard in New York.  Not only that, but most New Yorkers apparently do not understand what you’re saying when you ask about it.  Watch this reenactment of me ordering a sandwich:

ME:  Do you have yellow mustard?

NEW YORKER:  Yeah, yeah, sure.

ME:  Not brown mustard – yellow.

NEW YORKER:  Yeah, we have yellow.

ME (unsure):  Okay, then I’d like some yellow mustard on the sandwich too.

NEW YORKER:  No problem.

Two minutes later, opening my sandwich in the park.

ME:  Sonofabitch!

Imagine a sandwich drenched in brown mustard.

This has happened no less than two dozen times to me verbatim in New York.  Eventually I learned to just stop asking.  But I’m still miserable.  In a city that has EVERYTHING why can’t I get a sandwich with yellow mustard on it?  Access to lobster rolls cannot defeat something as simple as the ability to have a sandwich the way you’d like it.  Advantage:  LA


  1. Puckett’s avatar

    I once tried to get salsa to put on an omelette. In NYC. Here’s how that went:

    Dude: Salsa?

    Me: Yeah, salsa.

    Dude: You want salsa for your eggs?

    Me: Yeah. Is that a problem?

    Dude: No, I’ll be right back.

    (Dude disappears and returns.)

    Dude: Here you go.

    (Places a glass of clear, fizzy liquid on the table.)

    Me: What’s this?

    Dude: Salsa.

    Me: Dude, that is NOT salsa.

    Dude: Yeah, it is.

    Me: Dude, I’ve lived in California a long time, and there is not a single tomato, onion, chopped up bit of garlic, cilantro or anything else that’s an ingredient in salsa in that glass of clear, fizzy liquid.

    Dude: Wait, you wanted tomato sauce?

    Me: No, I want SALSA.

    Dude: Oh. Well, that’s seltzer. Enjoy your meal.

    *shakes fist at random forgotten dude who brought seltzer water 15 years ago*

  2. kfugrip’s avatar

    The reason there is no yellow mustard in NY is because it is an inferior mustard.

  3. karen’s avatar

    Everytime I go to subway they always give me yellow mustard and I also ask for spicy mustard (aka brown). I feel your pain in the opposite way.

  4. karen’s avatar

    wow I just re-read my post, I should go to sleep…”also” should read “always” I’m a one mustard at a time kind a gal.

  5. Ben Cohen’s avatar

    I love this, and will find this useful in my travels back to LA (which I know well) and NYC (which I have done only once…I know I have lived back east for how long?!).

    Not to be snooty, but predict that on almost all of these posts, my internal voice will say, “well if
    That is what you want move to SF…LA NYC-pretension=SF.” But hay, I grew up there so…

  6. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @puckett: That story is HILARIOUS. It so one ups my Yellow Mustard story.

    @Adam: NO.

    @Karen: Hmm…I hate Subway…but knowing their preference for yellow mustard makes me think I should reconsider. I do think that chains probably all have yellow mustard available – since they have to be “the same” from place to place. But since moving here I find I rarely go to chains or eat fast food…which is good I suppose, but I do find myself sometimes craving chains/fast food…which is weird and not good I suppose.

    @Ben: Hopefully it will be entertaining. For the record, if SF had a booming film business Adam and I would be moving there immediately. It’s one of our favorite cities (it has long been one of mine, and a trip there together several years ago had him falling in love too). Unfortunately for us we’re likely going to be relegated to NYC and LA because of Adam’s work. And those are certainly not bad city choices by any means, but I wish SF could be in there too.

  7. karen’s avatar

    I kind of veered off subject with my subway comment, if I worked in NYC the veggie delight would not be my lunch of choice. NYC by far has to win, no one goes to LA to earn their cooking credentials. It’s in NYC that you hear all of the great chefs lament about learning to cook. Also Daniel Boulud does not have a restaurant in LA so thumbs down to that. So many great places to eat in NYC! Mmm.

  8. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @karen: Hmm. Well, I certainly would not be able to argue that NYC REALLY has fewer great restaurants than LA, or is inferior technically, but I stand by my love of good (and plentiful) Mexican food and yellow mustard – which LA has over NYC. HOWEVER, since (and correct me if I’m wrong) you’ve never been/lived in LA…I think it makes you even less qualified to judge than me! 😉

    That said, as a vegetarian I think you’d be really happily surprised and impressed by LA’s options. When I finally move back you’ll have to come visit.

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