Biscuits and gravy
I missed out on the original Shopsin's. And what the original Shopsin's was I barely even understand enough to be able to explain to you.
Shopsin's was—is (but we'll get to that)—a diner in lower Manhattan. It was a place that was very much the bailiwick of one man, Kenny Shopsin, and was seemingly pulled straight from his very being. It was the real version of those little local faux-dives that try to bombard you with quirks, goofy shit on the walls, maybe sandwiches that use donuts as buns. But I hear Shopsin's was legit. Kenny Shopsin was a man who loved food and the New York Mets, but mostly food, and what started as a simple diner menu over the years became an incomparable, staggering collection of items completely disconnected from one another, as he seemingly just kept finding things he liked to eat elsewhere in the city, and added it to the menu. Pancakes. Chilequiles. African curry soup. Yuzo pork sandwiches. Latkes. Fried chicken. How they were able to keep everything in the kitchen, and how the found line cooks to learn to make everything, I don't understand. But for years, Kenny Shopsin held court over his tiny little diner hidden in the corner of the Essex Market and became a Legendary New York Guy.
And then they bulldozed the place to build a new luxury high rise and food hall. Which, I guess for the best, features a shiny new Shopsin's.
So for the last few years, since learning of its fat—and Kenny's (RIP)—I never thought much about going to the place. It just felt wrong, a new gentrified Shopsin's with all the quirks and personality retrofitted to a steel and glass box, the menu no longer a mess of Microsoft Word text boxes, the furniture a 2022 retro version of a 90s version of 60s retro. I felt okay having missed out on it, and that was that.
Until this weekend, when I was in lower Manhattan and desperate for some biscuits and gravy, and heading right towards the new Essex Market. So, fuck it, I went to Shopsin's.
Okay, so, they did okay. The place is okay. The vibe is okay. I truly can't compare it to the old place, because like I said, I never went to the old place. I've barely seen any pictures, I just don't know. But all things considered, I feel like the experience here wasn't so different. The menu is still completely unwieldy (a girl at the bar next to me literally said to the waiter, "I need some help"), the staff felt like they'd been slinging Kenny's nonsense food for years, and best of all: OMG this was a damn good plate of food.
The other part is that every single plate that went out to the other tables all looked equally delicious. There's like 200 things on the menu, and as far as I can tell all of them are great, and I honestly want to go back and try at least 3 more of them. Wish I would've done it 10 years ago, but I humbly admit that I'm happy to have done it nonetheless.