Welcome to Tables For One | A. Pontious, Critic at Large

 

HELLO A PONITUS,

I notice that you have not posted in a year. I would like to purchase tablesforone.com can offer $7.

Signed,
Tables for One.com

Dear Tables,

An inquiry like this doesn't really require a reply on its own merit, especially since you will note my name is A. Pontious, A Ponitus sounds like latin for ponies, perhaps in the past tense. Nunquam ponitus. But I have decided to use your half-formed correspondance as a writing prompt to address what's happened since October.
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april 10, 2015 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

Schmatzek's

Frank Schmatzek has had one job his entire life, working behind the deli counter at Schmatzek’s Deli. He is now eighty-five and the recent documentary, Frank Smells Like Smoked Meat, examines a life devoted to making sandwiches. The film, like the delli itself, is a long wait for a salty treat that has a little bit of spice.

In New York City, pastrami is king, and smoked meat is its twin brother who has been locked away in a tower and forced to wear an iron mask. Frank, who has spent sixty-eight years in the business, will assure you that smoked meat is better.
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april 6,, 2015 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 

 


 

telemetry

TelemetryDining invites an informal kind of surveilance. We hear conversations from the diners around us; we note what other diners are eating; we stare at people outside who furrow their brows at the menu that has inexplicably been posted at eye-level on the window facing our table. “What are you waiting for?” we might ask this person, “If I’m here, it’s good enough for you.” They make a pained expression and stare at the menu some more.
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October 27, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

“COFFEE”

COFFEEWe climb down the metal staircase. It is hot, and we are are sweating, and the staircase creaks as we go further down. We know what we want, and we have reliable information that we can find it here, and so despite the abject misery in doing so, we continue on.
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September 1, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

the museum of sad cuisine

The Museum of Sad CuisineThe Museum of Sad Cuisine (the former Joost Hotel, located in the West Village), is almost the size of the Whitney or the Guggenheim. How is it possible that so few people have even heard of it?
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June 18, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 



chancery

ChanceryThe windows are covered in butcher’s paper, and taped over is a handwritten note: Tonight will be our last evening at this location. Please join us from 5 to 11 PM. Anyone walking by will nod their head sadly, although it’s very unlikely that they would have eaten at Chancery prior to now. Chancery has no fixed address, it’s a pop-up restaurant, open for one day only.
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February 25, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

news

NewsWandering along the spectacle that is Prince Street, you might almost miss the newsstand that is at the corner of Greene. It’s smaller than most newsstands, practically a phone booth, and it doesn’t sell magazines, cough drops, or energy drinks. Instead, News sells little marzipan and chocolate newspapers, about the size of a business card
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February 3, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

YETI

YetiArctic explorers eat food in a way that we do not. Their bodies work overtime to burn calories in sub-zero temperatures, like coal in a furnace, so they can eat pillowcase after pillow case of deep-fried nachos, followed by deep-fried King Cones without gaining an ounce of fat or shame.  And yet, as the January winds howl . . .
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January 29, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

 

frito be you and me

FishstiqueFritos are oily, salty chips shaped like large confetti that have been packaged by the Frito-Lay company since 1932 (although sometimes they've been known to make a fresh batch). They are an essential ingredient to the Frito Pie, and all of the dishes at Frito Be You and Me on the Lower East Side. It’s a restaurant that is a curious blend of Tuscan cooking and excessive sodium (each table has two pitchers of water, both vital to the dining experience).
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January 16, 2014 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

destroy all bread!

Destroy All Bread!“I can't stand the healthy, respectable, wholesome reputation of bread,” says chef Michelle Dunning. “It’s ridiculous. More than ridiculous, it’s offensive. Bread should be for everybody! At Destroy All Bread we talk about our favorite horror movies, our favorite bands, and how we're going to make a new demented loaf of bread.”
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December 10, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

welcome to supper

Welcome to SupperWhile he is mum about the subject on his public radio show and his live-streaming channel, Jonathan Schwartz has a supper club. A studio on the Upper West Side that seats about eight very comfortably, Welcome to Supper is decorated with stunning posters of Sinatra playbills, and has the finest audio equipment you’ll ever lay ears on.
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November 19, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 

 


 

the bankgurt

The BankgurtDateline November 2013: New York City, a name once synonomous with crime, music, art, literature and sex is now known largely for the only two things that truly thrive: banks and yogurt. And then there are the cupcake shops, which are now considered “too edgy.” Enter the Bankgurt, the only business guaranteed to thrive for the next three months.
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November 4, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

AUTOMPNE


AutompneFall, fall at last! The air is crisp, you can walk around the city without smelling too much of it, if you’re inclined to go jogging you may, if you would rather wear a form-hiding sweater, that's fine too.  But chef Michael Forth, the owner for Autompne (the old French word for Fall) is crazy about the season in a way that most other people, including myself, are not.
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October 31, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

A CHASE THROUGH IOWA

A Chase Through IowaI don't know how people manage to stay on the lam. As I drive through state after state, all I can think is, “I must return to New York.” While the idea that I was being pursued had a certain caché, I found myself wondering more and more if I hadn't been making the whole thing up. Being a food critic calls for a certain sense of the dramatic. You can’t dislike a dish you have to be offended by it. You can’t just not have an opinion, you have to be unimpressed. This is the insight that Iowa, land of driving long distances, has brought me.
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October 17, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

dorothea's cupkin house

Dorothea's Cupkin HouseDriving across America is the antithesis of the adventure I wanted to have, particularly after finding a relatively happy life in New York. I get so bored of the goddamn trees. And even more vexing are the other cars around me. I hate other cars, and the humans who drive them.
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October 1, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

Kalehenge!

Kalehenge!Smelling of cured meat and desperation, I took Metro North to visit a friend upstate, explaining succinctly that I needed to get the hell out of town. “Of course,” she said, offering me the keys to her station wagon, because apparently I have friends like that. If this were a novel, no doubt some ghastly fate would befall her for helping me, and so I immediately felt incredibly guilty.
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September 17, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

SALADEO'S PASTRAMI MOBILE

Saladeo's Pastrami MobileLife on the lam has always appealed to me ever since seeing The 39 Steps as a small boy. While I wasn’t even totally certain that Museo’s waitstaff was pursuing me, and I was not yet handcuffed to a beautiful woman, I didn’t see any point in waiting around to see if these things would happen. You have to make your own luck.
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September 12, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

Museo

MuseoMany readers wrote in over the last few days to console me about my existential crisis with Sabbatik, and had suggestions for restaurants that I should try to lift my spirits. I shall in turn offer them a suggestion: leave the dining advice to the experts. I know where and what to eat after a dark evening of the soul. . .
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August 27, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

saBbatiK

SabbatikIn 1998, Chef Marc Gimarché opened Sabbatik, a restaurant which is closed two days for every day it remains open. It was open for fourteen days in September, reopened in November, where it was open until December, then closed until February, where it stayed open for six months, closed for an entire year, re-opened for four months, closed for eight . . .
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August 13, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

EFFERVESS

EffervessThe emergence of the handcrafted soda is something that I would have been more excited about in the years that predated the dotcom crash, for that is when I began drinking in earnest. Now that the Sodastream is a household name, it seems as though the cola wars are at an end. But maybe they’ve just taken a strange, quiet turn. . .
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August 7, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS


 


 

PLIES BAR

Plies BarWhen Mars Bar shuttered in 2011 there was some concern that New York City might no longer have the grimiest most disgusting bar in the Universe. “What if there's no place to drink where your feet stick to the floor?” people asked themselves in the late hours of the night. “What if there isn’t a bar where the walls are covered in thirty-one layers of graffiti, with a thirty-second in progress?” “What if there’s a place with more than two choices of beer . . . ” Do not worry, dear reader.
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July 30, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

K’s HEARTBREAK

K's HeartbreakK’s Heartreak is a 24-hour coffee shop and “It has to be,” says owner Kay Holland, “Because heartbreak doesn't happen during regular business hours.” And Kay knows this best of all, describing having moved to the city with her boyfriend and breaking up only after . . .
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July 21, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

 

potatobird

Potatobird!The knish feels like a weird relic of New York, although unlike most relics, you can eat it with mustard. I will confess that I have been dreading the reinvention of the knish for some time because it will be another moment where I will feel older than I really am.
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July 10, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

@Caszhew

@CaszhewThe quality of Instagram is not strained: While photos of food might boost business, some restaurants have banned taking photos of their food, which is both completely understandable and also hilarious. We can’t stop people from taking pictures of anything. Even by asking nicely. Maybe someone will create a forcefield or some kind of photography death-ray, or maybe we’ll all learn to leave food photography to the professionals. Until that day, we are living in Mark Caszchew’s strange world of expertise.
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June 18, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

garden out back

Garden Out BackIt is early May, and even though at the time of this writing it still threatens to snow, the chalkboards on the sidewalk all read “Garden out back” for even the most modest 20 square feet of on man's land adorned with the most apologetic of lawn furniture. New Yorkers, still clad in quilted jackets and boots, wait in droves for these petite wastelands, teeth chattering as they attempt to make conversation about their spring travel plans.
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June 11, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

The piZZA SHERPA

The Pizza SherpaNew York Pizza is a gauntlet of by-the-slice arrangements where the price of entry is low but the rewards are slim. At some point, it’s clear, we agreed that there would be fueling stations throughout the city for human beings who demanded little in terms of nutrition or hospitality. . . . Fortunately for us, a hero has stepped forward from the pizza shadows.
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June 4, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

The Odds

The OddsWhen we go out to eat, we're paying for an expertise, generally regional, or in hospitality or technique. Chef Sasha Gregkind is against this idea. “There’s too much comfort, too much affability, not enough danger in the New York dining scene. Who is really making things happen? More specifically, who is making it a point to challenge not only the diners but the chefs as well?”
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May 28, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

Utnsil

UtnslThose who find their fork, spoon, knife, or chopstick lacking may enjoy Utnsil, a bistro who has finessed a process that many would argue needs little improvement. There are three menus at Utnsil—one for food, one for drink, and one for utensils.
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May 21, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 



 

an Unspecified Tollbooth

An Unspecified TollboothIn 1994 I heard a rumor that if you picked a specific tollbooth on the Jersey turnpike—if you knew someone who knew someone—there was a certain booth worker, an italian grandmother, who could pack the most delicious box lunch. Savory meatballs in a marinara sauce with thick slabs of freshly baked bread, a thermos of hot coffee, and chocolate almond biscotti.
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May 21, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

 

How I Ate My Paris Vacation

How I Ate My Paris VacationI haven’t been to Paris in a long time and was worried that I had lost the hang of walking around beautiful streets, window shopping through chic neighborhoods and eating delicious food. . . .
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May 14, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

The Stroller-Thru

Park Slope is home to 700,000 strollers and almost as many babies, and so it only makes sense that it is now home to The Stroller-Thru—possibly the only store that you can easily bring a stroller into without making a 198-point turn.
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APRIL 23, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 



Power+UP

Power+UPJust around the corner from Third Ward in Bushwick is a warehouse, like most warehouses in Brooklyn, that might have actually been used for manufacturing something other than an experience.
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APRIL 16, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

 

The Worst Barista in the World

The Worst Barista in the WorldHe's been called The Worst Barista in the World. “I can make a latte backwards,” he tells me proudly after twiddling with his phone, some espresso machine nobs, and then his phone some more.
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APRIL 16, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS


 


 

 

The Bacondance

The Annual BacondanceThe Bacondance festival is an annual (this one being the second) festival of bacon and music held in the former coffin-making district of Gowanus.
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April 8, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS




 


 

THE VICEROY

The ViceroyThere was a time, before it was made punishable by Bloombergian bastinado, when you could walk into a restaurant and and plumes of cigarette smoke would be all around you. In fact, you yourself might even be smoking.
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April 2, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

THE FIRECAKE

It's unlikely that I would know this if I did not use a computer, but the doughnut was one of the earliest foods whose process was automated. Doughnut making machines roared to life in the 30s and 40s when such things were new and considered an improvement, probably because frying dough has a very low threshold for failure. At least, it did until now.
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April 2, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

CUCURBITA

In the cast of starring foods, squash is the life we left behind, the small-town love that we forgot. Our Rosebud. Our planet Krypton. Squash is almost always good, and yet so few people cook it. Most people who are enthusiastic about spaghetti squash can probably count on one hand how many times they've actually made it.
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April 2, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

SalÉ

At Salé, salt is nowhere to be found in the food, nor can you find it in a the familiar little container on the dining table. That's because the dining table, and plates, and chairs, are actually made of salt itself.
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March 26, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

LARP

LARPLarp may be an acronym for for “Live Action Roleplaying” but it's also the name of a chef who grew up in Bensonhurst, moved to the LES, and then quickly established herself as the frontwoman for Williamsburg's most delicious new restaurant.
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March 26, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

ACOUSTIA

Acoustia“We don't serve food,” the chef and sound designer for Acoustia explained to a passerby who was baffled by the specials for the evening, “We serve sounds.”
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March 26, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

BILL

BillIt's not the frito pie with lamb and ricotta or the braised asparagus with champagne vinagrette that raise eyebrows at Bill, the small invititations-only supper club in Harlem. No, it is the strange presence of former President William Jefferson Clinton, who arrives at every table with a hug and a smile.
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MARCH 19, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 



SWING

SwingPorches are scarce in New York City, but not nearly as scarce as porch swings, those staples of movies that take place in a colorful little hometown where everyone is content with what they are and the only expectation is to live a long and good life.
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MARCH 19, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

Rolup

RolupMany of us are familiar with the fruit rollup, a leathery fruit preserve whose appeal seemed limited to the children on television who were paid to endorse it. but Rolup on Mercer street has something of a cult following.
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MARCH 19, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 


 

153 RIDGE AVENUE

 

135 Ridge AvenueThe premise of 153 Ridge Avenue, which is the name of a restaurant off Broadway, is more like a plot than an ambience. “I wanted to recreate the taste of pizza and beer after moving a lot of heavy furniture for a student approaching their senior year in the summer of 1994 . . .
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MARCH 12, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS


 


 

THE BEARDSMEAL

 

The BeardsmealBeards, as anyone with eyes knows, are back in a big way. And big beards are back in a bigger way. But food-beards are something else entirely. “We're not always looking for new food, sometimes we're looking for a new way to eat . . . ”
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MARCH 12, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS


 


 

FISHSTIQUE


FishstiqueFishstick Night is often recalled as a happy time in childhood when attempts at nutrition were cast to the four winds, or in this case, the four seas, and the breaded flesh of an unidentified fish was waved around, and eventually eaten . . .
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MARCH 12, 2013 | BY A. PONTIOUS

 

 


 

 

Restaurants in Alphabetical Order

 

Autompne

Acoustia

Bacondance, The

Bankgurt, The

Beardsmeal, The

Bill

Caszhew, Mark

Cathèdre de Macaron

Coffee

Chancery

Complète

Cucurbita

Destroy All Bread!

Dorothea's Cupkin House

Effervess

Firecake, The

Fishstique

Frito be You and Me

Garden Out Back

K's Heartbreak

 

 

Kalehenge

Odds, The

Pizza Sherpa, The

Plies Bar

Potatobird

Power+UP

Rolup

Sabbatik

Salé

Saladeo's Pastrami Mobile

Stroller Thru, The

Swing

Telemetry

Théâtre Macaronet

Tollbooth, Unspecified

Utinsl

Viceroy, The

Welcome to Supper

The Worst Barista in the World

Yeti

153 Ridge Avenue

 

 

About Tables for One

 

Tables for One is a monthly journal of rare restaurant reviews established in 2013. It has been featured on The Improvised Life, discussed on Metafilter and was recently nominated for a Gray’s Papaya Award for sincerity and authenticity in food journalism.

 

A. PONTIOUS has written for Hors D'oeuvre, The Brooklyner Journal, and is and is the focus of the upcoming documentary The Man Who Will Eat Everything. He lives in Manhattan.

EVAN JOHNSTON is a designer, illustrator, and writer. His comics have appeared on The Toast, his writing has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency and The Awl.

 

“ . . . wonderfully eccentric restaurants designed to feed other senses.”
The Improvised Life

 

“It's the Einstein's Dreams of food blogs.”
Karen Shimizu, Senior Editor of Saveur Magazine

 

Twitter: @TablesforOne | email: apontious [@] tablesforone.com