STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Love it or leave it, fast food is not going away. In fact, it seems our New York City demographic resonates with national chains. I finally have come to embrace this, although a great fan of locally sourced produce (go, Greenmarkets!) and chefs who do actual food craft. To commemorate this epiphany, come along on the Staten Island eating journey with me in two series currently underway: “Fast Food Fridays” and “I Ate This So You Don’t Have To.”
“Fast Food Fridays” brings a guest food service professional or expert franchise regular to a different fast food joint each Friday at 11:30 a.m. We cap off the week on a live stream from my Honda, courtesy of the Advance/SILIVE.com’s Facebook page.
So far on Fridays, we’ve explored the St. George Shake Shack scene with Shaw-nae Dixon of Shaw-nae’s House in Stapleton. Professional actor Ken Tirado of Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn drove shotgun with me through the wildly popular Taco Bell in Port Richmond. Soon we’ll have funeral service director and Old Bermuda Inn owner John Vincent Scalia roll up to a Wendy’s. He’s likely getting the Taco Salad.
The ongoing “I Ate This So You Don’t Have To” program explores new menu items. It is a feature in other Advance markets. I’d like to customize the experience to something us Staten Islanders can appreciate together; so the Advance/SILIVE.com version offers it with an accompanying video.
We will continue “I Ate This” as well on Fridays throwing it into the fast food mix to keep things interesting for our food followers. So far we’ve gone on three such adventures — Wendy’s, McDonald’s and White Castle — diving into sandwiches served from the dashboard. It was an honor to drive around Grant City with Bill Seaquist, life-time winner of White Castle who has a cult fanbase globally. Danny Mills of St. George’s Ruddy and Dean steakhouse served as an outstanding critic and commentator. I see a future for him in Food Network and we’ll enjoy his snark and candor before he hits the cable waves.
MODERN DAY ‘TV DINNER’
If anything, the fast food industry has to be recognized as a rapidly growing sector in the borough in both restaurant options and employment.
Chris Lacey of Lacey’s Bridge Tavern observes, “With both parents working, the cooking has kind of gone out of the equation. With kids doing a million things every day, picking up fast food in between the different practices and travel teams just becomes a regular event.”
The Elm Park chef and owner adds, “In everybody’s busy lifestyle there’s a place for it, right? But the downside is that it’s developing a whole generation of palates that only know fast food. It’s the modern day TV dinner.”
Something Sweet and Hawaii Poke Bowl founders Nicole Li and Frank Lin have rounded out their restaurant collections with a fried chicken concept — their very own Chick N Burger at 302 New Dorp Lane. It offers Hong Kong style eats such as noodle soups, wings and burgers.
Li says their brand of fast food casual is inexpensive, expeditious and tasty.
“It’s convenient for most of the people,” said Li. There’s no drive-thru option at the East Shore flagship operation. But phone orders and drive by pickups have provided convenience to the small business’ regulars.
Jimmy Collins of West Brighton says, “We do one night every couple of weeks where we don’t cook and you can order whatever you want.” Dinners are culled from Taco Bell, Planet Wings or Gyro King. Burger King is a favorite, especially for its easy app and continually fresh new flavors. Subway is a close second.
Collins explains, “They have a better, fresher variety than most delis. Some delis you’re not sure of the age on anything. Subway you know should be fresh. The Outlaw sandwich is my go to.”
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].