By Joelle Berger
When searching for a New York City apartment, we evaluate the neighborhood: subways, laundromats, grocers, schools. We carefully, prudently, weigh the statistics, determining which are the true deal-breakers and which we can live with. We try our best to make informed decisions, but around every unexamined corner lurks a surprise. Something we never considered, because we never thought we needed to.
Four years ago, soon after renting my Lincoln Square apartment, I discovered my own surprise: I live in a food delivery dead zone. Dead like a side of kale.
My sob song plays as follows. I live on 67th Street, blocks from the Big Bouluds and other post-show establishments. Most Hell’s Kitchen restaurants stop delivering at 59th Street. Most Upper West Side restaurants cut off at 72nd Street. Those of us sandwiched in between must fend for ourselves, in our own little subdivision that objectively appears convenient in all other aspects of life – just not this.
Nonsense, one would think. Not in a city with enough Thai-style noodles to fill the McCarren Park Pool. But a brief analysis of Seamless proves my plight. Fourteen restaurants claim to deliver Thai food to my address; however, one must not be fooled by the labels. Out of those 14 restaurants, eight are actually sushi spots with a splash of Pad Thai. In a worldly fashion, one of these places holds itself out as serving Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. No, thank you. The remaining six Thai restaurants do not fare much better: one charges a delivery fee for my apartment being out of range, one has an hour-plus delivery estimate, and three have a three-star rating or less (for good cause – I’ve tried them all). Ergo, no noodles for me.
We are not completely without options: hummus and sushi options. I could recite a dissertation on which hummus restaurants serve meat and which sushi restaurants serve spicy rolls with super-minced fish. These specialty options, however, lose luster and add up over time. I don’t order sushi every week for the same reason I don’t walk over to Shun Lee and take out a garlic lobster. Absent the occasional polar vortex, if I wanted to spend that kind of change, I would eat out.
Dramatics aside, living in a delivery dead zone has had its silver lining. Like many bad surprises in this city, we cope with them. Grow from them. This Lincoln Square apartment is where my now-husband and I first moved in together. We were in our mid-twenties, both embarking on our careers and not knowing much about cohabitation, or adulthood. Our delivery dilemma subtly pushed us toward the grocery store. Over time, I learned not just how to cook, but to love to cook, a passion built from circumstance alone. I aim to prepare dinner four nights a week, which affords us the balance of enjoying great meals out on the weekend – far, far outside of our neighborhood.
But every month has its rainy night; or in this year’s case, every year has its snowy month. I may have risen above my culinary challenges, but I still hold out hope that on one such night, a perfect Thai noodle will arrive at my door. Hell’s Kitchen and Upper West Side establishments should take notice: there are thousands of hungry New Yorkers in my dead zone, and likely in other dead zones, waiting with open wallets, looking to open our doors.
Joelle Berger is an attorney by trade and a writer and food blogger by heart. www.averagejoelle.com
Clip art via foodclipart.com.