I wait tables at a French bistro in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We’ve got a Michelin star, a killer take on steak-frites, and a lot of line cooks with pill problems. The community down here is unbelievable, and it seems that every day, another aspiring gourmand arrives looking to actualize their culinary dreams.
Just the other day, I’m walking by Tori Noodle, and I see this string-bean looking fellow, dark sunglasses and a plain white tee shirt. I muse aloud to myself, “damn, could that be the next Anthony Bourdain?” But realistically, I probably just thought that because he kept lighting cigarettes inside a ramen shop.
Every day at Tori Noodle, he’s there. Two gorgeous plumes rising above him, one from his Tonkatsu ramen and the other from a freshly lit Marlboro Red. His face looks like it’s seen many shifts — either that or that he’s a 27-year-old so addicted to light beer that he’s basically aged double since his graduation from Sarah Lawrence College in 2018. (His degree was in Creative Writing.) Whenever I enter Tori to get my takeout order, I try to catch a whisper of him speaking to the servers. Truth is, it’s basically impossible to ever hear a word he’s saying because he’s got that cigarette stuck between his lips like, 24/7.
It’s pretty damn hard to find any real rockstars in this day and age. Men on the fringes of society, outsider artists like William Burroughs or my friend Ricky who builds sculptures out of stale kaiser rolls he steals from the dump. This guy though? I can tell that he’s the real deal. He smokes all day, certainly doesn’t have a girlfriend, and sports a tattoo on his bicep of Daniel Plainview flipping the bird. He’s a cultural outcast, someone who clearly doesn’t give a fuck about who’s going viral that day or why we probably shouldn’t listen to The Growlers anymore.
What’s more badass than spending 45 bucks on ramen every day?
I kept having fantasies of him telling me how much his soup reminded him of The New York Dolls. I decided to introduce myself.
My mind raced as I approached his table. Would he teach me the proper way to julienne carrots? Would he call me a cocksucker, slap me on the back, and say “sorry hombre, that’s just how we bastards talk in the restaurant biz”? Or would he take me under his wing, show me all the most underground bars in Manhattan? You know, the kind of place where you can get a beer, a slice of pepperoni pizza, and a handgun for only 3 bucks?
The conversation was much simpler than all that. He lowered his sunglasses, eyes bloodshot from drink, and said in the world’s driest voice, “got a bump of coke?”