"Given the strong economy," the fellow who wrote the release informs us, "a general feeling of bonhomie seems to be permeating diners nationally. The average tip across the US is now 17.75%, with 43% of surveyors saying they tip 20% or more. Diners in Boston are leading this trend with an average tip of 18.35% and 55% tipping 20% or more. [sic]"
This is classic stuff. One observes with a pitying respect Zagat's statistical exertions there; observes them with the same condescending admiration with which one watches a learning-disabled child excel at some dubious achievement?flinging wet clots of toilet paper forcefully against the boy's room ceiling, maybe, or wrestling the family dog. Bra-vo. The average tip across the US is now 17.75%, Zagat informs us, and we here at Soup to Nuts shudder with the knowledge that a great and terrible truth has been loosed upon the world. Know, friends?and hide the youngsters and the womenfolk here, for this stuff is potential dynamite?that diners in Boston tip a full .6 percent more than the national average for the mediocre food and service they're forced to endure in theirs, a city as undistinguished in the realm of the culinary arts as it is in nearly every other respect save the objectionableness of its tap water, which tastes like someone boiled haddock in it. It's stunning that a team of crack statisticians was convened in order to create such a wan little datum as that?such a stillborn, clubfooted statistic. Hey! Everybody! In that suckhole Boston they tip .6 percent more! Thus will certainly result in grievous traffic on the northbound I-95 as the entirety of the New York restaurant industry hires U-Hauls and skips town for the Massachusetts capital in what will amount to a latter-day goldrush for food-industry whiteys, everybody heading up to that insipid college town on the Charles, there to reap the windfall of that extra six-tenths of a cent on every tipping dollar...
And yet elsewhere Zagat provides a useful service in reacquainting its readership with the typical provincial American's almost psychopathic self-regard, his looney, bug-eyed culture-of-self-esteem amour propre. Check out this amazing fact: Of the nine restaurants in the new volume that earned near-perfect food ratings of 29, not one is in New York.
Not in New York! you exclaim. Impossible! And yet here it is, in black and white. Three, according to Zagat, are in Philadelphia, one's the justly famous French Laundry out in Napa and the remaining five are located in such pulse-quickening culinary cities as Chicago, Dallas, Portland, Phoenix and Washington, VA?cities that for gourmet splendor are rivaled on this continent only by...well, apparently by Philadelphia, which is a town in southern New Jersey, we seem to remember, not too far from Camden.
And it's not just New York. Notice that America's other two inarguably great restaurant cities?Los Angeles and San Francisco?aren't represented either, and learn something distasteful about contemporary Dittohead America, where every egomaniac Rotarian's a king and every ghastly blonde-banged Sun Belt princess is married to the drawling heavy-haunched tobacky-chomping SUV vicomte of his local chamber of commerce. Har har har har good ta see ya, ya try the gay-yard of poo-lay in pooley foosey down at the Au-berge yet? Naw? S'at new place nexta Caldor off Jeff Davis Hahway. Oh, the wowser nightmare of status-mad Boom America, where every Big Booster wants what's coming to him here in the land of lands, a nation in which Atlanta?Atlanta?has the balls to consider itself one of the most "livable" cities in the country, against all the prevailing evidence. Once we git this LeRoy Neiman Museum a-built, or some such horror, whah, we ain't gon' play no second-fiddle to nobody, culchally, heah in what we lahk ta call the biggest l'il city in Amurka, har har harrrrr, and the fellows at U.S. News & World Report, with their eye on their demographics, swallow their pride and play right along with the madness. A country where there exists such a geographic-ideological construct as the "New South," which is arguably more problematic than Bull Connor's Old South used to be. A country full of guys with minor vinyl siding fortunes and brand-new antebellum mansions with wall-to-wall plush and Hummel figurine mantel sets in raw treeless developments outside suburbanized excresences like Little Rock and Knoxville... Dudes with pomade and Mannheim Steamroller records thump-thump-thumpin' from minivans and daughters named Brittanee...
The 2000 Zagat Survey of America's Top Restaurants can be purchased from Zagat Survey, 4 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019. Your check for $14.50 includes handling and postage to wherever the hell you live out there in the stripmalled heart of God's Country.
Year's end torpor and lassitude here at Soup to Nuts, which gets us singing old Negro call-and-response work songs to buck up our flagging spirits. Xandooooh, oh oh ohhhhh... All together now: Xandooooooh!
That's right: we're talking Xando, that mini-chain of smart little coffee shops that's stepping up its game by merging with the Cosi sandwich franchise and serving, you know, sandwiches and stuff. It's Xando's 6th Ave. branch to which we always repair glumly?not that we've got anything at all against the place?when we can't shoehorn ourselves into a barstool at Bar 6 next door, but we're told that it's the new Xando Cosi branch on Park Ave. S. that's to be the place where sandwiches and coffee will interact fully for the first time, thus showering the New York food scene with sparks of excitement and power. Oh, and alcohol and couches, too, just like in eighth grade. The new branch is located, like we said, somewhere on Park Ave. S., with new franchises to pop up in the Union Square area and northern Times Square any month now.
A new place called BrasserieBit has opened in the theater district at 258 W. 44th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., and will serve "classic French Bistro fare with Alsatian flair in a structurally stunning three-floor space designed by renowned British architect David Collins" in an attempt to wean the tourists off Charley O's.
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