The Other Gentrification: New Indian, Japanese in Bed-Stuy


If you live on the Upper West Side, or any other neighborhood that feels like the New York of yuppie-aimed sit-coms, you come to take for granted of a wide variety of take-out options nearby. Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Thai, Mexican. When you babysit for these people, it’s almost required that they leave you a giant folder full of them. Not that I’m so broke that I still babysit! Ha!

Anyway, if, instead, you live in the kind of neighborhood where you have to be careful not to run over feral cats at every corner, there’s probably one or two prevailing cuisines. In Bed-Stuy, a person can tire of West Indian and fast food, and the restaurant opportunists out there know this. While of course, some sure signs of gentrification are the sprouting up of wine bars and free-trade coffee-pushers, another sort of amusing sign, and sometimes an earlier one, is the sudden appearance of bad-to-mediocre ethnic eateries with no natural customers built into the area. A more extreme example would be the Mexican-owned Chinese restaurants in Midwestern college towns.

But let’s stick with Bed-Stuy, since this is where the bulk of my research has taken place. As I said before, I can only crave curry goat so often, although it’s certainly the best food around these parts. Recently I ventured into a sushi restaurant on Franklin Avenue that looks like it fell from the sky and onto the wrong movie set. It’s big, shiny, and colorful, with a campy outdoor area in front, and, I’m sorry to say, some of my fish ended up discarded in my napkin. It saddened me to realize this is what some of my more timid friends think raw fish would taste like.

A couple of weeks later, I ended up at a new Indian place, also on Franklin Avenue, which had been open for 46 days, according to our server. The food was fine, and familiar. In fact, both the Indian and Japanese restaurants seemed to have menus identical to many around town. You know, chicken tikka masala, age tofu. A table of whities sat in the corner drinking wine, perhaps relieved to eat something familiar from the days before they were priced out of Manhattan.