In this week’s Village Voice, I probe the neuromechanics behind the munchies and why we crave certain foods while we’re high. I also talk stoner cuisine, which seems to have taken off in recent years, driven by young, curious mouths who are pushing chefs to experiment with ever more esoteric ingredients, styles, and techniques. There’s never been a better time to get high and go eat in New York City.
Peep the choices below for some dank eats to sate even the strongest of buzzes.
King Noodle, 1045 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-456-6543
For a strange but pleasant snack, head to this funky Bushwick clubhouse, where the neon, graffiti-scrawled digs should enhance your buzz. In chef Nick Subic’s kitchen, anything goes, as long as it’s fun and tastes good, so expect zany dishes like Dorito kimchi carbonara and ma po chili cheese fries, a bizarrely but totally awesome take on classic diner disco or chili-cheese fries. Subic starts with cheese-scattered fries, which he smothers in ground pork and hot Szechuan pepper-inundated sauce and tops with soft, silky tofu and scallions. Or, if you want to keep it classy, go for a curry: On a recent visit, we languished in a surprisingly civilized lamb coconut curry bowl and a plate of spicy peanut wings. Regardless of your mental state, King Noodle’s young, hip waitstaff are not the kind to care.
Caracas, multiple locations
When in a haze of cannabis-induced euphoria, arepas are a solid choice, and if you’re craving Caracas, we recommend you head for the Williamsburg location, which is bigger, less crowded, and generally more genial than the shoebox-sized East Village original. (With a little resolve, and maybe an extra hit or six so you’re stoned past the point of caring, 7th Street is totally doable, too). Wherever you go, the food is a smoker’s dream: hand-held corn shells, stuffed to the brim with tasty combinations like roast pork shoulder with spicy mango salsa, grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, and green chimichurri, or grilled white cheese with beans, jalapeño, red peppers, and ripe fried plantains, which add a malty, sweet tinge. Top your meal with one of Caracas’s plethora of sauces, which lend themselves to endless mixing and matching until your inebriated ass gets it just right.
Do or Dine, 1108 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-684-2290
One of the early outposts of the so-called “new stoner cuisine,” this Bed-Stuy neighborhood joint (with a sprawling backyard that lets you eat in nature) opened in 2010 on a mission to inject jokey creativity into serious food. The restaurant’s critical success catapulted chef Justin Warner to celebrity-chefdom, and along with partners Perry Gargano, George McNeese, and Luke Jackson, Warner is still serving some of the weirdest (and reliably tasty) food in town. Pop in for “a fish and some chips,” a whole fried porgy, served over fries and a bright yellow tobiko mohawk, or the restaurant’s most infamous dish, the foie gras donut.
Paul’s Da Burger Joint, 131 Second Avenue, 212-529-3033
Sometimes you get ripped and need to ravish a burger, and Paul’s (da Burger Joint) is a fine, no-pretense place to do so. Tuck into a full-on half-pound beast, oozing with juices and hiding beneath a generous variety of toppings, from bacon and fried eggs to blue cheese, jalapeños, cottage cheese, mushrooms, whatever. Eating here is as much about the (quirky, utterly efficient) service as it is about the (massive, juicy, no-bullshit) burgers, so you needn’t fear the waitstaff; just go.
Shanghai Cafe, 100 Mott Street, 212-966-3988
With glowing neon anchored to the ceiling and psychedelic lighting throughout, Shanghai Cafe is a fine setting for stoner snacking, and what worthy snacking it is: Owner Suzie Chang’s sumptuous soup dumplings, a perfect munchie by any litmus, are steamed at the front of the restaurant, right before your bloodshot eyes. These dumplings have paper-thin skins, which means you can eat even more of them without filling up. And, if you’re up for a tasty trip into the great unknown, you’ll find that here, too: Look for dishes like fish head casserole or stir-fried eel along with an array of noodles, rices, tea, and smoothies (kumquat, green mango, green tea).
Lexington Candy Shop, 1226 Lexington Avenue, 212-288-0057
If there’s anyone on this planet who has seen it all and won’t be phased by any of your awkward antics, it’s the diner server. Go see them. Whatever you do, they love (hate) you, and they’ll patiently take your order without a single question but for how you like your eggs. If you’re blazed and not sure which way to go, head uptown to 83rd and Lex to this sweet slice of old New York (note, it’s for day-trippers only, it closes at 7 p.m.) for a milkshake and a butter-slathered burger and fries. Or, if the hour’s off or that’s too out of the way, we also like the Westway Diner in Hell’s Kitchen, and the Kellogg in Williamsburg.
Hill Country Barbecue Market, 30 West 26th Street, 212-255-4544
You order this barbecue by the pound from a guy behind a counter, and then they call out your number and you go pick it up from another guy, often at another counter. Fairly foolproof stuff, with minimal interpersonal relating standing between you and your food. That’s a-ok when you’re high; just go with the flow and you’ll be cool. Ordering by weight also means you can try a little of a lot of things: brisket, pulled pork, beans, slaw, cornbread, smoked turkey…all in one meal. That should sate your ADD-induced cravings for fatty variety. Hill Country also comes with live entertainment — sit downstairs for country crooners singing standards straight from the Grand Ole Opry to soothe your faded mind. And don’t miss the dessert counter, stocked with cupcakes and pies.
Taquitoria, 168 Ludlow Street, 212-780-0121
Here in New York, we may not have the rich taco history of a place like say, L.A. or Austin, but this LES taquito stand serves fantastic fried taquitos, wherein meats are rolled into the middle of a corn tortilla. Go for the beef, the Berkshire pork, or the black bean, and have ’em topped with guacamole and cotija cheese or nacho cheese and jalapeño relish. At three for $5 they won’t break the bank, either.
Smorgasburg, East River Park, Williamsburg (Saturdays), and Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO (Sundays)
If you can handle the crowds, the lines, and the overwhelming number of options, Smorgasburg is a veritable munchie paradise: There are strange, over-the-top foods (Hello, Ramenburgers, whattup, Bruffin), things you’ve never tried before (what is a Parantha, anyway?), and old, familiar standards (Yo, Mighty Quinn!). And at the Williamsburg Saturday market, you’ll find beer to quell any paranoia that may try to sneak in. Plus, most of the foods are affordable and designed for snacking on the go, which means you can bolt quickly, should you catch the Fear. If you’re a fair-weather marketer and rain is harshing your mellow, head to Manhattan’s indoor Gotham West Market, which, like Smorgasburg for agoraphobics, supplies a different array of gourmet goods, like ramen from Ivan Orkin.
420 ONLY: Hudson Bond NYC, 215 West 40th Street, 212-719-1200
On Sunday, April 20, weed’s high holiday, guest chef Travis Yuen (West 3rd Common, Alewife) will host a six-course “Get Stoned” dinner at Times Square haunt Hudson Bond, tailor-made for glazed-over gluttony. Get wonky and wander through the center of the universe toward a meal which starts with a bacon egg waffle sandwich drizzled with beer maple syrup before it moves through other crooked concoctions like kimchi frito pie tacos, ramen burritos, cool ranch Dorito crusted chicken pasta, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch bread pudding. It’s all paired with beers shipped in from San Diego’s Stone Brewing Company.