Last week the internet lost its mind over the advent of the Brooklyn Bar Menu Generator, a site that spits out comically apt menus for made-up (and perfectly named) Brooklyn gastropubs. Hilarious highlights include “Sublimated Salt” ($16) and “Frightened Plum With Seaweed” ($14); dishes like “Beer-Braised Artichoke Frittata” ($16) and “Artisanal Fig Bowl” ($15) sound positively inspired (and are probably available somewhere in the neighborhood).
The site’s creator, Dan — who consented to an email interview on the condition that we identify him only by his first name — is a game developer and ten-year Williamsburg resident. He declines to name the restaurant that sent him over the edge “because I don’t want to make any enemies.” (He does note that it is located in north Brooklyn, adding, “I bet that internet detectives could figure it out by pulling words from the generator.”)
Like many a Brooklynite, Dan eats out around the borough regularly, though he’s “definitely not” a foodie. “My all-time favorites include Pates et Traditions, Snacky, Ringolevio, and Paulie Gee’s,” he writes. “When you live in New York — or any large city — for long enough, your standards slowly start to rise. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with a pretentious menu, and there’s room for all types of places in a city as big as New York. A lot of these pretentious dishes are actually delicious! But perhaps they could try a little harder to make their menus readable and understandable by humans.”
It wasn’t a specific dish at the unnamed establishment that sparked Dan’s parody. “It was one of those menus where, while you might know what the individual nouns and adjectives on the menu mean, none of the actual dishes make any sense,” he says. “There was one mention of ‘acorns’ on the menu, which made me think: Is that supposed to be appetizing? Do acorns even have a smell? Are acorns edible? Aren’t squirrels basically the only animal on earth that will even touch acorns? What emotion or images are you looking to conjure in your patrons’ minds when you describe a food as ‘blistered’? And why go so insanely all-out with these food items when your bottled beers are Bud Light and Narragansett?”
Dan built the foundation of the site by singling out the “most offending” nouns from the last-straw menu and adding other “ridiculous” words from the menus of other bars he’d visited or found online. “Then, from memory, I added maybe fifteen more adjectives and nouns that seemed to fit. Within fifteen minutes I had a food-item generator that was terrifyingly realistic, although not that funny.”
To make it funnier, he added more absurd adjectives — words that have nothing at all to do with food (like tormented and naive).
For the bar names, Dan found a list of every single street name in Brooklyn. Using find-and-replace, he removed identifiers like “street,” “avenue,” and “boulevard,” then scrolled through the list to remove “really long names.”
This isn’t Dan’s first project to go viral — he owns Business Cat, the black cat with a tie that spawned a bunch of memes a few years ago. “I didn’t make any of the jokes, just took the original photograph,” he tells the Voice. “I’m also one half of Holy Wow Studios, a game development team that made the Icarus Proudbottom games.”
Dan insists that he’s not begrudging small, independent businesses (“the exact type of businesses we want to flourish in New York”) for their preciousness. “Is a pretentious menu worse than yet another burger restaurant? So do whatever you want, go hog-wild, and best of luck to you! The worst that can happen is some jerk like myself makes a website that gently mocks your menu.”