To outsiders, Brooklyn is widely viewed as the Kale Capital of the nation, but these days the borough famous for its artisanal, locally-sourced foodstuffs is reveling in items no healthier than what you'd find at a Midwestern state fair. The glorification of deep fried comfort foods has hit a fever pitch, and ingredients like quinoa have been overshadowed by... cornmeal. One of Williamsburg's newest restaurants, the Gorbals, has even banned kale altogether!
Last week, Seersucker owners Kerry Diamond and Rob Newton opened a new restaurant on Smith Street called Wilma Jean. On the menu at this Southern-themed spot you'll find a fried bologna sandwich, cornbread with butter, tater tots, fried chicken, chicken on a stick, pimento cheese with crispy chips, cheese grits, baked beans with molasses, mac n' cheese, a double burger with bacon and cheese... you get the gist. Of 23 items, three of them are green: raw collards (with peanuts), braised collards (with ham), and an iceberg lettuce salad (with bacon, blue cheese and buttermilk dressing). Sorry, there are also fried pickles.
Wilma Jean is probably worth indulging in now and again, so this isn't to single them out. But they are the most recent part of a trend that has blown up in the borough, one that has brought an abundance of artisanal artery-clogging comfort foods to our plates. And this isn't about butter or fats or cheese or meats—all delicious, even good for you, and absolutely fine in moderation. But in a city where dining out and delivery usually trumps home cooking, it's a little concerning that healthier dishes are being eclipsed by more headline-worthy items.
At Brooklyn's Smorgasburg, hybrid foods like the ramen burger (et al) and the bruffin go viral quicker than you can say Cronut Cop, leading to long lines and eventually a permanent spot on brick and mortar menus. And while there you'll also find old stand-bys like pigs in a blanket making a comeback. These weird and/or comforting and nostalgic items often get passed around via Twitter and Instagram, and become clickable content on food blogs—this viralization of food has started a pretty unhealthy cycle. Your healthy tuna steak with a side of greens isn't going to get you any attention, Restaurant That Needs To Pay The Rent In Pricey Cobble Hill... but maybe if you fry up some pasta? Yeah, that'll do:
"I do see a lot more brazenly unhealthy food popping up on menus, but I doubt it will be for more than a year or two. It's like that dude said in Pi: The cycling of disease epidemics; the wax and wane of caribou populations; sun spot cycles; the rise and fall of the Nile. Personally, I think that eating 'healthy' food at restaurants is totally self-flagelatory, especially in NYC. After a week of train delays, inverted umbrellas, pee pee smells, terrible roommates, not using your college degree, why on earth would you not go for the loaded tots? I'll eat kale for dinner if I move to LA."
So there you have it, the trend will end, but what's next? Warner tells us, "I'd like to call it: Collard Greens are going to be the next big thing."