Mediocre ramen noodles from a much-hyped food truck, greasy breakfast grub from a beloved diner, and musings on how New York's poor have been pushed to a barrier island: so ended the journey of a trio of hungry guys who ate their way along the A train, from Inwood to Far Rockaway. The project is a web video series called Food Warriors put together by a group of friends who have dubbed themselves the Internets Celebrities. New York internet denizens may remember them from their informal but informative web transmissions breaking down the joyous diabetes-inducing properties of the bodega, the petty piracy of check-cashing places, and how to create a Big Mac out of items on the McDonald's dollar menu.

Starting two years ago, the crew, filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski and on-screen talent Rafi Kam and Dallas Penn, set out on their Food Warriors quest, starting at 207th Street uptown. Their methodology shifted depending on the circumstances, but generally they would disembark, ask people in and around the subway station for restaurant recommendations, and once two or three recurring contenders emerged, create a playoff finals lineup and quiz another few people to crown a champion (or two). From there, they ate. The concept is simple, but in the process they, and by extension we, get schooled in the colonial origins of the roti, the difference between Yemeni and Yemenite, and the unsung lunch spots of neighborhoods across the city.

Two years, three boroughs, 31 miles, and 13 episodes later, the Internets Celebrities have uploaded the footage from their final A excursion, to the Rockaways. But a slick new website portends more to come from the warriors. I checked in with Kam to find out more about what they saw, and where they plan to conquer next.

How do you guys know each other? Cas and I actually went to school together, from 7th to 12th grade [at Hunter High School], so I know him from way back. Dallas and I were both doing hip hop blogging about 10 years ago. Dallas still maintains his blog at He had written about this concept of the Ghetto Big Mac, how to, from the dollar menu, approximate the Big Mac. I thought it was a very clever idea. Long story short, we blogged about trying it. I suggested we make a do-it-yourself video about doing it. Cas loved that, and jumped in and said, “I’ll shoot that.”

We made Ghetto Big Mac in 2006. We actually met on the way to the shoot, Dallas and I. We were fans of each other’s sites online, but we made this video together and it became this big viral success. It was on the front page of YouTube, on the front page of MySpace. On YouTube it has a million and a half views, which doesn’t count the many early video websites.

We had a good time making that, and it did so well that we decided to keep at it.

Where’d you grow up? I grew up in Brooklyn, in Canarsie. Cas grew up on the Lower East Side, around Chinatown, on Hester Street. And Dallas grew up kinda near Shea Stadium, not in Flushing though, it’s Corona. And he went to Brooklyn Tech. So we grew up in the city, and now we make videos about it.

You guys made a smattering of smart and widely viewed videos on different subjects—what gave you the idea of doing one series along the A line centered around food? We wanted to do something that had a little more continuity to it. We looked at as a nice excuse to explore parts of the city that we were a little less familiar with. Partially it was also a response to the beginning of online foodie culture, and how widely propagated it is, and this whole sector of startups dedicated to it. We wanted to a response to that, of what people really eat. [We wanted to see], instead of using a Yelp-type site, what would the reactions be if you actually go out in the streets ask people what they’re eating?

And you do it in a very honest fashion where you show, if people in a particular neighborhood don’t feel like eating out is the move, report that.

Part of every one we did was that it was interesting to show the contrast in neighborhoods, especially as we move out from places that were more gentrified, through the center of the city, where places are more commercial and have their own feel to them, and then into more residential, especially into the outer boroughs, and sort of see different ethnicities and, more remote and more forgotten-about areas as far as media is concerned.

At this point, you have a unique perspective—not everybody has spent significant time at every few stops along the A line. Have the rumors of the demise of New York City’s diversity and small businesses been greatly exaggerated?
Every neighborhood is unique as far as that topic is concerned. There’s certainly places that are losing their character or at least transforming, That’s been an ongoing thing. Everyone’s well aware of it, and I don’t think that’s exaggerated.

I do think the further out you go, if you look at the Richmond Hill video we did, that’s a fascinating neighborhood, still a very diverse neighborhood, and it feels like, "This place feels safe from gentrification." Because we’re so far out, and in a big metropolis, there still needs to be a community of people who are working less desirable jobs, and yet the reality of New York City now is that it’s more on the outskirts, even if it’s become suburban in a way. So it does sort of feel like at the moment a sort of oasis.

Whereas even East New York, growing up in Canarsie, you think of the place: "That’s a hell zone." Especially back then, in the '80s and '90s. Even there, if you look at our video of Broadway Junction, things do still look terrible there, but as we talked to people who work in the area, who live in the area, and if you follow the mayor’s plans for that neighborhood, you’ll see that change is coming there; development’s starting there; people are talking about how it’s going to change in the next decade.

When you’re so far removed in Richmond Hill, just the very remoteness of it feels like it’s giving it some protection. It sort of looks like some of the more remote Brooklyn neighborhoods I knew as a kid, with interesting character, shops that are multiple businesses at once, and hardworking people that are basically recent arrivals to America and seeking the American dream.

This is obvious, and it’s a statement, not a question, but I appreciate how you package serious, political ideas in everyday conversation. That’s an approach that we’ve taken from the get-go, and it came very naturally. We like to make people laugh, but we also like to keep important topics on our mind, and keep those conversations going. It’s been a nice way to sneak things in. You entertain people and you sneak in the message.

And everybody has food in common. Right.

And do you have a most surprising thing from your journey as far as something you ate, or something someone suggested, or a place you ended up? I had no idea about David’s Brisket, this amazing place in Bed-Stuy, where I never would have expected to find an amazing pastrami sandwich. It was the best pastrami sandwich of my life. The fact that it’s been there 40 years, that was a really nice surprise.

It was a really unique place, too, serving traditional Jewish food, but it was founded by Yemenis and Yeminites, which were Jewish and Muslim families from Yemen, and now it’s fully Muslim-run, which is really interesting, because their pastrami is really amazing. And the fact that it’s a West Indian neighborhood, primarily.

What about just the best thing you ate? There was also the two stops we made in Harlem, Manna's and the fried fish market. I’d already experienced Pizza Suprema before this series started. That’s a great New York slice.

As far as a negative surprise, there were areas where we got less than great food results. When we were any of the more business-heavy neighborhoods, the Financial Districts or upper Midtown, I don’t think we came up with the best or most interesting picks. I think that sort of speaks to the neighborhood.

Or like in Downtown Brooklyn, where you ended up at Shake Shack. I mess with Shake Shack, I like Shake Shack, but that was a funny video because people were like, "Yeah, go to Shake Shack." We were a block away from Shake Shack. It was funny because the playoffs were like, everyone voted for Shake Shack in that video, which felt kinda strange. You’re still near Junior’s.

I will say about that neighborhood. This didn’t get enough momentum to make it into our voting process, but one guy on the train platform was really passionate about this Yemeni restaurant. And I sought that out at a different time, and it was great. There’s actually two on the same block [Yemen Cafe and Yemen Cuisine]. They’re really good.

A lot of the times the people you talk to on the street may not care about what’s around them. That’s the most common response you get. But when you have someone who’s really passionate about a place, it does make you want to look for it. That’s what we were seeking out.

A weird thing about the Shake Shack location was, that used to be a pizzeria, that venue, and we had shot a video of ours called "A Fare Slice" only a couple of years earlier in that pizzeria, about the connection between the subway token and a slice of pizza. That was a little strange for us. We were like, “Oh, we’ve been in this exact place, but it was a different restaurant.”

Are you still planning to do the 7 line next? It’s on the table. We haven’t 100 percent decided what we’re doing next, but we’re talking about doing the 7 line or maybe doing a one-off in our earlier style. We’ve got different options out there now. The 7 line is the default choice, like everyone who hears we’re doing this says, “Oh, you should do the 7 line.” We’re like, oh, maybe we should do a surprise, like the G or something.

Has anybody gotten paid off of this yet? Why hasn’t anybody given you guys a TV show yet? We have gotten some money this time around. For most of the Food Warrior series, MailChimp sponsored us. The first few we made out of pocket on our own, but we were lucky enough to connect with them, and they were very helpful in terms of being able to get some money, and being able to get a crew.

We don’t operate as sort of a traditional YouTube outfit: we’ve actually got professionals that we’re paying. The big thing is that Cas is a filmmaker, our director Cas, and on top of that we have a camera person, an editor, a sound mixer. So previously we were either paying out of our own pocket. We’re still counting on a friend-and-family rate, but at least now MailChimp is footing the bill, which is a big change.

That maybe is too long an answer for a simple question, but we hope that maybe the right TV people see us sometime.
I forgot to mention the most surprising thing: How many people when asked for the best place to eat in the area would recommend fast-food or Dallas BBQ, especially Dallas BBQ. I had no idea it was so loved.

The Food Warriors are taking recommendations for their next destination. Email with your ideas.