I’ve been reading the immensely enjoyable, “Appetite City,” by William Grimes, which is a culinary history of New York City. Not only is the book teaching me about the history of eating and dining in the city, it has great archival photographs as well as a terrific way of examining geographical shifts which reflect wealth, status, and culture.
One of the more important points that Grimes makes, among many, is his finding that NYC in the 1850’s was a town where lunch was the big deal and dinner was basically saloons and so-called hash houses. It wasn’t until a few Swiss immigrants arrived from the Ticino region of Switzerland, and introduced French cuisine, served in courses, Russian style, that evening restaurants began to prosper.
It got me thinking how Boston’s best eating out is lunch. There’s never been a first-rate French chef in the city, nor one Japanese or Italian. Lunch, on the other hand, is a great panoply of sandwiches, noodles, slices of pizza, and what-not. In NYC, following the French there came the Italians and soon the city was filled with wonderful Italian restaurants that offered highly focused menus of regional food. That food also reflected being in America with ingredients and service.
Grimes notes that prior to the French and Italian restaurants, it was a shame to see places that did not utilize some of the world’s best produce and seafood.
Boston has the East Coast’s finest seafood, access to great farms, and a population that is changing and growing. It will be interesting to see if its restaurants meet what is certain to be a new demand. Meanwhile, and until then, there’s this: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/cueandburger/