“I’ll eat my hat!” is an idiom born out of the 1700’s often used figuratively as a display of confidence in a particular outcome. These days, though, it looks as though we may be inching closer and closer to it going from allegorical to literal.
I went to Shu Han Ju in the West Village last week. At Chinese restaurants I’ll typically order any and all manifestations of chicken, beef, shrimp, and, if I’m feeling like a high-roller, I’ll spring for the duck.
So imagine my surprise when, upon scanning the menu, I stumbled upon a dish entitled “Sauteed Loofah.”
“Like the bath sponge?” I questioned internally, half-mocking yet fully uncertain.
Welp, per usual, I was sorely mistaken. Loofah, while commonly thought of as a fibrous object used for cleaning purposes, is also a plant in the cucumber family.
I didn’t order it, mostly because I’m unimaginative/poor, but it did get me to thinking about all the other atypical menu items infiltrating the New York City food scene these days.
So, without further adieu, here are 8 local eateries thinking outside their bento boxes and turning previously-deemed inedible eats into today’s hottest culinary treats.
Black Ant (60 2nd Avenue)
This East Village Mexican restaurant serves up tacos, enchiladas, and, as you may have surmised, black ants!
Give the black ant guacamole a try, and, if you’re feeling even more adventurous, give the grasshopper-crusted shrimp a shot.
Who doesn’t need a little more protein-infused crunch?
Jeepney (201 First Avenue)
While most of this gastropub’s menu consists of traditional Filipino dishes, one dish sticks out like a sore (baby) thumb.
Balut is a developing bird embryo (in this case, duck) that is served inside its shell and has emerged as a favorite among patrons.
Plus, as an added incentive, the entire waitstaff crowds around all those who order the dish to cheer them on. No, really.
Hakata Tonton (61 Grove Street)
It’s no secret that pigs are responsible for many of our favorite meats, but have you ever tried pig’s feet yet?
Head over to this West Village eatery and order the tonton dumplings, filled with a mix of pig’s feet and collagen.
The taste is on par with other pork products, and you can finally say you enjoy eating pigs from head to toe!
Soft Swerve (85B Allen Street)
I scream, you scream, we all scream for sweet potato ice cream? Or so this Lower East Side ice creamery insists, serving up heaping scoops of Ube, or purple yam, ice cream.
They also offer other classic Asian flavors, such as sesame and matcha.
For an added flavor kick, you can situate your scoops inside either a black chocolate or “red classic” cinnamon cone. Swerved up ice cold, of course!
Takashi (456 Hudson Street)
This Japanese joint is not for the faint of heart (or belly).
Among all the unique options Takashi has to offer, including cow balls and various incarnations of cow tongue, the standout menu item has got to be the calf’s brain cream.
Served in a tube with a side of blinis and caviar, this is one dish sure to set your cranium (and observers) ablaze!
Sik Gaek (49-11 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens or 161-29 Crocheron Avenue, Flushing)
Come for the sushi, stay for the live octopus?
At least that’s one of the main draws of this outer-borough hotspot, which offers all sorts of seafood in both cooked and raw forms.
But it’s the live octopus that keeps this place in the headlines, giving a whole new meaning to farm-to-table eating.
And by farm we mean ocean. And by ocean we mean wow!
Yopparai (151 Rivington Street)
This downtown sake bar has your standard Japanese fare.
Oh, and it’s also got squid guts. Shiokara is the name of the dish, which is described as squid sashimi with salted squid guts.
Head over there with some pals, order some delicious drinks and grub, and be extra careful not to bump into your table and unintentionally spill those guts!
Dominique Ansel Kitchen (137 7th Avenue South)
This West Village location has delicious options like edamame avocado toast and ultimate s’mores, but it’s their summer soft-serve ice cream options that make it a can’t miss destination.
You mean you’ve never had burrata-flavored ice cream? Well, now’s your chance.
Served with a balsamic caramel and strawberries, it’s the kind of only-in-New York dish you’ll be bragging to all of your friends about. I’ll take a lotta burrata, please!