New York Goes Nuts
The humble boiled peanut is suddenly (and oddly) the hippest snack in Gotham
Five forty-five on a sullen Tuesday threatening snow, and the bar at the Breslin is already packed with folks waiting for their tables. Like most white-hot New York restaurants, the place doesn’t take reservations, so the hostess tells you she might have a two-top in an hour and a half or so. She encourages you to find seats at the bar.
“Have a glass of wine,” she says, “and a bowl of boiled peanuts.”
You think you heard incorrectly, but then you jostle through the crowd to the bar, pick up the menu, and there they are—at six bucks, one of the more expensive items listed under the heading “Snacks.”
But maybe the wait at the Breslin doesn’t suit your schedule, so you walk south a dozen blocks to Rye House, a postmodern speakeasy with a marble bar, acres of reclaimed wood, expensive “craft” cocktails, and stylishly disheveled mixologists. Open the menu, and there they are again, the very first item: boiled peanuts, $6.
Yes, it’s true. Boiled peanuts have capital-A-arrived in New York City, and as guys who spend time in the city pining for the Lowcountry, where we grew up, we’re lovin’ it. But we’re also somewhat floored. Because about fifteen years ago we tried to turn New Yorkers on to the deliciousness of boiled peanuts. We’d moved from Charleston to New York and found ourselves marginally employed and homesick for the South. So we boiled some up in the two-room tenement apartment we shared on Ludlow Street, and hit the streets, cold-calling on Southern restaurants in the city.
It was a total failure. Nobody wanted boiled peanuts then. Which isn’t to say that they didn’t exist: You could always get cans of them out at the Carolina Country Store in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. And there was a street vendor we knew of, at 126th and Madison.