The Dream of the ’90s
“On the N.B.C. network, it is forbidden to call any character a nut; you have to call him a screwball.” - [New Yorker Dec. 23, 1950]
Imagine a woman sniffs some herbal tea and responds “This smells like the 70’s” remembering or perhaps romanticizing a 70’s vegetarianism brimming with barley tea, millet bread, and whatever else people in light-washed bell-bottoms used to carry in mermaid bags. Kate’s Joint is straight outta the 90’s. Tofu and seitan based junk food from a time where GMO soy was celebrated and pasture raised meat was STILL MURDER. These antiquated trends now supplanted by the millennial wisdom of We Eat Meat But Good Meat, You Know? Ay! The screwball scenarios involved in being a New York Health Nut and engaging in New York Healthy Eating Culture!
On Thursday, after Oh Hey Guys, my faithful co-blogger, his boyfriend and I found ourselves at this Avenue B time machine. No animal harm in this place. It’s Vegan Comfort Food that approximates The Other. There are fake fast food burgers, mock popcorn shrimp, and BBQ Tempeh. Places like this are getting lost in the current farm-to-table craze. They’re not exactly healthy, but they are definitely counter-culture.
I blame myself for not insisting we booth it as we chose a seating arrangement. We chose a high table with those dreaded stools we all hate. Our table was pressed against the front window pane. Come on! There was a full sports bar, lit in Blue Neon, blasting sports of some sort, adjacent to the seating area. Our waitress had the fresh face of a nice person, and the resentment of someone who had served since the passing of Amber’s Law. We persisted in trying to find fun, ordering the special appetizer Sesame Ginger Chick’n Somethings. They arrived quickly and had all the flavor of a few squirts of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, but the dipping sauce was syrupy and delicious and yes, fun.
John had a beer as we waited for our entrees. We perused posters for meditation classes, underground documentary screenings, and the requisite UNBLOCK ENERGY WITH REIKI. I will say our table was bussed as if we were royalty. Who puts down fresh side plates for each course? Bryan ordered a Fake Big Mac. It hit the mark- it was gooey and had layers of smoky flavor and tangy special sauce. John had a Buffalo chick’n blob that he forced down ,remarking that this sort of thing was never really going to feel like “food” to him. I had a Barbecue Not Dog topped with Onion Rings. I chided myself to remember, next time, that Not Dogs are Not Good. I’ll write it now: fake hot dogs need not be tried again. We chomped, checked, and peace-d quickly, the draft from the door becoming more substantial as Kate’s Joint filled up.
This place is currently all lost in its no meat, but certainly not healthy food situation. The Joint remains for the moral objectivists who want an analog for … what? Neither Bryan, nor John, nor I object to meat, morally. So we went and slammed some dairy at Momofuku Milk Bar. (review to come)
The last time I was in Kate’s Joint, my college friend told me he was quitting acting and becoming a Hare Krishna monk in India. This is definitely the place for those sorts of conversations. I love the idea of vegetarian junk food, but the prefer nature’s sins of cheese, eggs, and starches to the processed artificial soy served here. That said, my McKate wasn’t bad, and I will always champion East Village relics like this one, now mostly confined to the memories of 40-something preschool teachers, Ryan Adams, and off-Broadway productions of Rent.
58 Avenue B (4th Street)
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