Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sparky's: "organic" doesn't mean "good"

Just so you don’t start thinking that either a) I never report bad news or b) we live a charmed, bad-dining-experience-free life, rest assured that Saturday’s lunch was really crappy.

We’d spent the cold, gray morning yomping around the southern tip of Manhattan, starting at Wall Street and heading north past City Hall and various Imposing Buildings of Government and Justice.

Chinatown was a busy blur of fresh-seafood markets, restaurants with duck-festooned windows, and knock-off accessory stores, outside which elderly ladies who should have been in a nice warm parlor playing Mahjong were instead standing, trying to attract customers with calls of “TiffanyTiffanyTiffanyTiffany” and “CoachCoachCoach” and “GucciGucciGucci.”

We passed through Little Italy (now a scant few streets of restaurants) and realized we were getting hungry. And the chill was seeping into our bones. So when a tiny place called Sparky’s American Food came into view, offering organic fast food, we ducked inside.

How tiny? This tiny. You’re looking at the whole place.

The majority of Sparky's menu is taken up with (organic) hotdogs with various toppings, burgers ditto, chicken sandwiches ditto. As we were again having an early dinner, we didn’t want to indulge too heartily at lunch, so The Boy ordered grilled-(artisan)cheese sandwich and (organic) greens, and I went for a bowl of homemade lentil soup—what could be better for a chilly winter’s day?

Credit where credit’s due: the sandwich was lovely, the cheese sharp and mature. But the salad's limp mixed greens were topped with chunks of taste-free tomato and thick slices of raw yellow onion. And my cup of soup was tiny, tepid and tasteless. (The green tea I had with it was scorchingly hot, so on average I was doing okay).

Also, this: the food was served on disposable plates with wax paper and plastic cutlery. Okay, perhaps the place was too small to have service-quality dishwashing facilities. But it’s a bit of a disconnect to play up the organic philosophy while throwing your forks into a landfill.

I looked around online for reviews of Sparky's, and found them falling into two categories: articles from professional publications, which extol the mission of the place (such as
this one, praising Sparky's Williamsburg location, from New York Magazine) and reports from actual diners, who use phrases like "friendly but clueless" and "horrible consistency."

So today’s lesson, kids, is that one can understand the value of such terms as “organic” and “free-range” in relation to their ingredients and still not know what one is supposed to do with them when one brings them into the kitchen.

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Anonymous Lillia said...

Ha yeah my room mate things this place is awesome but I stopped going with her because I get so frustrated. Also you forget to mention that its not cheap!!!

5:09 PM  

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