When the hurricane hit, my wife and daughters and I were prepared for the worst, or so we thought. We’d dutifully stocked up on water, soup, and what seemed like a hundred canisters of Pringles. When the lights blinked off Monday night, I got out my best bottle of bourbon (“Time for the heavy artillery” was @plattypants’s last, jaunty tweet that evening), the kids ate the melting ice cream in the freezer, and Mrs. Platt commenced to boil all the eggs in the ice box by candlelight. The next morning, we dined on dry cereal and a couple of half-defrosted bagels for breakfast. Then we sat around in the unplugged, eerily quiet gloom of our apartment for a while, before my daughter Penelope announced what the rest of us were thinking: “Dad,” she said, “we need to go find something good to eat.”
We weren’t the only ones with this novel idea, of course. In times of crisis, we all seek comfort, and for a large segment of this city’s neurotic, food-obsessed population, there’s nothing more comforting than a good old-fashioned communal feed. In the wake of Sandy, the Internet was alive with urgent updates on places where New Yorkers could find a decent restaurant meal in the city, and places where they couldn’t. We heard rumors of regulars gathering at their old restaurant haunts in darkness, and one friend reported having an excellent dinner at Barbuto, in the Village, where the tattooed cooks were toiling in the darkness, with camping lamps attached to their heads.
We never made it to Barbuto, my family and I. After two and a half days in the dark zone, we ended up cooking more unfrozen food than we could consume. When the bathtub ran dry, we decamped with our boiled eggs and some bags of rapidly defrosting pork products to my parents’ apartment uptown. We slept on couches and spare beds, and in the day, I took Penelope to an old Lexington Avenue coffee shop called Neil’s for lunch. You can get seventeen different omelets there, 27 kinds of hamburgers, and numerous chicken specialties with classic names like Chicken Delight. Penelope ordered her favorite restaurant meal, which happens to be chicken soup. The soup was filled with carrots, strips of chicken, and steamed noodles. Sitting among the coffee-shop regulars, she ate one loud spoonful and then another, until her bowl was empty. “I’m happy the storm’s over, Dad,” she said.