March 2, 2005
If you live in a 6th floor walk-up, be sure to tip extra
It's hardly a new trend, but the Times today has a good piece on the cultural phenomenon that truly sets New York apart from just about anywhere else in the country: the ubiquity of delivery. In order to stay competitive, just about every restaurant and deli in the entire city has to offer free neighborhood delivery. This includes Chinese food and pizza, like it does in any town, but here it also includes the vast spectrum of every different international cuisine you can think of, an increasing number of upscale restaurants, McDonald's, many liquor stores, corner delis, and of course personal services like laundries. Delis that offer delivery are especially specific to New York: if you want a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes, you don't have to walk down to one of the several bodegas on your block; they'll come right to your door. Unfortunately, the article does not go anywhere near the other sector of this industry especially common in New York: the drug delivery service.
The article states that take-out food is a growing trend nationwide, but look: when you have to get in your car, drive a few miles, find a parking space, and go into the Applebee's to pick up your bag of shitty fries and microwaved deep-fried gristle with anemic tomatoes as garnish, it's just not in the same category as the magnificence of fast delivery of real food to one's very doorstep. I maintain that there is a fundamental cultural difference between the two, but even if you lump take-out and delivery together, in 2004 "about 49 percent of restaurant meals sold in the New York area were takeout, as opposed to 38 percent in other places."
One theory about the growth of delivery and take-out is that more women working outside the home means fewer people with the time to cook dinner for themselves. Perhaps. Disgraceful laziness, paranoid aversion to interacting with the outside world, and the addictive luxurious joy derived from getting other people to do relatively simple tasks that normal adults are capable of doing for themselves are my personal theories/excuses. But I'll speak only for myself.
The Times also offers some general observations on the foods that travel well (eggplant parmesan, which I can personally vouch for, and standard Middle Eastern spreads) and those that don't (fries, grilled cheese, anything involving melted cheese.) Also a neighborhood guide to some of the best delivery to be had, which we bring you as a helpful resource for people who live here, and as a source of envy for those who don't.
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