Posted inNonfiction, Quotes

New York City’s Menu Wars

In the early 1990s, food delivery services on Manhattan’s Upper West Side sparked what New York Times writer Emily M. Bernstein called “the menu wars.” Everyone from dry cleaners to nail salons followed Chinese restaurants’ lucrative lead, placing paper take-out menus inside apartment buildings’ lobbies and mail rooms and under residents’ doors. Angry tenants demanded […]

Posted inNonfiction, Quotes

Why Certain Workers Are More Vulnerable to Wage Theft

The problem of wage theft is not confined to any one industry, ethnicity, size of business, or corporate structure, says Labor Commissioner Julie Su. Each year, California loses approximately $8 billion in tax revenues to wage theft, and Su’s office has investigated millions of dollars’ worth of violations committed by, among others, a hospital, assisted living […]

Posted inNonfiction, Quotes

Monterey Park, CA and the Culinary Authenticity of Suburban Chinatowns

Monterey Park became the first suburb that Chinese people would drive for hours to visit and eat in, for the same reasons earlier generations of immigrants had sought out the nearest urban Chinatown. And the changing population and the wealth they brought with them created new opportunities for all sorts of business people, especially aspiring restaurateurs. The typical Chinese American restaurant made saucy, ostentatiously deep-fried concessions to mainstream appetites, leading to the ever-present rumor that most establishments had “secret menus” meant for more discerning eaters. It might be more accurate to say that most chefs at Chinese restaurants are more versatile than they initially let on—either that or families like mine possess Jedi-level powers of off-the-menu persuasion. But in a place like Monterey Park, the pressure to appeal to non-Chinese appetites disappeared. The concept of “mainstream” no longer held; neck bones and chicken feet and pork bellies and various gelatinous things could pay the bills and then some.

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I went up to the 14th floor and rang the bell. A middle-age African-American woman opened it and I told her I had her Chinese-food order. She was noticeably shocked and concerned.  “They don’t come up here for deliveries,” she said. She asked me if I knew how dangerous it was there. I asked how […]