Food T-shirts. They’re restaurant advertising and badges of honor. These totemic cotton trophies to culinary moments commemorate meals through fashion, whether the memory is great food, en epic wait, or the “I’ve been there” world-weariness we think others may think is cool. That’s right, food Ts are fashion, and collecting them (and avoiding sweat stains while sandwich-boarding) is no joke. Still, the questions a serious food fashion collector eventually faces are: how many and how many is enough?
That, along with a lack of closet space, and admiration for New York City pizza tour guide Scott Weiner’s Guinness Book of World Record for collecting pizza boxes, resurfaced a five-year-old quest embarked on with a friend and writer GutterGourmet at James Beard Award-nominated restaurant search engine AlwaysHungryNY, the site acquired by Spanfeller Media Group to help start The Daily Meal.
In 2010, the AlwaysHungryNY crew set out to discover how many food T-shirts we had. While I can’t note the exact number of Ts we ended up featuring (unfortunately, the site is no longer up), at the time, New York Magazine’s Grub Street thought it significant enough to write about.
“Always Hungry is showing off its T-shirt collection today, and it's enough to make even Adam Richman of Man v. Food envious. Obviously the ‘Avoid the Noid’ shirt didn’t make the cut, but we’re surprised not to see some favorites from our own closet. Sure, the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party piggie is there, but where's the Wo Hop dragon, the far friendlier Chinatown Ice Cream Factory dragon, the Cha Cha’s wolf, and the Despaña cow, not to mention the Ruby’s ‘Save Coney Island’ shirt that’s on our back right now? Oh, and the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que dinosaur! And what, no schmaltz-smeared Sammy’s Roumanian shirt? No Barack-themed La Esquina tee?”
OK, let’s be honest. I ran out of generic white T-shirts after not doing laundry and figured for at least one day, nobody would notice if I wore a white food T-shirt under my dress shirt at work.So here we are. No friends. No contributors. No collective food T-shirt collection. This is a quest to discover how many food T-shirts one food-obsessed editor could wear without breaking the chain.
That led to the question any food-obsessed man faces after marriage, even if his wife is also food-obsessed: how many food T-shirts do you actually own? And then there’s the question guys are so much more interested in: how many food T-shirts could you wear in a row without repeating? It’s the Everest of food T-shirt questions.
So here we are. No friends. No contributors. No collective food T-shirt collection. This is a quest to discover how many food T-shirts one food-obsessed editor could wear without breaking the chain. Tune in for a new food T-shirt everyday along with dish recommendations about the featured place and general musings.
I should note that a few of us (that means me) may have taken issue with then-Grub Street writer Daniel Maurer’s good-natured challenge that we might be missing a few important shirts. It was all in good fun then, and in good fun now, you’ll find those missing T-shirts (your move Mr. Maurer, wherever you are). Given Grub’s 2010 post (“Any other must-haves that would fill out this wardrobe, leave them in the comments. We’re looking to you, Mr. Cutlets”), it seems as though the late food writer referenced nearly half a decade ago, Josh Ozersky (by his “Cutlets” nom de plume), may have had his own impressive collection.
In that spirit, one of including food-lovers obsessed with wearing their dinners over extended bellies without the unwashable stains that happen from fork to mouth, we encourage you to write us with food T-shirts you think I’ve missed. Of course, a food writer missing an important T-shirt could mean an expensive destination that needs to be made. Like a food recommendation from a good friend, that kind of challenge is always welcome. Have a place you think I’ve missed? Ante up.
Hopefully, I’ll have a big enough stake to play for a while.