Noshing in New York

I take a bite out of the Big Apple on Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tour

I’m stuffing my face with the last bite of what is unquestionably the best bagel to ever cross my lips when my gastronomic tour guide imparts these essential words of wisdom.

“My first rule on these tours—actually my only rule—is to pace yourself,” explains part-time cab driver and full-time foodie Dave Freedenberg as we began my personal quest to eat my way from one end of New York City to the other. “If you do it right, you can taste a little of this and a little of that all day long and never get to the point where you couldn’t possibly eat another thing.”

Freedenberg is a man who’s made it his mission—some would say obsession—to discover all the best places to nosh in New York. For years, Freedenberg grilled the passengers in his cab about their favorite neighborhood eateries and then made a point of personally taste-testing their recommendations. Now he’s sharing the lip-smacking results on crosstown feeding frenzies he calls Famous Fat Dave’s Five-Borough Eating Tours.

Freedenberg admits his gastronomic gallivantings are organized tours only in the loosest sense of that phrase. While he has several established themes arranged around either a particular geographical area (The Best of Brooklyn Tour) or type of food (The Sweet Tooth Tour), he’s also perfectly comfortable making things up as he goes along.

“If people tell me ahead of time what they’re interested in I can come up with a rough itinerary,” he explains. “Or I can just start throwing out suggestions once we get in the car and we’ll see what sounds good.”

I wanted to sample the most quintessentially New York foods I could find. And I’m here to tell you the four hours I spent with Famous Fat Dave quickly became one long and very delicious blur.

We started our tour at H & H Bagels on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with bagels so fresh they were steaming up the inside of the shop’s glass cases. One bite and I knew I’d never be able to choke down another store-bought version again.

From there it was plates of fried chicken and syrup-smothered waffles (a better combination than it sounds) in Harlem, several varieties of old-fashioned pickles in a Polish-speaking neighborhood grocery in Greenpoint Brooklyn, homemade sausage slices in a Pelham Bay pizzeria tucked away in the basement of an ordinary-looking house, and kraut- and onion-laden hot dogs in Coney Island. All washed down with a cup of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted in the D.U.M.B.O. section of Brooklyn.

As my time with Famous Fat Dave drew to a close, I had only one thing on my mind: Trying to figure out how I could talk him into going back for seconds.

Xtrordinary Xtra
While the majority of his tours last about four hours and include 10-15 stops, Freedenberg says he once took a particularly peckish group on a citywide munching marathon that lasted more than 11 hours and included sampling the specialties of 27 different grub-slingers.

The Facts
Name: Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tours
Location: New York, NY
Phone: 646-496-6540

My Advice

  • The most important words of wisdom here are also the most obvious: Come hungry!
  • Famous Fat Dave offers tours in his personal vehicle or, for an extra fee, an authentic Checker cab. Larger groups can be accommodated in a minivan.
  • While adventurous types may like the more spontaneous approach, we found it worked better to give Freedenberg a general idea of the kind of foods we wanted to sample.
  • To get some ideas about eateries you may want to visit, spends some time perusing entries in the Hungry Cabbie Blog on Famous Fat Dave’s website.
  • Famous Fat Dave’s advice about pacing myself worked: At the end of our four-hour tour I was ready to go get dinner. In other words, eat up and worry about that groaning overstuffed feeling later!