Discover more from The Supersonic
Introducing: The Regular
A case for patronizing places where everybody knows your name
Throughout October, we’ll be posting reported features, essays, and lists around our monthly theme: The Regular.
A few weeks ago, I grabbed a late lunch at Upside Pizza — two slices (one cheese, one spicy vodka) and a Diet Coke, fountain of course. Upside is on Blackbird, which means in addition to my food and drink, tapping in earned me some sweet, sweet $FLY and unlocked some other cool perks. But bear with me here, this is no shill — or insofar as anything on a brand-funded blog can be something more than a sneaky way for you to vibe with our product.
At any rate, there I was, standing by the register waiting for my pizza — not too hot, guys! I made small talk with the staff, then fell into quick conversation with Noam Grossman, the owner. If any other patrons observed the ease with which we all spoke, it must have been evident that I come to Upside a lot. As the spot’s manager, Abraham, rung me up, the breezy cadence of his Salvadorian accent rising and falling as if in unison with the slow jams slinking out of the speaker, Noam gave him a quick flick of the chin, and like that—boom!—my meal was comped. I fished a $5 bill from my wallet, the only cash I had, and somewhat apologetically stuffed it into the tip jar, then walked out thanking everyone profusely.
Outside on a picnic table in the sun eating my pizza, it slowly dawned on me that I was stunned by what had just happened. I suppose it had something to do with the disproportionate amount of joy the free meal had triggered. There I sat, enjoying a lunch that would’ve cost me no more than $10, and yet I floated on a reservoir of serotonin I’d label priceless if Mastercard hadn’t already copyrighted the slogan. For the next 15 minutes, I blissed out on the good vibes that only great hospitality can engender. Or, more to the point, I thought: this is it, this is the product. This moment. This feeling.
Hospitality should never be a transactional business, and places—even pizza shops—that forget this will always miss the mark. Pardon the fifty cent pseudo philosophy here, but much of life, especially urban life, can seem alienating — we feel unmoored amid the disorienting hustle and bustle of it all. A restaurant, then—especially one in which they know us and recognize us and occasionally reward us—serves as our anchor; a place where the chaos calms, if only for a few moments. A place that, for the ephemeral duration of the meal, might even feel like home.
I’ve experienced the perks of being a bonafide regular only a few times in my life. There was the late night Smith Street Greek diner of my early 20s, where, homesick and heartbroken, I would stumble in from the bars between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. only to have the joint’s Nepalese manager (always in a black shirt and matching tie) nurse me back to something resembling sobriety with a plate of half sour pickles on the house (the 24-hour diner’s version of amuse-bouche) as I awaited my soggy grilled cheese and steak fries. Or there’s Botanica Bar, my beloved dive of that same era, whose owner Mark, a Scotsman, once went outside to let in my date when she’d forgotten her ID. “Girls that pretty don’t need an ID,” he said to me with a sly, well-done-laddy smile. That girl, er woman, is now my wife, and the mother of our two sons.
What other types of businesses can lay claim to facilitating so much essential happiness? Amazon? Allstate? Please.
And so, The Regular, the theme of all editorial content you’ll see across Blackbird channels this month, from Substack to Instagram, TikTok to Email. Regulars are the type of guests who get treated best, and thus they’re the guests we should all aspire to be. Sure, exploration has its merits, and there of course exist those bucket list joints deserving of once in a lifetime pilgrimages. But for every hotspot and transcendent temple of gastronomy with the year-long waitlist, there should exist in the serious eater’s rotation a list of staples where they rank as a true regular and are treated accordingly.
We’ve got a lineup of exceptional stories around said theme slated for this month, and a roster of some of my favorite writers penning them, so do dig in throughout October. Kicking things off is James Beard Award-winning essayist and humorist John DeVore, who makes a serious case for patronizing the type of place that wouldn’t shoo you away if you showed up for dinner in a pair of sweatpants. He calls these restaurants not hotspots, but their polar opposite: soft spots. It’s a term I’ll be employing liberally from now on. Enjoy.
Blackbird Labs, Inc.