Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker:

Normally, mentions of Shopsin’s in print are complimentary, in a sort of left-handed way—as in Time Out New York’s most recent guide to the city’s restaurants, which raved about the soups and described Kenny (“the foul-mouthed middle-aged chef and owner”) as “a culinary genius, if for no other reason than he figured out how to fit all his ingredients into such a tiny restaurant.” To Kenny’s way of thinking, a complimentary mention is worse than a knock. It brings review-trotters—the sort of people who go to a restaurant because somebody told them to. Kenny finds that review-trotters are often “petulant and demanding.” Failing to understand that they are not in a completely conventional restaurant, they may be taken aback at having the person next to them contribute a sentence or two to their conversation or at hearing Kenny make a general remark in language not customarily heard in company unless the company is in a locker room.


The God of New York real estate is an ironic god, and he works in ironic ways. What propelled Ken and Eve into the restaurant business in the first place, twenty years ago, was a bump in their rent. They figured that their choices were to start opening on weekends or transform the store into a restaurant. By that time, Kenny was doing a good business in takeout sandwiches like chicken salad and egg salad. “Zito would bring me over bread and I would just have a line out the door every lunchtime,” he recalled not long ago. “Essentially, if anyone asked me what I did for a living, I said I sold mayonnaise—mayonnaise with chicken, mayonnaise with shrimp, mayonnaise with eggs, mayonnaise with potatoes. The key was that essentially you sold mayonnaise for eight dollars a pound and everything else you threw in for free.”