Before Famous Fat Dave became known for his rollicking New York City food tours, he labored his way through the city's culinary scene. After delivering bread and meat to some of the city's best eateries, working as a cheesemonger, and more, Dave was armed with tons of culinary knowledge. Inspired by his days as an NYC cabbie, he started Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tour, a personalized eating tour in a yellow checker cab.
Famous Fat Dave's well-loved tours have been featured on The Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, and PBS. And while Dave guarantees a deliciously good time, he also tries to show people a new side of the city. "Hopefully you'll understand New York City better after having chowed down at these places and met the people," says Dave. "I try to give every customer something to remember and a couple of good stories to tell, even if they do fall into a food coma at some point."
How do you decide what restaurants to include in your tours?
First of all, the food has to be absolutely delicious. Equally important is that they're consistent. If they're great one day and not so hot the next, I can't take my customers there. But generally I take people to the neighborhood spots where everyone in the neighborhood lives and dies by the place, but somehow it's not famous, not huge on Instagram, not overexposed. I do take people to famous places too, like Katz's Deli and Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, if my customers haven't been. But then they get mixed in with the hole-in-the-wall spots and the hidden gems, the old butcher shop and the bakeries so they get the best of both worlds. In addition to the food, I think it's MUCH more interesting for my customers to come to places where the people who run the place and the people who frequent the place are characters. It's only half about the food—the other half is about the people and the history and the vibe.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
You'd imagine that my favorite thing about this job would be the food, but that's actually my second favorite thing. It's really the people that make me happy. Both the folks at the eateries and the folks that come with me on the tour. I don't love all people. But I do love all people who love food. And spending all day every day with people who love food really makes me happy.
What makes NYC pizza special?
There's no pizza in the world like NYC pizza. A lot of people claim it's the water that makes it distinct. But again, I think the real difference is the people. When you partake in pizza in NYC you're engaging in a cultural experience as much as high tea is in London or opera is in Milan. The absolute best way to soak up NYC is to eat a slice and goof around with the guy making it or the other people eating with you. Ten years down the road, you won't remember exactly how the pizza tasted, or what type of flour they used, or how hot the oven was. You'll remember the accents and the attitude and the experience of eating real New York pizza.
Tell us about the most ridiculously amazing thing you’ve eaten lately:
I'm not really plugged into the newest, trendiest stuff. I often ignore those types of places because they come and go, but I am always finding places that are new to me. My friend Serhan told me about the Burmese Yun Cafe in the Jackson Heights subway stop. Their fermented tea leaf salad is phenomenal. Not only does it taste fresh and unique, it's caffeinated so it wakes you up. Plus they're the sweetest family that run the place and they were immediately so kind to me.
Your favorite NYC neighborhood for eating right now and why:
This is like asking someone which is his favorite child. I love the whole city so much! The whole idea of my tour is to hit the best thing in each neighborhood so I'd take people for raw oysters on Arthur Avenue and latke chips in Mill Basin and fried chicken in Fort Greene and pizza in Howard Beach and sizzling Thai tea roti dessert in Elmhurst and Georgian adjaruli in Brighton Beach and Wuhanese flatbread on MacDougal Street and Sri Lankan lamprais in Stapleton. I really love it all! It's impossible to choose.
- Favorite old-school NYC restaurant right now? I gotta say Katz Deli! I love it in there
- Favorite new NYC restaurant right now? Crop Circle
- Favorite midnight snack? I'm a chopped cheese man all the way. Hajji's up on 110th and 1st Ave supposedly invented the sandwich, but they definitely make the best one that I know of. And they're open all night
- Favorite cocktail? I'm not a big drinker because I'm often driving. I actually am a bartender on occasion though! Come by Local at 144 Sullivan Street and I'll pour you drink!
- Your dream breakfast? BEC (bacon, egg, and cheese) but on a bialy
- Go-to bagel order? Warm sesame seed bagel with whitefish salad