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Jul 26, 2009 09:38 AM

Shopsin's still good?

I have always wanted to try this gem but never had the opportunity due to his weird hours. Tuesday-Friday 9-3 and Saturday 9-2. Obviously, since I work I can't make it there during the week and I like to sleep in on Saturdays since I am usually dead from waking up early every other day. However, next week I have some vacation time and was planning to hit up Shopsins joint on a Tues or Wed afternoon.

Is this place still great? I love the fact that it is a hidden, hole in the wall, adventurousand eclectic menu type of place. Many have considered it an NY classic since it is tough to find places like this anymore.

Obviously I am not expecting a 5 star dining experience you would expect from a $180. I am just looking forward to some great down some comfort food cookin from Kenny. I admit the HUGE menu is definitely going to cause problems for me since I will want to try everything and most likely over order. Does Kenny cap the amount of food that a solo diner can order if he deems it too much? I have heard some people mention that in the past of him doing this.

Alas what are the best hings to order? I obviously have heard about the famous slutty cakes, mac n cheese pancakes, ebelskivers, his awesome and crazy lunch plate pairings and combinations, etc. One great thing I noticed is you can order half orders of pancakes, which would allow me to sample a few different kinds. I was thinking half slutty, half mac n cheese, and maybe something else.

So is Shopsins still great or whats the updated word on Mr. Kenny's classic NY experience?

Shopsin's General Store
120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

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  1. First of all - much respect to both your foodie ambitions and your ability to realize them as witnessed first hand at Ssam.

    But, even champion eater Joey Chestnut would have a hard time eating everything at Shopsins. I haven't been in a little while, but my advice is to do an exploratory trip eating a few things and then try your best to return one day if you deem it worthy.

    As for what not to miss, all I can say firsthand is that the ebelskivers still call my name, and I may have to go back soon and have more.

    3 Replies
    1. re: seal

      Yeah I understand that lol.... but I know there are so many things that I am going to want to sample. I will probably try to drag along a few friends so we can try as much as possible. Other than the ebelskivers what "real" food would you suggest?

      Also, look forward to seeing you in a few weeks for the Ssam seal!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. re: steakrules85

        I'm definately looking forward to Ssam.

        But in between now and then I will be in Barcelona, so that should be fun too ;o)

        Be careful at Shopsins since they are like the cartoon version of Saturday Night Live's parody of The Billy Goat Inn. I would go once and just eat as much as you can before trying any special orders. Enjoy.

        1. re: seal

          I've never had any problem at Shopsin's. I've dined by myself a few times as well and again, no problem even though I'm pretty quiet. I certainly don't think the gruff service is a myth, but I don't think anyone should be scared about going there!

          Off-topic, but I missed the Chowdown post about Momofuku Ssam. Anybody clue me in, please?

    2. Shopsin's is AWESOME. Don't be led astray by any comments to the contrary.

      Be careful with over-ordering though if you're going by yourself. Kenny might shut you down and tell you "that's too much food". Get on his bad side right off the bat, and you won't enjoy a single bite of deliciousness. The last few times we've been, Kenny hasn't done the cooking. He just sits and commiserates while his son does the cooking.

      I love that place, and we make a point to hit it every time we visit.

      1. It's still awesome. Don't try to get too much food.

        Talk to the server (usually one of his daughters) and she'll talk to steer you right.

        I always hear good things about the sliders and donuts but usually end up getting pancakes (bacon and egg) and picking off other people's plates.

        18 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Do they allow for substitutions? For example one of their breakfast places looks awesome.. you get 2 each of the pancakes- smores, mac and cheese, and butterscotch. I would like to substitute the butterscotch for the slutty cakes though. Think they would object or is he gruff service a myth?

          1. re: steakrules85

            The gruff service is NOT a myth, and it extends from Kenny sometimes to his son Zach. So I wouldn't try any substitutions.

            1. re: steakrules85

              i wouldn't. that pancake plate (tasty 2, iirc) is bangin though. go tuesday and save the slutty for wednesday. you can also get half-orders.

              if you have a huge appetite, you should be able to do 2 entrees in one go. i've done it a few times without trouble. they used to tell me i was getting too much, but i think they're used to my orders by now.

              1. re: Cheese Cheesely

                Well it doesn't hurt to ask. The worse that can happen is they say no.

                1. re: steakrules85

                  Yeah but they can also kick you out, make fun of you, curse at you, and then ban you...

                    1. re: steakrules85

                      But, see, the food is good enough that I wouldn't want to be banned...

                    2. re: steakrules85

                      kathryn is correct. The worst that can happen is NOT that they say no. It's that you get no food at all. I've been on the receiving end of one mini-tirade myself (I already had my food, thankfully), and I've seen a guy booted for his "attitude." So whether you're afraid or not is sort of immaterial. You may find that you are brave and also hungry.

                      1. re: small h

                        Wow.. I think that is sort of ridiculous. I mean would they really "ban" someone for asking for a simple substitution? And if they said no I would just accept it and then continue on with my order. I am not one to fight or have a bad attitude.

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          Far be it from me to defend the practice - ridiculous is a pretty accurate categorization. I'm just saying it is definitely no myth. Brush up on your Shopsin lore here:


                          1. re: small h

                            I actually love the fact that they ban hipster fussy idiots. I saw Kenny run some hipster off last time I was there. It's part of the charm of the place is you ask me because you won't have to sit next to any fussy buttwipes when you go there.

                            Kenny's more concerned with keeping the place the way he likes it and having people there that he wants there than he is with slaving to the almighty dollar. I think that's admirable.

                            By the way, I've never had a single issue with Kenny, the waiters or Kenny's son. They've been great to us EVERY time.

                            1. re: Slob

                              "Kenny's more concerned with keeping the place the way he likes it and having people there that he wants there than he is with slaving to the almighty dollar. I think that's admirable."

                              Well, he isn't so altruistic that he's giving the food away.

                              Frankly, I find it appalling that people are willing to put up with this kind of treatment. No matter how good the food may be, treating customers this way is, in my view. totally unacceptable. If you're going to pay to eat somewhere, you shouldn't have to go in fearful that if you ask a question, you're going to be tossed out on your rear. And the reason he gets away with it *is* because people let him by continuing to patronize the place.

                              I may be a glutton sometimes, but I'm never a glutton for this kind of punishment. There's plenty of other great food in this town, and I prefer to spend my hard-earned dollars at a restaurant where I'm treated with respect. I can live the rest of my life very nicely without ever setting food inside Shopsin's.

                              1. re: RGR

                                RGR, you and I mostly agree on all things food related and this is no exception. I don't think someone should be mistreated for asking for a simple addition, subtraction, substititon, etc. I mean like you said you are the paying customer.

                                However, I do really want to try Shopsin's just because I love to try new things, electic food, and classic NY and this fits all criteria.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  I totally have to agree with you. I've only been there a handful of times at their old location and have ordered several dishes that have been lauded on the boards. The food is good, but certainly not earth-shattering. While I'm a customer who generally doesn't ask for substitutions, I still have a problem with his policy. I know a lot of hounds on this board that I respect really love the place. But I would rather spend my money at a place where the guy won't throw me out and ban me if I ask if he could leave out the pickle on a dish. I don't want to go to a restaurant where I have to fear getting thrown out because I broke a "rule." I don't need a restaurant to wipe my ass. But I think a little civility is nice. Respect is a two-way street. And I don't think asking a simple question about an item on the menu or asking if a food allergy can be accommodated is a sign of disrespect.

                                  For those of you who have been dying to try his food but are afraid they may get kicked out, his cookbook contains pretty simple recipes. For example, the pancakes are just plain frozen Aunt Jemima matter. And those famed slutty cakes are frozen Aunt Jemima batter, peanut butter, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. And the book is certainly an interesting read. It gives you a better understanding of why Kenny is the way he is.

                                  If you have a food allergy (ie. eggs, dairy, etc.) or have special food needs (low-fat, low-salt) this is not the place for you. If you like to custom design your own menus, this is not the place for you. If you like to ask a zillion questions about menu items, this is not the place for you. In spite of everything I said, I would, however, recommend this place for certain people -- those who are curious about Shopsins, a small group that can't make up their minds as to what to eat (his menu features things from scrambled eggs to nigerian beef stew). I think it is a unique dining experience, and I can see some people really digging this. Personally, I don't find the food or experience that special where I'll put up with their behavior. Doesn't mean I won't go if somebody I know really wants to go. But I just can't see myself waking up one Sunday morning asking my husband to go to Shopsins with me. I will admit that my threshold is probably low compared to some people on these boards (I refuse to wait a couple of hours at Di Fara for pizza).

                                  ETA: I'd also like to say that I've always been treated very well at Shopsins (did not ask for any substitutions). But I do have an issue with customers being banned and kicked out if they indeed do ask.

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    RGR, I've never had anything but great treatment from Kenny and his staff. I just like his no-nonsense style and his foul mouth. I think he's a very funny guy. And I like that he kicks out fussy people.

                              2. re: steakrules85

                                I have seen it myself. Someone asked for questions and then tried to substitute something and got kicked out. They are not even going to let you continue your order.

                                In their eyes, asking for substitution is already a "bad" attitude.

                                Don't even ask. You are better off asking questions here than to ask there.

                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                  Hmmm interesting. So basically.. NO OMISSISIONS and NO SUBSTITUTIONS?

                                  Here are my questions then for the Shopsins experts....

                                  I really wanna try a few different kind of pancakes and the slutty and mac n cheese are definites. Maybe I can just get a half order of each.

                                  Also, I think I wanna get the sliders since many people rave about them. Are the egg castles basically sliders with eggs on top? Would I be able to request grilled onions on them? Could I ask for them to be cooked rare?

                    3. I was there on Sat. We shared a 1/2 order of the slutty cakes, the Castles and the Moe II.
                      I would highly recommned the mac and cheese, slutty, bacon and egg and lemon blueberry ricotta pancakes. I also recommend the Castles, the Piaf, the Blisters on My Sisters and any of the "Pete" dishes.

                      To answer your question about the Castles:
                      1) Are the egg castles basically sliders with eggs on top? Yes, the best sliders I have ever had with lots of gooey cheese and an omlete type of egg on top of the burger.
                      2) Would I be able to request grilled onions on them? I wouldn't try it. Again, they are the no subsitutions, no ommissions, no additions type of place. The second time I was there we had ordered and still hadn't gotten our coffee. (They don't allow you to order coffee first; it has to be at the same time as your meal.) So when I asked for our coffee, they told me to get it myself. So I did. They next time we went, the same thing happened so we went to get our coffee ourselves and they yelled at us. So in short, it's a bit like the old Seinfield Soup Nazi type of vibe. Don't ask. Just order exactly how it is on the menu and keep your mouth shut. I have seen someone ask too many questions. It isn't pretty.
                      3) Could I ask for them to be cooked rare? I wouldn't try it. Read above.

                      Also, for giggles, look at the drug test they keep in plain view on the shelf at the counter. Pretty hilarious.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: rosiemac75

                        How many people did you go with? Seems like a good amount of food.

                        Bummer on not being able to add onions or ask for it rare. DAMN!

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          There were 2 of us (girls, good eaters. I had just run 12 miles...)
                          The first time I went, we did the same type of order: 2 savory egg dishes and one pancake. The son Zach told us it was too much food and that he would only give us a 1/2 order of pancakes. He was right. So I usually stick to this formula for 2 people.

                          The castles sometimes have sauteed onions on them. For whatever reason, I don't remember them being on there this weekend. And it wouldn't surprise me if it was as simple as Zach forgetting or not wanting to bother. Either way, the burgers are freaking tasty no matter what's on them.

                          I also recommned the Ebelskivers but sometimes Zach doesn't want to make them bc too many people order them now. They were featured on a show on the Food Network. Aaron Sanchez raved about them and now everyone orders them. But they are also damn good.

                          Also to note, their guacamole was out of this world. I got a dish called the Egg Chimichanga (not currently on the menu) for my first taste of their guacamole and it was brillant.

                          Regardless of the quirkyness and gruffness of the service, I think the food is definately worth not getting kicked out or banned.

                          1. re: steakrules85


                            Now, why would you want to go to a place where you can't ask that your burger be prepared to your liking, i.e., rare. It's bad enough when restaurants where you can request it don't get it right. But to know from the get-go that if you even so much as dare to make the request, you'll be out on your tush? Feh!

                            1. re: RGR

                              I do really want to try it, but having read the book and posts hereabouts, I've ratcheted up my fear level to where I just don't think I'll ever do it. For me, it's not the ordering--I already know exactly what I'd have and would have no particular requests. It's the level of interaction required that concerns me--my old reliable who used to try new places with me has left town, so I'd likely be venturing in on my own (DH would hold no truck whatsoever with the "rules"). When I eat alone, I like to read a book or otherwise keep to myself, but from what I have read, this would get me booted right quick based on Kenny's social philosophy. So it looks like I'll be sticking with the cookbook...

                              1. re: planetjess

                                Keeping to yourself would not be a problem, planetjess. In fact, he'd probably prefer it. You should try it. It's really not a war zone or anything at all. Kenny's just got a strong douchebag sensor. I've been 5 times with my girlfriend, and we've had nothing but great experiences EVERY time.

                                1. re: planetjess

                                  <When I eat alone, I like to read a book or otherwise keep to myself, but from what I have read, this would get me booted right quick based on Kenny's social philosophy.>

                                  I go alone, I read a magazine, and no one has booted me yet. I understand all the "well, I never"-ing going on in this thread - I don't even disagree with it that strongly. But at least Shopsin's has a huge menu with something for everyone. Contrast that with David Chang, whose restaurants pretty much exclude anyone who doesn't eat pig.

                                  Also note that when you order, say, the szechuan shrimp soup, you will be asked how spicy you want it. It isn't a total dictatorship.

                                  1. re: planetjess

                                    Planetjess - I see people reading all the time. I think you will be fine. If you just order from the menu and don't pull a "When Harry Met Sally" moment and add things, ask for things on the side, etc, you will have no problem. The level of interaction is rather minimal (most of the time) and if Kenny starts talking to you, just go with the flow. He's just very opinionated and likes to swear a lot. Not much different than some NY'ers we know...

                                    1. re: planetjess

                                      planetjess, I went by myself. Sat at the counter and had the slutty pancakes. Not sure if Kenny was there. He might have been sitting at a table. No line (like that over rated diner nearby that's really popular for breakfast). Essex Street Market ambience. This thread reminds me its been too long and I need to go back . . .

                                      Go have some fun, bring your sense of humor, menu is enormous.

                                      PS speaking of pig or avoiding pig, Shopsin's tofu breakfast sausages were not very good.

                                      1. re: planetjess

                                        I read there all the time. It's a breakfast/coffee habit of mine.

                                  2. re: rosiemac75

                                    Wasn't the coffee always serve yourself, or is that just the H2O?.

                                  3. also, and please, please, please dont take this personally, but werent you upset with Momofuku for not giving you butter?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: ConOrama

                                      Yeah and I knew someone would eventually mention it. And I normally would never bother with a place like this either, as RGR stated. But I don't know this is just one of those places I've always wanted to check out just to see what its like.

                                      1. re: steakrules85

                                        Just do an honest self-evaluation. If you're a fussy nitpicky person DON'T go to Shopsin's. If you're more easygoing and willing to let the cooks cook you their meals the way they think is best, then go because it's a great place.

                                        1. re: Slob

                                          You've got to be kidding! I do not think this is a question of whether someone is being a fussy, nitpicky eater. I'm sure I and others could find *something* on the menu that we could order "as is." However, the fact that he sees nothing wrong in treating customers in such a disgustingly mean and hateful manner is enough for me to never consider patronizing the place. Whatever his demons are, he shouldn't be foisting them on the public. Forget self-evaluation! Frankly, I think people should just wise up, not go or stop going there, and put him out of business.

                                          1. re: RGR

                                            "I do not think this is a question of whether someone is being a fussy, nitpicky eater."

                                            Not always, no. Sometimes it's more arbitary than that - I sense that he'll boot people, even in some instances repeat customers, based on his mood sometimes. It's not like this guy is some kind of litmus test of personal character. I think that's the way some people like to view him, but that's just not the case. He's a good, inventive, passionate cook, yeah. And it's his joint and his rules. But the idea that he's some kind of arbiter of justice is silly. One of the drawbacks to the new space is that it's so tiny, there's nowhere to run or hide from his rants. The last time I was there, he was regaling a pair of customers with completely unoriginal and purposefully hurtful comments about the French. If I didn't know this guy could cook, I'd take him for nothing more than a frustrated bag of wind. At the previous space, on Carmine, which was considerably bigger, of course, you could hear him from across the room, holding court amongst his minions, but there was some space and room to breathe. Now, you're in plain sight.

                                            I go, order, pay my check and keep to myself, just like anywhere else. Haven't gotten kicked out yet, but it's not like that's a feather in my cap or anything. Perhaps he'll notice my cel phone vibrating one day and ban me for life.

                                            1. re: Polecat

                                              I think you're on to something here. I go way back with Shopsins - Morton and Bedford in the late 1970s. Kenny's unusual brand of kindness toward me - in my misspent 20s - was laudable and greatly endearing. However - Kenny is Kenny - no more/no less - I'd go to the ends of the five boroughs to defend his right do do what he does - but he is not an oracle of what is authentic or true, and based on my last couple of visits, the surly factor has gotten way over the top. Evie - and later his daughters, were softening influences. The wrestler heavy metal waiter is a PITA - and he's not even a Shopsin.

                                              He's an instinctive cook. I don't know how he does what he does - but the food is wonderful. Nonetheless, I have no immediate plans to return.

                                            2. re: RGR

                                              And the funniest thing about it all is there are people out there who continually rag on my favorite restaurant (yes those of you who read my posts know very well which establishment I mean) about their "gruff" and "rude" service. However, I have never been turned down on a single request, thrown out, or given poor service at "that" establishment. Yet, it seems this is the norm at Shopsin's and people continue to frequent it regardless

                                              But that is also another reason why I want to try it. I am one who believes in going and experiencing something first hand yourself before you make judgements. Most of the time people do not tell the WHOLE story. It cannot be that he throws someone out EVERYTIME they have a question or make a request. I am sure that Kenny does not throw someone out if they kindly ask for something nicely. If they get turned down and then make a huge scene out of it, rant rave, curse, etc. thats another story. But there are far too many people out there who don't know the "Shopsin's etiquette" for this to hold true. It is just normal for people to ask questions and make requests, especially given such an enormous and mind boggling menu with seemingly endless choices and options. And here is something very interesting that I came across while just googling Shopsin's... Nick Solares, a food blogger, has a great nad extremely funny story about how Kenny changed the bun on his burger recently. Kinda makes you think Kenny isn't all as bas as he is made out to be. Read it here....

                                              While some may have had poor experiences at Shopsin's, I may not. I think I will just go and see for myself and then report back to everyone on how it goes.

                                              1. re: steakrules85

                                                Well, Luger's isn't exactly hurting for business?. And besides, I have never heard any reports of patrons being thrown out of the restaurant for making requests.

                                                Hey, if people want to go to places where there's a good chance they're going to be treated in a discourteours and/or abusive manner, that's their right. I'll pass.

                                              2. re: RGR

                                                Well, you can certainly exercise your right not to go there. And so can others. I will continue to exercise my right to go there because I love the food, and I enjoy Kenny's banter. It's not for everyone, but that's part of what makes it so good for me.

                                                1. re: Slob

                                                  Ok now that everyone has given their opinion for better or worse about Shopsin's policies.. let's talk strictly food... Everyone please post their top dishes!!!