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Gluttony on the Go with a New York City Cabbie

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Gluttony on the Go with a New York City Cabbie

Food

Gluttony on the Go with a New York City Cabbie

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

David Freedenberg is a 28-year-old cabdriver in New York. He also runs Famous Fat Dave's Five Borough Eating Tour. It's not a conventional culinary tour, there are no tablecloths and in some cases, no tables. In fact, most meals are eaten in a car.

But as Oregon food writer David Welch discovered, what the tour lacks in ambience, it makes up for in killer cuisine.

DAVID WELCH: When I first spoke with David Freedenberg the night before the tour, he gave me some very simple instructions: Be hungry.

(Soundbite of car engine)

WELCH: It was good advice because when we met outside my Upper Westside hotel, it was clear I was in for some serious eating.

Mr. DAVID FREEDENBERG (New York City Cabdriver; Owner, Famous Fat Dave's Five Borough Eating Tour): We're going to hit as many boroughs as we can, in a short a time as we can, eat as much as we can.

WELCH: Freedenberg goes by the name Famous Fat Dave, and yes, he is a little pudgy. He's been giving food tours for over four years now. Some tours have themes: pickled New York, the best of Brooklyn, others are simply all-out eat-a-thons.

Tours last around four hours and are given by private car or in an authentic yellow cab Freedenberg calls the wheels of steel.

I'm joined today by my wife, Jen Louise(ph), and my friends, Diane Cook and Jorge Just. As we're driving north into Harlem, Freedenberg tells us how he gets his restaurant tips.

Mr. FREEDENBERG: Every time I drop off a fare, I always ask, where do you eat -always. So let's say I'm taking someone to 98th Street and Amsterdam, and I ask him where they have been eaten, if they've lived here for 30 years, they're going to know better than Frank Bruni, you know.

WELCH: Our first stop came from one of these tips. It's a soul food buffet called Manna's. They serve everything you could imagine: chicken-fried steak, colored greens. But Freedenberg has his sights set on one thing: deviled eggs.

He darts inside and returns with a plastic container filled with four enormous eggs covered in mayo, paprika and chives. Jorge is the first to take a bite.

Mr. JORGE JUST (Reporter): I think that is definitely the finest deviled egg I've ever had.

WELCH: Really?

Mr. JUST: I think so.

WELCH: And just like that, the eggs are gone, and we're on our way to the next stop - fried chicken.

(Soundbite of singing)

WELCH: Awesome.

Famous Fat Dave says that some of the best fried chicken in the city is at Charles' Southern Style Kitchen. It's a small West Harlem restaurant that serves mostly takeouts. There's a counter, a cash register and a large glass case filled with crispy chicken.

Mr. FREEDENBERG: What do you, guys, think? Like a leg and a breast and a thigh or something?

WELCH: Yes, yes, and yes. We take the bag of steaming chicken back to the car to eat en route to our next stop.

Mr. FREEDENBERG: All right, guys. Dig in. Again, don't worry about getting bits of fried chicken on the floor.

WELCH: And we don't. Fried chicken is torn, passed and devoured. It's crispy, salty and extremely moist. So moist that chicken juice actually sprays on to the windshield. The entire car is elated. We are giddy; we are practically drunk on fried chicken.

Ms. JEN LOUISE WELCH (David Welch's Wife): That kicks ass.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WELCH: But things move fast on this tour, and before we can finish our last bites of chicken, Famous Fat Dave is thinking about our next stop.

Mr. FREEDENBERG: You, guys, like jerk?

Ms. WELCH: Yeah.

Mr. FREEDENBERG: Have you ever had jerk shrimp?

Ms. WELCH: No.

Mr. FREEDENBERG: You're going to have it in about two minutes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WELCH: We pull up to a small Jamaican restaurant in the Bronx called Feeding Tree. Famous Fat Dave ducks in and returns with a white styrofoam box filled with steaming shrimp. These are shell-on peel-and-eat(ph) shrimp. They're smothered in a thick, brown jerk sauce.

Diane is the first to dive in.

Ms. DIANE COOK (Reporter): Make sure you lick the shell before…

Mr. JUST: Yeah. I did that, yeah.

Ms. COOK: …you toss it.

WELCH: The sauce is spicy and tangy. The shrimp are pillowy and sweet. We're huddled around a box filled with empty shrimp shells, licking our fingers as jerk sauce runs down our arms.

Ms. COOK: Yeah. Not after. It's the heat(ph).

Mr. JUST: You don't have to eat your second (unintelligible) after all this.

WELCH: After a healthy dose of napkins, we're back in the car heading south. We stopped for samozas at 5 Star Punjabi in Queens, then on to Brooklyn for a fried rice bowl the size of a grapefruit. We eat pizza in Bensonhurst and roast beef sandwich I still have dreams about.

We stopped at eight places in five hours. I was full, but I wasn't stuffed. The stops weren't so much meals as they were generous taste. And the other thing, I got to see a lot of New York.

For NPR News, I'm David Welch.

YDSTIE: Some of Fat Dave's favorite restaurants are at npr.org. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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