January 29 – Corn Chip Day

This was definitely not an easy food day to fill. Corn chips, popularized in 1932 by the Frito-Lay company, are a snack food staple, but you don’t often find any gourmet versions of Fritos hanging around the bistros of New York City. But there is one item I had never heard of before, a Southern comfort food dish that had never quite hit the same level of popularity in my neck of the woods as a kid: the Frito Pie. What the heck is a Frito Pie? Well, it’s basically anything: chili or taco meat, cheese, jalapenos, and refried beans are usually added to a big pile of Fritos, then put in a casserole dish and baked. But you can put any ingredients into a Frito Pie that serves your fancy. The “ghetto” way to make a Frito Pie, of course, is just to shove similar ingredients into an open Fritos bag, shake it up, and enjoy. It sounds disgusting; it probably looks disgusting, but considering I love all of those items individually, I bet when you put it together it tastes heavenly. And for the Southern, Southwestern, and Midwest transplants on the streets of New York, a Frito Pie on Corn Chip Day may feel like home.

When you’re searching for Frito Pie in the city, don’t expect to end up at Le Bernadin or Eleven Madison Park. Your best bet is slumming it in the hipster bars of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where tons of transplants from all around the country flock to dive bars for cheap cans of PBR and the atmosphere of their parents’ wood-paneled basements. One of the best-reviewed of these bars is The Levee: part sports bar, part dive bar, all youth magnet. (The free cheese balls offered at the bar help with that attraction, too.) Although they are first and foremost a bar, they serve a limited number of guilty pleasure snacks on their menu, the Frito Pie included. Patrons rave about them having the pie to begin with–though, once you’re wasted on $4 Sportsmans and Dreamsicles, can you really accurately judge the culinary expertise behind a Frito Pie? 😛

Either way, the Levee–and the Frito Pie–feel gloriously down to earth, in the best sort of way.

The Levee
212 Berry St (at N. 3rd Street), South Williamsburg


Some reviews from Yelp.com:

“Best bar in the whole western hemisphere. The extra huge selection of beers in bottles (get the $5 Blithering Idiot) the grub selection (go with the $4 Frito Pie) the free cheese balls (get copious amounts, they’re free), the $4 Sportsman (get only after you finish your Blithering Idiot) and the Jenga/Boggle mean you spend $20 (including tip) and have the time of your life every time you visit this place.”–Sean L.

“Cheese balls and a what do you call it? A FRITO PIE. I love the east coast, they know how to do all the bad shit we don’t dare do in SF. FUCK YEA, ROCK ON you get my heart and my waistline sir. Lord I can’t believe they serve fritos and chili in a pie.”–Alexandra M.