This is the absolute best day to figuratively give Hizzoner King Bloomberg a big fat greasy middle finger in the face. (Or, you can do it literally, but I don’t really suggest that option.) With all of his ordinances on trans fats and cigarettes and sodas we need a day like National Junk Food Day in New York. A day totally dedicated to celebrating fattening, greasy, unhealthy foods! I love it!
The official definition of junk food is any food with a high calorie count and little or no nutrients to show for it. This can include salty and sweet snacks, candy, gum, fried food, and sugary drinks. Basically, almost anything that tastes good 😉 Of course, we all know that empty calories and the effects of all the other additives and chemicals and…well, junk…in junk food can lead to serious health problems. And I wouldn’t advocate eating junk food every day! But today, on National Junk Food Day, you should let loose and try something new, or go back to a beloved food in your childhood that you now know better than to put in your mouth! Being health-conscious can wait for tomorrow (well, since tomorrow is National Penuche Fudge Day, maybe now…) Today, embrace and enjoy National Junk Food Day!
Let me tell you, it was not easy narrowing down what foods to highlight for National Junk Food Day. So many crappy foods taste so delicious! The fact that a ton of junk foods (like doughnuts, cookies, cake, ice cream…) already have their own national food holidays helped narrow it down a bit. But even so, I could only narrow it down to a list of 4 great junk foods that you will love to get your hands on this National Junk Food Day. I certainly will!
Can you believe there’s no official holiday for mozzarella sticks? Those deliciously gooey fried pieces of mozzarella cheese, breaded and dropped into boiling oil, then served just as the cheese gets all runny on the inside. Well, I’m going to remedy that right now! There may be some nutritional value in mozzarella cheese, but it doesn’t stop this deep-fried delish dish from being high on the junk food list. If you’re going to partake in this cheesy goodness today, make sure you find a restaurant that serves fresh, homemade mozzarella sticks: many pizzerias and even higher-end Italian restaurants will now serve only frozen, pre-made mozz because of all the preparation time required for such an inexpensive and popular appetizer. But not at Parm! Little Italy might be kitschy and you may have already relegated it to tourist land, but there are some real quality restaurants here with delicious dishes you’d be disappointed to miss. A restaurant spin-off from the popular Torisi Italian Specialties store, Parm already has the advantage of having fresh, classic ingredients to use in their kitchen, as opposed to serving pre-packaged, frozen stuff you could make at home just as easily. Their mozzarella sticks are no exception: real sticks of fresh cheese breaded and fried to a golden brown and served with marinara sauce, this dish is exactly how mozzarella sticks are supposed to taste. If you’re not into the breaded (or the stick) aspects of deep fried cheese, Parm also makes mozzarella ball appetizers, or a dish where the cheese is wrapped in prosciutto. I don’t know about you, but having to decide between deep fried breaded cheese and cheese wrapped in pork? That is not an easy decision to make!
248 Mulberry St (between Spring St & Prince St)
“Five fat sticks of cheese are dredged in bread crumbs (most likely Progresso, given Carbone and Torrisi’s love of the product, though we were unable to confirm), fried to golden brown, dusted with chopped parsley, and served alongside a tangy marinara sauce. While most mozzarella sticks at snack shops have a stringy, almost plastic texture, the cheese here remains creamy, delicate, and actually tastes like fresh mozzarella. The sauce is well-balanced and full of flavor — easily some of the best fried cheese I’ve had in ages. And I eat more fried cheese than I’d like to admit.”–The Village Voice
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“With that said, I thought that Parm was pretty good. There were a lot of cool apps and sides on the menu — brussel sprouts, beets, etc. Naturally, when I see mozzarrella sticks on the menu, I have to try them. And well, you don’t often see them made with fresh mozzarella. The breading, the marinara sauce — both were quite amazing. I actually may have loved these the most.”–Victor S.
“The place is hella cool, retro style and retro waitresses. They lured us into the Bloody Mary’s to start which were awesome and paired nicely with the mozzarella sticks. Now these are mozzarella sticks! Wow, they are stuffed with fresh mozz and fried perfectly, pefection! I don’t think I’ll be able to eat another mozz stick again.”–Eric B.
But what if you’re in the mood for a sweeter kind of junk food–but no less deep fried? Then buddy, you’re asking for a churro. Surpisingly delicate despite the fact that it’s a stretched out doughnut, the Spanish churro is a long tube of sweet dough that is deep fried until crunchy, and then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Traditionally it’s served hot, with a cup of melted chocolate you are meant to dip the churro in. And it’s served for breakfast! Man, we have it all wrong with our cold cereal and muffins. I would eat churros for breakfast any day.
Instead of stopping one of those random churro carts you see in subway stations (no, really, what are those things), get a freshly-made, deliciously light churro made in the traditional way, just for you, at La Churreria. The name’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s even easier to say with a bite of churro in your mouth! The owners of Soccarrat Paella Bar–the best place in town to get traditional Valencian paella–have brought their same quality Spanish touch to La Churreria next door, where they serve triangular fried sandwiches, the Spanish version of panini. But the star of the show is the mighty churro, made in the traditional style: light and fluffy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, with no added sugar at the end. The sweetness is supposed to come from the pot of chocolate they put at your elbow, which has gotten such rave reviews that people scramble to buy more churros just to have a vehicle to get that chocolate to your mouth! And you know everything is cooked fresh every day, right up to the minute you order it: La Churreria’s churros are more curly-fried shaped than straight, stiff rods, proving that they were prepared, cooked, and served to you immediately, without mass-producing the dough ahead of time. Order a six-pack of churros and a cup of the Spicy Aztec chocolate for your breakfast today–they open at 9AM! Or just get them for a late night snack. There are no rules when it’s National Junk Food Day!
284 Mulberry St (between Houston St & Jersey St)
“They are moist inside yet dry to the touch, crisp and fluffy and chewy all at once. On their own they are hardly sweet at all. You are supposed to dunk them in the accompanying hot chocolate, which is served in a coffee cup and so dark and thick it almost counts as a pudding. In Spain, this is breakfast. Also a hangover cure, which may be the same thing.”–The New York Times
“And, of course, we had an order of Churros, a six pack which, while fine texture-wise, definitely needed the thick cup of, in our case, Double Dark dipping chocolate (you can also get hazelnut or “spicy aztec” flavors) to achieve the proper sugar intake level such a snack requires. And so, properly fueled, we left La Churreria re-energized and ready to take on the rest of our day.”–Glenwood NYC
“The churros are fried to order, twiggy and crisp all the way through. They lack any sort of textural contrast but are satisfying, finished with a bare dusting of sugar. We could use more sugar, or we could benefit from a lengthy dunk into the chocolate—which is how I prefer to take my churros. It’s velvety and dark, easily clinging to the golden ridges; what you don’t finish by dipping can be spooned up plain. Pair with a cup of earthy, sweet housemade horchata ($2) and that’s one afternoon dessert that might pass as a meal in itself.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Made to order, fresh churros..it doesn’t get must better than this! Try the chocolate dipping sauce and the vanilla creme stuffed churros, definitely requiring frequent repeat visits..I can’t wait to treat my girls to these wonderful sweets!”–Kim L.
“This spot is just like a piece of Spain right in your neighborhood. I absolutely love it! I was here twice in one week. The churros are fresh, the chocolate is thick, the service is friendly and best of all you get more than what you ask for. An order for 10 pcs is more like 12 or 13pcs. It’s a cute place to chit chat with a friend or significant other over delicious treats.”–Jennifer M.
Another, far less traditional deep-fried sweet treat (are we seeing a trend here?) can be found in Brooklyn Heights. But this is no Spanish delicacy, no; it’s far more British in origin. And that’s why you can head to the counter-culture darling Atlantic Chip Shop and get yourself a deep fried Twinkie. I do not stutter! Although Americans are known as the gluttons of the world, the Brits recently came up with the brilliant idea of taking candy bars and other snack cake goodies and deep frying them, resulting in a whole new level of junk food-ery. I tried a deep fried Mars bar when I visited Edinburgh a long time ago, and let me tell you, it changes your whole perception of “deep fried” and “candy bar”. And the Atlantic Chip Shop, a spin-off of the popular Park Slope location, knows just how powerful their deep fryer can be to the American psyche. They’ll deep fry just about anything on their menu–or anything you suggest to them, for that matter–but one of their staples is a Twinkie, that soft, near invulnerable yellow sponge cake with creamy filling, dipped in batter and sent to the fryer. They’re served with a raspberry sauce on the side to add in an extra sweet and tart layer to the now salty, crispy Twinkie. Think you’ve experienced the pinnacle of junk food before? Until you’ve visited the Chip Shop, you haven’t even begun.
Atlantic Chip Shop
129 Atlantic Ave (between Clinton St & Henry St), Brooklyn Heights
“Atlantic Avenue is discovering what Park Slope already knows: A deep-fried Twinkie is much more than the sum of its parts. This English-Irish pub and restaurant, set in a 100-year-old building with tin ceilings, serves the same fish-and-chips, bangers and mash and other U.K. staples made famous at the original. Boozers will be happy to find 16 draught beers, bitters and ales, and various Scotches, bourbons and whiskeys.”–NYC Go
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“FRIED TWINKIE for dessert is da bomb! I just wish it came with 2 twinkies like in the twin packet u buy in the store. Non greasy. The frying just made the already sponge cake warm with a lil crunch. The cream inside oozed in my mouth. Served over a berry sauce.”–Annie Y.
“I ordered the deep-fried mac and cheese and the deep-fried twinkie. Both came out pretty quickly and the presentation was very nice. The twinkie, in particular, was cut in half and reassembled to look like a heart, with a drizzle of berry sauce in the shape of an arrow. Awwww. The mac and cheese was pretty good and the crispy shell definitely make it better. The twinkie was much better than a regular twinkie. The ChipShop definitely lived up to my expectations.”–Bethany T.
Had enough of all the deep-fried confections here? Looking for something to nosh on National Junk Food Day that hasn’t been dipped in boiling oil? How about going the healthy route and going vegan. (Vegan always means healthy, right? Always.) But alas, even the vegans can have junk food–and man, do they know how to junk it up good. Take One Lucky Duck for example: this eatery catering to both vegans and their environmentally-conscious four-legged friends makes a vegan version of the classic Moon Pie that’ll give you complete amnesia of the mass-produced original. The original Moon Pie was created in 1929 and consisted, as it does today, of marshmallow fluff sandwiched between two graham crackers and covered in chocolate. One Lucky Duck takes the simple concept and elevates it to a massive cube of vegan marshmallow (I didn’t even realize they could make vegan marshmallows!), gluten-free graham crackers, and rich dark chocolate. It even goes one step further into healthy territory: the entire Moon Pie contains no ingredients that were ever cooked above a certain temperature, making the whole snack “raw.” How’s that for a change–raw vegan foods compared to deep fried Twinkies?) It’s surely not “health” food, not for a longshot, but in terms of relative goodness, on National Junk Food Day this is one of the best indulgences to put in your body.
One Lucky Duck
125 1/2 E 17th St
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“All of the deserts are stunning, so I won’t bother going into them all. However I will extol upon the virtues of the Moon Pie! Try it! Chocolately and decadent, with a moist and cakey texture, and a marshmallow-y center that really has that spongey and delicious vanilla-infused texture. I don’t know what they are made of, and I almost don’t care. Just Yum!!”–Katie K.
“The Moon Pie ($9) is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Period. (That it is raw, vegan, and gluten free is a bonus. And no, I am not fooling myself into thinking that it’s healthy. But it’s damn good).”–Merisa T.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!