Week 24: Summertime Grooviness and the Funnest Buns in Town

Look outside: that dirty New York summer is finally upon us, ushering in a multitude of warm-weather perks and awesomeness. Summer Fridays have begun, allowing employees to depart work early, and start boozing at 3:00 in the afternoon, as opposed to 5:00. Trucks featuring gelato and froyo (or frozen yogurt, to the layman) patrol the streets, offering a trendier alternative to their conservative cousin ice cream. And the influx of heat and humidity has encouraged the discarding of so many unnecessary articles of clothing, freeing women from the shackles of tyrannical pants and fascist long-sleeved garments.

But even with all the glorious elements of summertime living, there are always follies, flaws, and imperfections, like a cockroach in your tomato bisque. So, I’ve composed a list of the Top Three Groovy (and Not So Groovy) features of the New York City summertime.

1.)  The Heat

The Groovy:

A funny transformation occurs in New York around the time it gets truly warm out. People do this weird thing with their lips and teeth, where they make an upwards parabola shape known as a “smile.” There’s something about the discarding of jackets and the influx of vitamin D that puts people in a groovy mood, itching for some summertime fun.

The Not So Groovy:

New York City smells like shit in the summertime. I don’t know the chemistry behind it, but it does. It sucks, but not nearly as bad as when you board a subway car that would make a sardine can appear spacious only to discover the air conditioner has decided to stop working. And, evidently, so has the deodorant of the dude standing next to you.

2.)  Central Park Fun-Explosion:

The Groovy:

Central Park. Prospect Park. McCarren Park. The New York park scene reawakens come summertime. Grassy green expanses become dotted with lazy park patrons, worn out by the fiery orb in the sky. Follow the concrete paths winding throughout to find collections of horse drawn carriages and bikers with asses so firm, you could bounce a marble off of them into space. Parks bring out the best attributes of New York, the crème de la crème being the free summer concerts. Ah, yes, the free summer concerts, combining my three favorite things in life: free, summer, and scantily-clad groupies. So far, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the Scottish electro-pop stylizing of CHVRCHES and Janelle Monae’s soulful sounds, for the price of on-the-house.

The Not So Groovy:

In the summertime, the homeless seem to flock to the park in droves and a lot of them use the park as a grounds to sleep at night. And by “sleep” I mean “fornicate.” And by “at night” I mean “shamelessly in broad daylight.”

3.)  Non-Stop Events

The Groovy:

In addition to the slew of free concerts, the summer has already seen a vast array of the bizarre, the awesome, and well, the small penis competitions.  Last weekend was home to Brooklyn’s Second Annual Smallest Penis Pageant, which is exactly what you think it is (no joke). Bloomsday, June 16th celebration of James Joyce’s epic Ulysses, featured moving readings by Irish Broadway actors and culminated in a free Irish alcohol session from eleven to midnight for die-hard Joycians (and cheap drunks). There are also outdoor movie screenings, mind-melting festivals, roof deck barbecue parties, and topless parades (side note: it is legal for women to be publicly topless in New York, but not bottomless). And, in a city this diverse, it is impossible not to catch World Cup Fever.

The Not So Groovy:
During the bitter months, I saw a slow growth of my savings. Conversely, all this summer time awesomeness has blasted a pigmy elephant sized hole in my bank account.


All in all, these losses are a small price to pay to have this much fun. Truly, the least groovy thing to me is those who complain that the summer is already “too hot” or “too busy.” I encourage them to remember those icy January days where they slip-slided to work, draped in furs, with gloves so thick, they couldn’t even play Candy Crush on the subway. Be thankful for what is now, the warm, thick, green embrace we call summer.

Week 24: Fun Buns 

As this blog grows and expands, so does the amount of liberties this author takes with the word "sandwich" (also the words "credibility" and “decency.”) I have found that through an honest exploration of sandwiches, my understanding has grown, mutated over time. Perhaps the summer sun has boiled my brains, but had this been January, the following untraditional entry may not have been considered. Today's sandwich is an open-faced bao.

Bao is the Chinese word for "bun." Popularized in the west through the phenomenon of dim sum, or Cantonese multi-course brunch, baos are often served in the pork and chicken varieties, baked within the bun, sometimes with a little barbecue sauce in the mix to boot. The bun itself is the greatest allure, a monument of pillowy simplicity, made of the trifecta of flour, milk, and sugar. 

In more recent times, chefs have evolved this dim sum treat to an open-faced, gourmet version of its former self. Several locales around the city feature this trendy bun-style, and, in fact, this sandwich aficionado originally had an alternate bun shop in mind when starting this entry. Then he discovered a random cart in Midtown West and just threw everything out the window.

It doesn’t qualify as a “food truck” because it is missing the key element of “truck.” It is rather a cart, perhaps driven by a truck to its location (or teleported, who the hell knows?). Its menu is scrawled out in chalk and there’s really not much to it. A choice of four buns: soy chicken, bulgogi beef, braised pork belly, and Peking Duck, the last of which I’ve never once had, because they are always sold out. The other three, however, are the epitome of crack.

The name is Fun Buns, with the tagline “Buns are Fun,” one philosophy I have no problem getting behind. And they do have fun with their buns here, which is why this place is so very fantastic.

The star of the show is their bulgogi bun. Bulgogi, a Korean word meaning “fire meat,” refers to marinated, thinly spread, grilled beef. A fat amount of this beef, stuffed into the purest white bun, topped with kimchi, scallions, sesame seeds, and just a touch of Kewpie Mayo for something that transcended both Korean nor Chinese, to achieve a gorgeous balance on this boy’s tongue.

Their pork belly is succulent in the truest sense of the word, a collection of fatty, savory braised hunks, topped with crushed sugar peanuts, pickled relish greens, and cilantro. The soy chicken is minced, dark meat thighs, stirred up with scallions, cucumber, pickled carrots, and diakons. And the elusive Peking Duck features hoisin sauce, which just makes me want it that much more. 

Their chips are straight out of the East and their staff is on the spot. Three bucks a bun? Yes, please. Check out Fun Buns and get your bun on.