The Best Moments From 2023’s Grub Street Diets

No two Grub Street Diets are the same, and even we don’t know ahead of time how each entry will play out. This year, we heard from a citrus-obsessed rock god, a Bachelor star turned marathoner who’s trying to satisfy his BBQ cravings, and the comedian Jamie Loftus, who downs seven hot dogs a night onstage. The column is filled with moments — big and small — that, taken together, reveal a bit more about the subjects’ sensibilities. Here are the ten that stood out most from 2023’s editions.

10. Zahra Tangorra wouldn’t succumb to her family’s bagel tastes.

Illustration: Margalit Cutler

“We drive over to Northport, the town where I grew up, to get the good bagels at Country Hot Bagels. We get home, and my parents scoop theirs out. I am not classically a scooper, but I feel peer pressured, so I pinch a few nugs out, but I realize this just isn’t me. I tear off just a small piece and put goat-cream cheese, onion, capers, and tomato on it because I’m really not hungry. This makes my mom upset, as it would any Jewish mother, but I just gotta be me.” Read the Diet …

9. Hua Hsu made us want to book a trip to California immediately.

Illustration: Maanvi Kapur

“For dinner, my parents wanted to check out Main Street Cupertino, a new strip of restaurants near the Apple headquarters. I think this was just some office buildings when I was a kid. They made a reservation at Koi Palace Contempo, a more modern outpost of the famed Daly City restaurant. I have eaten so much Chinese food in my life, as have my parents. It once seemed that we had been to every Chinese restaurant in an hour’s radius. We used to eat with our sprawling, extended family multiple times a week. Lunches and dinners all throughout the South Bay — some place hidden on the back side of a strip mall or just off the lobby of a depressing motel. Someone heard this place was good. We would follow chefs from one kitchen to another, my grandparents slipping their favorite waiters red envelopes to celebrate the New Year. There are more places to eat nowadays, but fewer people to share meals with.” Read the Diet …

8. Ella Cerón recommended condiments for every season.

Illustration: Adam Mazur

“I am not picky about salsas and hot sauces and other spice-based condiments, but I do have particulars. Cholula is my all-purpose, El Yucateco is when I want to regret my life choices (which is often), Tabasco is strictly a hot sauce for egg dishes, and Tajín is for fruit and vegetables and popsicles and drinks. I would put the Fly by Jing chile crisp on everything in the world because it’s so zingy, but I was demolishing a $15 jar every two weeks. The industrial-size jar of Lao Gan Ma gets me through now. Between this and the coffee, I am daring an ulcer to open up and swallow me whole.” Read the Diet …

7. Adam Pally’s car meals were vetoed by his family.

Illustration: Ryan Inzana

“My kids complain that my salads stink up the inside of the Volvo. It’s the heavy spicy cashew dressing that does it. It is one of the more pungent dressings, certainly not like balsamic vinaigrette or Italian. It’s got a real whiff to it, leaving its trail, dusting its crops. My car salads came up recently in a family discussion about how bad the car smells, and my wife sided with the kids. So it’s now forbidden for me to eat in the car. Even if they tried the salad, they’d be like, That’s delicious. Now get it the fuck out of the car.” Read the Diet …

6. Dwight Garner was still thinking about a meal he ate five years ago.

Illustration: Adam Mazur

“I’m lucky to have been admitted, eight years ago, into the Organ Meat Society. We’re 15 or so offal fanatics who meet once a month or so to eat nose to tail, items like tripe, kidneys, sweetbreads, grilled intestines, blood sausage, and heart. One April night in 2018, Hugue Dufour, the chef at M. Wells in Queens, who owns and operates that meticulous and soulful restaurant with his wife, Sarah Obraitis, devised and cooked a special meal for us on a night that M. Wells would have otherwise been closed. Nine courses came in three successive ‘waves,’ as their menu put it, with wines to match. Reader, it was the meal of my life. The courses included a lamb’s-head tagine, pig’s-feet croquettes with ‘cheddar scum,’ kibbeh with lamb’s heart, dinuguan (Filipino pork blood stew), lamb testicles with sweetbreads, lamb and beef tripes, smoked eel loaves, and ‘chicken in bladder.’ At certain points in the evening, I felt like draping a white napkin over my head, as if I were eating a brace of ortolans.” Read the Diet …

5. Matt Rogers explained the right and a wrong way to order a Slurpee.

Illustration: Maanvi Kapur

“I was so full from dinner that I didn’t do popcorn, but I did end up popping off with a Coke Slurpee. No disrespect to the blue and red flavors of Slurpee, but they are not that girl, and they were never that girl. I have always loved Coca-Cola. I have a vivid memory from childhood of chugging a two-liter bottle while I watched the Backstreet Boys, running around my basement. I haven’t changed at all.” Read the Diet …

4. Heléne Yorke continued training her baby to become a food-world expert.

Illustration: Margalit Cutler

“I had leftovers to give to the baby, and he was obsessed. I’m desperate to get the baby to have a good palate. It’s to the point now where if I give him a plain piece of salmon, he looks at me, and he’s like, ‘What is this?’ I have to give it a seasoning. I’m thinking about adding some vinaigrette to his broccoli next. Maybe I’ll make the Via Carota salad dressing. He would really appreciate that.” Read the Diet …

3. After a popped tire on the freeway and AAA delays, Dan Ahdoot had the wildest night in Diet history.

Illustration: Ryan Inzana

“I need a drink, I’m starving, it’s 11:45 p.m., and it’s freezing. I look up and am flooded with a restaurant’s inviting red-and-green neon lights: Applebee’s. It’s empty save for four drunk dudes in their 20s. Full of jitters, I rush to the bartender, like a zombie from The Last of Us. I explain that I just got into a nasty car accident. ‘Can I get a Negroni quickly?’ ‘Oh! Shoot. Okay,’ he replies. ‘What’s a Negroni?’ ‘You have gin?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Campari?’ ‘No.’ ‘Shit, okay, let me get a martini.’ ‘Which vodka?’ ‘Gin.’ ‘A martini with gin?’ ‘Yes, please. And shake it until you get carpal tunnel — I like lots of ice in it.’ He serves me a martini on the rocks in a martini glass. Whatever, it’ll do. I take a huge sip and start to calm down.” Read the Diet …

2. Kashana Cauley told us exactly what yogurt should be.

Illustration: Maanvi Kapur

“Good yogurt should be plain, full-fat, and taste substantial on the tongue. It should have a sourness that reminds you of lemons without tasting like a lemon. All that fat should be a good backdrop for fruit; happy to accept actual lemon, garlic, dill, olive oil, salt, and pepper for a good tzatziki; or flavorful enough to eat plain. I have held taste tests for yogurt. I have driven an hour each way for the right stuff. I believe in good yogurt more than other people believe in God.” Read the Diet …

1. Amelia Meath made us miss Fort Defiance before it had even closed.

Illustration: Adam Mazur

“During my brief period of being the world’s worst brunch waitress at Kevin’s, I would immediately go to Fort Defiance and spend all of my tips on chicken-liver mousse and martinis. They’ve moved since then, but only a block away. They’ve still got mousse and the pimento cheese, and it is still excellent — like, they haven’t gotten bored. Mostly, it’s amazing to come back to a restaurant ten years later and see that the spirit is still there.” Read the Diet …