You probably know Katsuji Tanabe from Top Chef Seasons 12 and 14, but he's also the owner of two wildly popular authentic Mexican cuisine restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, both named MexiKosher. Tanabe, who was born and raised in Mexico and has a Mexican mother and Japanese father, serves certified Mexican kosher food at both restaurants, arguably the first of their kind in the States. Both spots are casual, but Tanabe is set to open an upscale restaurant in Beverly Hills in 2017 to quench L.A.'s nearly insatiable thirst for fantastic Mexican food. Tanabe tells The Feast that he loves having restaurants in two of America's major food cities, but that he's definitely noticed serious differences between the way New Yorkers and L.A. residents eat. Here, 7 key points.
1. L.A. eaters like it hot
In Southern California, "people are more open to local L.A. flavors, for obvious reasons," explains Tanabe. "The level of heat is more predominant in L.A."
2. New Yorkers are pickle-obsessed
"In New York we go through more pickles," says Tanabe. "I guess they like cucumber pickles more than in L.A." It comes as no surprise that Tanabe says New Yorkers are pickle-obsessed, thanks to a longstanding tradition of pickle-popping in the Empire State. The Lower East Side even has its own official Pickle Day, and institutions like Guss' Pickles, Jacob's Pickles and even a company simply named The Pickle Guys keep that time-honored tradition going strong.
3. Angelenos want lots and lots and lots of avocados
"Avocado is my major expense in L.A.," he says of his ingredients. There's also an avocado shortage happening, and we think his insider info points at L.A. as the culprit....
4. Yes, you can intimidate New Yorkers
"New Yorkers are more intimidated by the cuisine still, because authentic Mexican feels like a new style of cooking [in New York City]. Mexican has not been very exposed here in the city, and Chipotle doesn't count."
5. New Yorkers will actually risk their lives to multitask
There's no such thing as putting your burrito down to hail a cab in New York, and the idea of actually sitting to eat in a peaceful way? Blasphemy. "People can be eating a burrito, be on the phone, and still hail a cab." In L.A., "you would never see us trying to get a cab or Uber with food in our mouth and be on the phone at the same time."
6. L.A. eaters respect personal space, New Yorkers not so much
Tanabe also insists that hurried New Yorkers seem to not be aware of personal space as an issue, while less-rushed L.A. types are far better at respecting boundaries. In New York City, "personal space is not a big deal and everything needs to be fast," he says, while in L.A. "space is a nice thing to have." Which makes sense: According to this handy personal-space calculator, New Yorkers have less than a third as much personal space as Angelenos.
7. Both cities have excellent tippers
And some not so great tippers. "In both locations we get a mix of both types of personalities. Some tip with lots of love and other people just don't do it. But the great thing is that people enjoy our food." A diplomatic answer, but we'll take it.
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