(Hopefully) Revealed: Contents of the Egyptian Burrito

Fans of Shopsin’s, the totally sui generis restaurant-cum-mad scientist lab in the West Village are about to have their favorite spot’s cover blown big time.
As readers of Calvin Trillin’s amusing New Yorker article, “Don’t Mention It” (April 15, 2002) might recall, Shopsin’s is an extremely eccentric little restaurant where you can experience Cotton Picker Gumbo Melt Soup or Pecan Chicken Wild Rice Cream Enchilada, or literally dozens of other dishes you will never see anywhere else. (According to blogger Rachelle Bowden there are over 100 soups on the menu which is available as a PDF file on their Web site. It’s 11 pages long and denser than a Dr. Bronner’s Soap label.)
In addition to the weird menu, there are the weird rules. Writes Trillin:

For years, a rule against copying your neighbor’s order was observed fairly strictly. Customers who had just arrived might ask someone at the next table the name of the scrumptious-looking dish he was eating. Having learned that it was Burmese Hummus—one of my favorites, as it happens, even though it is not hummus and would not cause pangs of nostalgia in the most homesick Burmese—they might order Burmese Hummus, only to have Eve shake her head wearily. No copying. That rule eventually got downgraded into what Ken called “a strong tradition,” and has now pretty much gone by the wayside.

Shopsin’s is about to go huge as I Like Killing Flies, a documentary by photographer, graphic artist, and music video vet (and notorious O.J. Simpson Time Magazine photo manipulator) Matt Mahurin is now part of The 2004 Sundance Film Festival’s Documentary Competition.
I hope I Like Killing Flies gets distribution, since I’m curious to see it and learn more about the inner workings of Shopsin’s and Kenny and Eve Shopsin, the owners and sole employees. I’m a bit surprised they agreed to the film, since Trillin paints a portrait of Kenny as, how shall I put this, a tad publicity shy: ” I’ve managed to write about Shopsin’s from time to time, always observing the prohibition against mentioning its name or location.” (Later in the same piece, Trillin admits that Kenny softened towards the press after he was forced to briefly close and relocate his restaurant: “[N]ot long ago Kenny told me that it was no longer necessary to abide by the rule against mentioning the place in print.” Phew!)
Here’s a prediction: We can expect articles on Kenny and Eve Shopsin cropping up in The New York Post, New York Magazine, Will Ferrell behind the counter at the grill, perhaps?) and elsewhere in the months following Sundance. I hope Shopsin’s can weather the publicity storm. But then again, after doing their own thing for so many decades, it’s probably pretty gratifying to see people lining up outside their restaurant. I just hope everyone remembers to turn off their cell phones and keep their parties under 4.

14 replies on “(Hopefully) Revealed: Contents of the Egyptian Burrito”

we used to call shopsin’s “the fun place” when it was located closer to my office on the corner of morton st. it was dirty but yummy. now it’s cleaner but just as weird.

Just to avoid any sort of copying, they do make an amazing and odd macaroni and cheese pancake. It is part pancake part mac and cheese cooked on a griddle, and as scary as it sounds, tastes great with syrup. Share it as an appetizer….

As a side note, Eve passed away from cancer last year. I haven’t been to the restaurant for a while (since before they moved, even) so I don’t know what it’s like there now.

The food is suprisingly tasty. I was told that their daughter had taken up Eve’s role. She was a kindly and interesting person.

publicity shy?!?!? are you crazy? my bedroom window is across from his kitchen, and his rantings are so loud, offensive, and relentless that anyone within a mile of houston street has no choice but to know all too well of his miserable presence. what may seem charmingly eccentric for half an hour can be an enormous infringement on quality of life for those of us in his backyard. and the quality of life police? he feeds the police! forget it, bedford street, it’s the west village…

and by the way, one look at the cockroaches they drive into my apartment should prove that they haven’t gotten any cleaner…

checkout the toilet paper roll alarm clock radio in the bathroom, seems someone working there is spending WAY too much time in there…me guesses it’s kenny. guess it cold be worse, a toilet paper roll dispenser TV.

My favorite bits from the old place: 1) bathroom grafitti-“I’m Impressed–Julia Child” and “Escoffier’s Evil Twin”; a leisurely lunch at the counter seated next to Richard Hell; breakfast ham steaks big enough to choke you.

looking for a new apartment, buddy? because shopsin’s DROVE ME OUT OF MINE! feel free to move in with my blessing, and while you’re at it, enjoy their trademark “4 letter haiku” of any given monosyllabic swear word repeated 17 times in rapid succession at 8 in the morning! die, shopsin’s, die!

Can anyone help me track down Matt Mahurin?
I want to present his documentary at 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle.
Write me back by figuring out this email address
peter -at- 911media -d0t- org

I’ve been to Shopsin’s quite a few times. I was forewarned about it so I was afraid to go at first, but the delicious food was all the comfort I needed as I sat there mesmerized by the menu and Kenny and Eve. I am from California and they say going to New York is like going to another planet. Well, going to Shopsin’s was like going to a restaurant on another planet with its strange atmosphere and culinary delights I’ve never seen anywhere before and characters that have never seen the light of day in L.A. I thought the movie by Matt Mahurin about Shopsins “I Like Killing Flies” was as good as Shopsin’s food. There was not one uninteresting minute in the movie. I was totally hooked from the begining. I loved everything about it. It was real and I knew it, it was moving, emotional, and full of great lines. It takes someone with great ability to keep a persons interest in a documentary about a restaurant, even if it is Shopsin’s. Matt did a great job and I am very proud of him. I am especially proud because he is my brother.

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