- Some of these are kind of embarrassing but I'll spill. Just today, after going to the doctor for something unpleasant, I treated myself to the following at Hampton Chutney: a dosa with avocado, arugula, cheese, and olives, and a chai to boot. Like places to purvey, say, Korean tacos, I find the concept of the place to be silly, but then again, I'm a 30-something Caucasian transplant from the 'burbs with disposable income, so me taking a trip like three times a year to Hampton Chutney should not be a shock to anyone. Anyway, it felt great.
- On a more "authentic" vibe, if I'm in the East 20's of Manhattan, I'll always try to get a mushroom uttapam from Tiffin Wallah. I love Indian food but this particular thing is dear to me for its absence of tomatoes, which is never a guarantee in an uttapam.
- Two go-tos of mine that I prize for their absence of tomatoes and genericness are 1.) a large serving of rice and beans at a number of Mexican, Dominican, and Peruvian spots around town where I know there's no extra onions or tomatoes in the rice & beans, and 2.) a number of generic Thai spots with solid but unremarkable pad thais. This in its way is way more satisfying than superb Thai food.
- Most of these are best achieved dining alone. One that happens a few times a year is sesame tofu with brown rice at Hunan Delight in Park Slope. The shredded cabbage makes it. It's grandly mediocre. Like the above to entries, it's not about inexpensiveness or authenticity or deliciousness, just about solid comfort and routine.
- If I've got a rehearsal on the LES, a favored routine involves going to Ni in the Essex Market, maybe get some rice balls or hijiki or something, and then go to fka Babycakes and get a donut or something like this. That's a great one but also feels indulgently frivolous like the Hampton Chutney one. But when you need it, it works.
- A genuine banquet-feeling thing is going to Cheburechnaya in Rego Park with some other people, getting some plov and morkovcha for sure, and then some skewers of meat and other stuff to split. I'm not a big meat eater, but this is a good reason to do it. Good medicine a couple times a year for sure.
There you go, that's what special input looks like to me right now.