The Best of Andy Rooney

We often eat dinner at restaurants in New York, and while there are several we go to repeatedly, we tend to go to a lot of different places. As in most big cities around the country, there are always new restaurants opening up -- more than I could ever try.

One of the great things about New York City is the number of good restaurants. I think eating out is part dinner and part entertainment. There's a wide range of cuisines to choose from. Good chefs from every country in the world have found their way to New York and opened restaurants serving everything from Greek to Mexican food. I think New Yorkers and Californians probably eat out more often than people in other states, probably because they have so many more choices.

For more than two years, I ate out in London, and pardon me for saying so out loud, but cooking is not one of the things the British do best. I know times have changed in London and it has a good variety of restaurants now, but British food is not to be compared with French food. The British have borrowed a lot from the rest of the world but they cook their own food their own way. More's the pity.

Most big cities around the world have some good restaurants but they serve primarily food familiar to their patrons. The food in a restaurant in Berlin or Cologne may be pretty good but it's still German food. The food in France is almost invariably great and always French. I'm sure there are French restaurants in Berlin, although I wonder if there are many German restaurants in Paris. In New York, you can find any type of cuisine. Take palao, the national dish of Afghanistan.

There are many more gourmet restaurants everywhere these days, especially in New York. When you think of American food, you probably think of steak, though, which is not what I think a chef considers a gourmet item.

Several years ago, I traveled across the country in a helicopter. Every night, after we landed, we checked into a hotel and tried to find the best restaurant in town. Quite often, local people told us the best restaurant was in the hotel where we were staying, and we knew we were in trouble. We have great food in this country, but we're short of great hotel chefs.

There are numbers in our lives we remember. I'd like to have the name and phone number of every great restaurant I've ever visited. There are a few I've eaten in 50 or 100 times but many I've visited only once or twice. And, of course, there are restaurants I'd rather forget.

When I was a kid, I used to get a chocolate shake made with ice cream at Graves Drugstore and a toasted cheese sandwich at Walters Bakery, all for 35 cents. The drugstore also sold drugs but I think they made more money on ice cream. Walters Bakery sold jelly donuts for a nickel.

I don't remember eating out in many restaurants growing up. In those days, there weren't many restaurants close to my home in Albany that prepared French food.

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