153 Ridge Avenue

13 E. 1st Mercer St.
March 12, 2013





The premise of 153 Ridge Avenue, a restaurant on Mercer street in Manhattan, is more like a plot than an ambience. “I wanted to recreate the taste of pizza and beer after moving a lot of heavy furniture for a student approaching their senior year in the summer of 1994” said owner Hobson Zakariya, “Ultimately I think it doesn’t work, but what fascinates me is the process.”

Indeed. After climbing two flights of stairs with a heavy box, you arrive in a room where an unidentified man in his late thirties hands you twenty dollars, thanks you for the work you’ve done, and then waves you into a room where a box of pizza and a refrigerator with a single can of beer are waiting. The man then leaves to go sort through some packed boxes in the next room.

Furthering this elaborate illusion is the food itself — the can of beer, served from a sealed can of Budweiser, is really Hobson's own craft brew, an IPA with a modest suggestion of coriander. The pizza is from the oven in the basement — a margarita with a distinctly salty mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, and a pomodori tomato sauce. It’s housed in a box with a red “Tony’s” emblem.

“Ideally, you would move actual furniture before eating,” says Zakariya, “But I think then you might possibly come to resent the restaurant owner and chef who has put together this elaborate story.” I asked what was in the box. “Another heavier box,” said Zakariya, shrugging.

I found myself wondering if the intent was to collectively create a false memory, which Zakariya denied. “No, no, this is a very real memory of going to a restaurant in New York City where you climb two flights of stairs with a heavy box, and then a man hands you twenty dollars and waves you towards some beer and pizza.”

I ask about the significance of the address — all prime numbers, I note, and there are three of them, which is also prime “I hadn’t thought of that,” said Hobson, “but I guess that is interesting.”

I was about to comment about the “Ridge” in the address, in relation to the physical structures of the brain, when Zakariya held his hands up, “Dude: Let’s not overthink this.” And then he invited me to help move some boxes downstairs for the next customer. I protested: I am a food critic, I don’t help with lifting, even though I just did it as part of some kind of social eating experiment. “I'll pay you twenty bucks,” he offered. Fair enough.


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