People love to hate Kenny Shopsin and his restaurant, Shopsin’s, and to talk about the rules and getting kicked out and the gargantuan menu and all that. But what regulars know about Shopsin’s is that the true beauty of the place is that it’s like going home. Or it is going home. I went to Shopsin’s not long ago for the first time since the book came out and the best part is that nothing had changed.
As I stood at the counter drinking the coffee I’d poured for myself, one familiar customer after another rolled in with their newspaper under their arm, their laptop in hand, their moods, their weeks, and their stories to tell Kenny and each other. For the last year, I’d been reading about Shopsin’s more than being at Shopsin’s, and even I had drifted with the tide, and forgotten that the real secret to the place was this sense of community, of having a place in the world, if only for the time it takes to eat your pancakes. My friend and I stayed eating our pancakes and soup for three hours and when we asked Kenny if he wanted us to leave so he could have the table, he pointed out that his son, Zach, had taken three tables and hidden them somewhere so that he didn’t have to cook for so many people. So they could take their time, visit with their customers. (Meanwhile there was a line so long the guy behind the cheese counter asked Kenny to redirect it. He didn’t.) This is the essence of Shopsin’s. Those of us who are lucky get it.