Jim Altman and Mike Piskorski
3:34 PM EDT, November 5, 2010
David Freedenberg has an appetite for adventure, and he's making a living off it. After climbing into In his signature Checker cab off 12th Avenue in Manhattan, Freedenberg transforms into his epicurean alter-ego -- "Famous Fat Dave," who chauffeurs guests all over the five boroughs in search of good taste. Officially, the tour is called "Famous Fat Dave's Five Borough Eating Tour on the Wheels of Steel." Passersby gawked at the iconic motorized orb that used to prowl the pavement of New York.
"It's a 1982 Checker Marathon, her name is "Sweetness" by the way. I do love her, it's kind of an unnatural thing," he joked.
Strapped into the spacious cabin of the cab, we started in lower Manhattan, but Famous Fat Dave had his sights set on Brooklyn. "You eat and you drive, and then you eat and then you drive, and then you eat, and you look at a view, and then you drive," said Freedenberg, who is impossible not to like.
In just minutes, Famous Fat Dave -- who insists on being called Famous Fat Dave (Dave and Fat Dave are no-no's) -- had us parked in front of the Red Hook Lobster Pound, a hole in the wall on Van Brunt Street. ''Pound'' is a good way to describe the austere surroundings of the walk-in outpost, but decadent is a good way to describe the product -- generous Maine style (with mayo) and Connecticut style (without mayo) lobster rolls that earn rave reviews. "We try to give you the best bang for your buck and give you the best product money can buy," said Lobster Pound owner Ralph Gorham.
Next, Famous Fat Dave shuttled us to Borham Hill, to the "Mile End." This place is famous for Montreal Style smoked meat -- pastrami is so passe. "It's ridiculously tasty," he said. Smoked meat is described as the Canadian cousin of pastrami, cured and spiced, only with more fat, which Famous Fat Dave quickly points out means more taste. By the size of the line at Mile End, we knew the sandwich wouldn't disappoint. Mile End owner Rae Cohen said if you build a good sandwich, they will come. "People come out from Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. They make the trip to Brooklyn, which is nice. I think people are reconnecting with the Brooklyn they knew may years ago."
Our final stop: Downtown Brooklyn where Famous Fat Dave insists on indulging in stuff on a stick. We enter Habana Outpost where Cuban Corn is the specialty . Grilled corn on the cob coated with mayo and cotija cheese, then well covered with cayenne and chili powder, add lime to taste. "It's messy," Famous Fat Dave says, "but the best stuff is messy and the best stuff is on a stick, so this is messy and on a stick." As our trip ended, Famous Fat Dave offered his enduring message: "My philosophy is just taste it, it's all delicious in its own way."
Famous Fat Dave's food tour can be catered to personal taste and location (he travels to every borough). The base cost is $200 for one eater for two hours, $100 for each additional hour, and $100 for each additional eater. All the food is included (and all drinks aside from alcohol). Kids 10 and under eat and ride free so long as the little ones have car seats. The cab seats five; for larger groups, a bigger vehicle is available. For more information on fares and schedules, go to http://www.FamousFatDave.com