Kenny Shopsin, the owner of Shopsin’s in New York and the subject of this documentary, doesn’t actually seem like the kind of guy who’d be okay with having someone film a documentary about him. But he did allow it, and I’m really glad. I’m also glad that a certain Trusted Source of mine hipped me to this film (Netflix Instant, people!), because I might never have seen it otherwise. Now I have, and I’m going to get me some goddamn macaroni and cheese pancakes when I’m in New York in a week.
New York is filled with hole-in-the-wall diners, eating establishments, whatever. The whole world is. So why should we give a shit about this one? Shopsin himself might argue that we shouldn’t, since he thinks everyone in the world is a piece of shit. But he’s not a curmudgeon, or if he is, he’s a very specific, special type of curmudgeon that seems like he’d be pleasant to be around if he takes a liking to you. And I think that’s why this documentary was made. There’s no one out there like Kenny Shopsin.
The documentary follows a year-ish in the life of Shopsin and his family, who run the diner, and the process of moving it to a slightly less hole-ish location a few blocks down (or wait, was it in a different neighborhood? I don’t know). While the new digs look more spacious and more inviting, I have to admit that I’m disappointed I’ll never get to eat in the original Shopsin’s, which was certainly a health code violation of some kind. Watching the film and seeing him swat flies and shove his hands into piles of cooking food didn’t phase me in the least; in fact, it only made me want to go there sooner to experience the familial community that’s developed within the confines of this eatery. This guy makes crazy-cool food and leads his own life, and has one of the most fascinating life philosophies I’ve ever heard of. I’d try to describe it to you now, but it’s better explained by the man himself, within the confines of his tiny kitchen, as he rambles and fries, pontificates and butters, and makes everyone who walks in a little happier and fuller. I think the best quote I came away with, though, which might sum things up well, is this:
“Am I looking to seek meaning in my life? [beat] Where the fuck is the marinara sauce?”