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Cake Zine’s Aliza Abarbanel Wants You to Eat Beyond the Everyday Restaurant

Abarbanel dishes on New York's best pop-ups, parties, and ways to live deliciously.

5:03 PM EDT on July 27, 2023

A cake at Cake Zine’s most recent issue launch party. (Hanna Hazel / Cake Zine)

With an affordability crisis like the one we're in, there are going to be people who can't afford to have their own commercial spot, but are still vital talents. New York's food scene is no different: Aliza Abarbanel, who edits the new-ish print publication Cake Zine, tells me there's a circuit of pop-ups and parties where you can find some of the best food in the city right now.

"I really fell in love with the food scene here in New York," said Abarbanel, who worked for Bon Appétit until 2021. "Both the restaurant side of things and also people that are recipe developing, or working in media, or doing pop-ups. There's just so many exciting things going on."

In 2022, Abarbanel launched Cake Zine with the pastry chef Tanya Bush, who came up with the idea of publishing a magazine about cake. "I just wanted to make something weird and fun that no one at Condé Nast would ever pay me to make," Abarbanel explained. Cake Zine has released three print issues so far—in the first volume, "Sexy Cake," Abarbanel interviewed a cake-sitting sex worker, and the most recent, "Humble Pie," featured pie-themed poems, essays, and interviews. 

How can we find the people in New York making great food at pop-ups? Abarbanel had some advice: First, she recommended reading Emma Orlow's pop-up column on Eater NY. "Then beyond that, I think the best is following the pop-ups themselves, when you stumble on something or you see someone eating something that looks good on Instagram," she said.  

Abarbanel also recommends getting involved in the food community through mutual aid efforts, like the bake sale at Archestratus Books & Food bookstore in Greenpoint on August 5. It's benefiting Yu & Me, the bookstore in Chinatown that burned down on the Fourth of July. (Both professionals and amateurs are welcome to contribute food or money.)

Just showing up at some of these events until you start to recognize familiar faces, and maybe complimenting someone's shoes, is a tried-and-true method. "You're going to have to wait in line, so it's a really good opportunity to make friends with people," she said. And there's the likelihood, she said, of "meeting a cool or cute person along the way." Abarbanel's one neat trick for meeting people at food events is to bring a pack of gum to share: "Gum at a food pop-up is a good commodity."

With that in mind, check out Abarbanel's recommendations for getting food in New York, and don't forget the gum.

Thursday, July 27: Taqueria Ramírez barbecue at Winona's, 676 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn (prices vary)

"Taqueria Ramírez is grilling at Winona's on the patio. They're doing tacos de arrachera, and Taqueria Ramírez is my all-time favorite taco spot in New York. I would go every day if I lived close to Greenpoint, so I think this will be really fun. And YOLA Mezcal is going to be doing mezcal cocktails as well." 

Saturday, July 29: Rockaway Beach community cleanup, meet at Public Records at 9:30 a.m., 233 Butler Street, Brooklyn (free)

"Public Records is [chartering a bus], so you can just go to Public Records and take the bus to the Rockaways, and then Adidas Runners is also leading a run, if you're bold enough to run to the beach, which is not me. But I think that sounds like a really fun thing to do and then you also have transported yourself to the beach on Saturday, when it's going to be quite hot. You can hang out at the beach for a while, maybe go to Rippers afterwards for really good burgers, fries, and frozen drinks on the boardwalk."

Sunday, July 30: Piqueteadero Donde La Tropi at Honey's, 93 Scott Avenue, Brooklyn ($65 for two)

"It's going to be a collab between La Tropi Kitchen and a musical group called La Manga. A piqueteadero is a roadside diner situation with these baskets that are piled with chicharron and chorizo and maduros. They also are going to be selling records and clothes, and it's kind of like a block party situation with DJs and everything." 

Sunday, July 30: Preshift! at Prima, 147 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn (prices vary)

"It's a wine party curated by these two cool people, Julianny and Dante. Dante works at Zev Rovine and Julianny is the manager and somme at HAGS, which is a cool queer-run tasting menu spot in the East Village. They have a fun crowd from 3 to 7 p.m. Their backyard is really nice, a nice Sunday vibe."

Weekends: Bạn Bè, 187 Sackett Street, Brooklyn (prices vary)

"Bạn Bè is a really cool Vietnamese bakery in Carroll Gardens that's only open on the weekends, and they do just the most beautiful cookies and Vietnamese iced coffee popsicles and all kinds of different sweet treats. It's always a fun weekend activity. I go to the Carroll Gardens farmers' market on the weekends sometimes, and I always walk over to Bạn Bè to see what they have."

Sunday, July 30: Long Lunch at Leo, 123 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn (prices vary)

"Patch Troffer, who does culinary R&D at Row Seven Seeds, which is a really cool seed company, is doing a pop-up at Leo on Sunday. It's all sandwiches, just fully loaded, over-the-top sandwiches. Patch's food is really good, so I think that would be fun to go to. Take a sandwich to go, and go to the beach from there if you're really gunning for bonus points."

Monday, August 7: àṣẹ at Winona's, 676 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn ($70 and up)

"KIT an' KIN is a really cool Caribbean culinary studio pop-up that I've been following for awhile, and they're collabing with Pelah Kitchen, which was started by a really cool Sierra Leonean baker named Jenneh Kaikai, to do traditional Guyanese seven curry, which is typically served at weddings. There'll be roti and curry. It's a really good celebration feast to do with friends."

Quotes in this interview have been edited and condensed.

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