David Brooks’ $78 Airport Burger
A joke(?) gone a-rye.
Most of you have likely seen the reaction to a certain NYT columnists’ tweet earlier this week. Just in case, here’s what he posted:
He was roasted for this when Internet sleuths, noting the glass of whiskey in the background, surmised that the bar tab constituted a significant amount of the $78, which was later confirmed in a vital tweet (or whatever the hell they’re called now) that the burger and fries were around $14 ad the booze “almost 80%.”
In his weekly PBS NewsHour appearance last night, an embarrassed Brooks contended that the whole thing was a poor attempt at a joke:
(Start at 8:22 in the video)
Given how prominently the whiskey is in the photograph, I’m inclined to believe him.
Regardless, he rightly notes that it was in poor taste:
“I was insensitive. I screwed up. I should not have written that tweet.”
“The problem with the tweet, which I wrote so stupidly, was that it made it seem like I was oblivious to something that was blindingly obvious,” he said. “That an upper middle class journalist having a bourbon at an airport is a lot different than a family living paycheck to paycheck. And when I’m getting sticker shock, it’s like an inconvenience. When they’re getting sticker shock, it’s a disaster.”
Aside from it being cute that he thinks he’s merely “upper middle class,” he’s not wrong. And, even more importantly, he notes that people “feel” inflation in the form of higher gas and food prices in ways that the broader economic measures used to gauge inflation and recession do not.
As to price gouging in airports, which has been a staple of late-night comics for decades, a WaPo report notes,
The high cost of airport food has been a consistent complaint for travelers for years. But airports have made an effort in recent years to reimagine the food options that people should have while traveling, including restaurants from classic hometown institutions and notable chefs from the cities they’re in.
In New York, officials announced in 2022 that they were cracking down on high prices for food and drinks at the region’s airports, saying that vendors can’t charge more than “street prices,” or what people would pay outside the airport, plus 10 percent.
I don’t fly nearly as often as I used to but I have noticed that the food has generally gotten better and the prices have become more reasonable.
Meanwhile, Maurice Hallett, the owner of 1911 Smoke House Barbeque, the site of Brooks’ infamous tweet, is making hay of the situation.
Before this week, the restaurant had received regional attention from food bloggers when he introduced a “C-Rock Special” to his menu, in honor of comedian Chris Rock’s role in the 1988 movie “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” Rock’s character in the film asks for one rib and a sip of Coke, and Hallett has made that exact combo available on his menu for $2.15.
restaurant has capitalized on the attention of the viral post, boasting on Facebook: “We’re the topic of America right now!” Hallett has also made a new meal available to customers: the “D Brooks Special.” Instead of paying $78, customers can get a burger, fries and a double shot of whiskey for $17.78.
“It’s going to be a permanent part of my menu,” he told The Post, saying the special will go underneath the menu item dedicated to Rock.
He added that the item will be available at his Trenton location. Hallett sent the new item to SSP America to get it on the airport menu, but “I doubt they’ll do it.”
As the late Don King would say, Only in America.