Robert Brenner is a docent for the Municipal Art Society of New York City, a blogger for the Huffington Post, and an (almost) lifelong New Yorker. He has led walking tours for the Urbanist, Untapped Cities, the Times Square Alliance, the New York Public Library, the 34th Street Partnership, and Jane’s Walk. He has a B.S. in technical writing from Carnegie-Mellon University, and a certificate in creative non-fiction from the City University of New York. He specializes in exotic cuisine and tawdry history; he is also knowledgeable about jazz, world music, film, art, theater, and dance. If you like wandering off the (b)eaten path, he’s the tour guide for you.
“I come by my love of exotic cuisine legitimately. My mother grew up on the Lower East Side when it was a poor Jewish neighborhood. (She wouldn’t recognize it today.) She used to go with her mother to the kosher butcher shop at the end of the day to buy the cheapest cuts of meat—beef tongue, chicken gizzards, calves liver—the stuff other customers wouldn’t buy. That’s what she learned how to cook, and that’s what I grew up eating. I was into nose-to-tail cuisine long before it became trendy.
I started coming into the city on my own as a teenager in the 1970s, and moved here permanently in the 1980s. One of the neighborhoods I gravitated to was Times Square. The Deuce was a very different place back then—filled with peepshows, grindhouses, dirty book stores, strip clubs, massage parlors, hot sheet hotels, adult “novelty” shops, and hustlers of every race, gender, and sexual orientation. It may not have been pretty, but it was home.”