Once you give up nationally franchised restaurants you lose a couple of things. You probably won’t have a general opinion of honey mustard, or frozen mudslides any more. You also lose strange sugary temple headaches from scarfing strange amalgams of salt, fat, and sugar while in motion. Sadly, also lost is the ability to walk into a place and grab a small, round easily handled food that combines salty, sweet, and savory in a manner that drives you to eat two to three times more than you should from two hands let alone one while walking or driving, with no more commitment required on your part than an exchange that takes a little less than one total minute and costs a little less than two total dollars. That is, before the bing store opened.
About four months ago, walking down West 3rd street I saw a 10-foot blow up of a Times article about bings in some foreign land like Brooklyn, and a sign informing that a spot offering them called Roll and Dough would be opening soon. Then, about a month ago, I popped in on opening day, had free samples of a couple of traditional fried flour dough dumplings and bought four savory bings. In an attempt to encourage me back, I was given a sweet red bean dessert bing as well. I don’t remember exactly which dumplings I had or even the exact bings; I was simply left with the sated feeling of having gluttonously devoured four similar, yet singular, deeply flavored dishes in about five bites each (the first two barely contacting my teeth at all), being encouraged to return by the staff, and having paid for the whole experience with a ten dollar bill and gotten change.
Each bing is coated in sesame seeds of black and white, in what I assume is a pattern to differentiate their fillings. Inside, they are like a good meat pie filling – thickly liquid sauces with pieces of meats and in some cases vegetables inside. The net result is a profound and distinctly Asian flavor.
Since then I have stopped by a couple times and have decided that this place is pretty awesome. Like all the truly fast food offerings out there, bings are a small handheld circular food, favoring salty and savory flavors with an occasional slight touch of sweet and/or sour and/ or spicy and an artificially satisfying feeling (which I assume is caused by MSG or some other flavor enhancer).
In the ultimate tribute to their fast foodness, I am willing to bet that one bing has more than enough calories to qualify as a fitting snack and that two or three would definitely count as a full meal (or two, if you were on Weight Watchers), yet somehow it is quite easy to take down four or five. These tiny little buns blend the high and low, sharp and round, and unctuous and clean ends of the flavor spectrum into tiny little packages. Whatever you can jam into food that makes one eat like a starved lab rat in an experiment they have done, and since there are only two outlets so far you can give them your money knowing it stays in or close to the community and supports food diversity and authenticity.
Nowadays I limit myself to one bing a visit, usually the spicy pork. For the first time, though, I would suggest gorging: it is fun, filling, cheap, and may work as a jarring restart to the sense memory imprinted on your brain that makes you smell fries and Big Macs when they are on TV and you are in your living room.