Illegal Grilled Cheese Is Was the New Illegal Lobster Roll


go go gadget sammich

In the pages of our April 2011 issue, Keep Food Legal founder Baylen Linnekin told the story of the rise and fall of Dr. Claw, a guy with an Ali G-style persona and a penchant for selling illegal concoctions involving bread and crustaceans in plain brown paper wrappers. Dr. Claw was busted by the New York City health authorities and forced to cease lobster roll production after allowing himself to be photographed for a story about his operation.

Now Linnekin takes to the pixels of MadeMan.com to celebrate Bread.Butter.Cheese (a.k.a., B.B.C.), a Claw imitator who sold fancy grilled cheese sammies in the East Village. For Reason readers hoping to be in on the Next Big Thing, sorry: B.B.C. ceased operations in 2010. But he managed to remain wholly anonymous and safe from the food fuzz, thanks to his avoidance of traditional media and his careful use of social media. In short, he survived to sell trendy illegal food to hispters anonymously another day.

When we spoke, Claw displayed grudging admiration for B.B.C.

"In some ways what he's doing is cooler because he's never showed his face and he's really stayed anonymous through the whole thing," says Claw. "But he didn't get to that accidentally. He saw my mistakes."

never let 'em see your face
never let 'em see your face

Indeed, he did. B.B.C. would announce menu items through his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Potential customers could text orders using Google Voice. Then he would meet the customer on a street corner at an appointed time and exchange cash for a grilled cheese sandwich — like Claw's rolls they are served in an anonymous brown paper bag. Similar methods, to be sure, except Ronnie never allowed his face to be photographed.

Ronnie says by email that social media was "the only way I ha[d] of communicating with customers." Like Claw, social media tools helped him "avoid all DOH regulation in the city of New York[,] since I work out of my apartment kitchen that is not licensed by the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene."

More illegal food here.