Published February 20, 2012
In the two weeks since New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin went from benchwarmer to global superstar, a wave of "Lin-spired" food and drinks has flooded New York City menus.
Bars around Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks play, are honoring the Taiwanese-American player with items like Lin-burgers and "Lings" — Asian-spiced chicken wings. Several bars have concocted "Lintinis," while the Shake Shack chain is offering a "Jeremy Lin-Mint," a chocolate and mint cookie milkshake. And BaoHaus, a restaurant near Union Square serving the Taiwanese dumplings known as bao, began selling one stuffed with a curry-spiked pork chop, pickled radish and carrots, and cilantro, a typical Taiwanese preparation.
"Being Asian, we're really excited about it," says Eddie Huang, a Taiwanese-American chef and hardcore Knicks fan whose restaurant walls are plastered with a shrine to Lin. "We feel a responsibility any time things are happening in the Taiwanese community to react, whether it's in the blog or the menu. It's a great opportunity to educate people about our food, our people."
Huang calls the new sandwich the "Taiwanese Te-Bao," a reference to Lin's devout Christianity and a play on the name of another high-profile Christian athlete, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
Lin had already been dumped this season by two teams, Golden State and Houston, before being picked up by New York in December. With the Knicks stumbling to an 8-15 start and in desperate need of a spark, coach Mike D'Antoni gave Lin a chance — and the team hasn't looked back. The Knicks have now climbed back into the playoff race in the NBA's Eastern Conference with Lin directing the offense and doing whatever it takes to win. He put up 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, sunk a game-winning 3-pointer against Toronto and had 13 assists in a win over Sacramento this week.
Thus began Linsanity.
Arctica Bar and Grill in the Murray Hill neighborhood colors their "Lintini" blue and orange — Knicks colors — with a dash of blue Curacao and an orange garnish. Ditto for their Lin and Tonic. Feile, a restaurant near Madison Square Garden, concocts a Lintini with Absolut Wild Tea Vodka. At the outskirts of Greenwich Village, Snap Sports Bar hosts an hour-long open bar — read free drinks — after every Knicks win.
"It's getting a lot of Knicks fans into the room," says co-owner Jordan Harris, whose bar introduced the Asian-inspired wings called "Lings" a couple games ago. "People like open bars."
On Friday, Feile was launching a Lin Burger, a pork burger spiked with five-spice seasoning (a basic of Chinese cuisine) and topped with Asian slaw. The pub also recently introduced "Yanling" — make that Yanjing - Beer, says manager Lauren Liberman, laughing as she stumbles over the beer's name.
Stout, another bar across the street from the Garden, also has added Yanjing to its lineup.
"It's not a beer we usually carry," says Stout manager Bonnie Rozales. "We're just bringing it in in honor of Mr. Lin."
Join the club. Since Lin burst onto the scene, the number of New York bars serving Yanjing has more than doubled to 340, says Mike Burmil, general sales manager at SKI Beer, the lager's area distributor.
"Our sales had been mediocre at best, and over the past couple of weeks it's just exploded," Burmil says. Existing customers doubled their standing orders, he said, and new customers have tripled, all in the last couple of weeks. "Our phones for new accounts have been crazy."
So what happens when all this dies down, when Lin cools off, or maybe even gets less game time once injured players begin returning? Will the Lintinis go away? Will beer sales shrink? Will burgers and bao come off menus?
"The sandwich is part of the menu," says Huang. "It's never coming off."
It's a... Linstitution.