Could the city’s latest viral animal star inspire a new direction for the city’s avocado cafés?
A squirrel snacking on a whole avocado in an Upper West Side sidewalk planter is getting its 15 minutes of social media fame, after a video of the health-conscious rodent was posted to Facebook and Instagram Thursday afternoon.
Upper West Side resident Henry Zhang, 29, was walking his chihuahua, Almond, near the intersection of Broadway and 73rd Street when the 7-year-old rescue dog spotted the squirrel and tugged on her leash, he said.
“Forget Pizza Rat,” he wrote in Facebook and Instagram captions for the video capturing the rodent in action. “I give you Avocado Squirrel!”
Zhang assumes the resourceful animal had scavenged the fruit when it dropped from a nearby street vendor, he told amNewYork.
Avocado Squirrel joins a distinguished lineage of animals that have captured New Yorkers’ attention by way of thrift, gumption and voracity. The grandfather of them all is Pizza Rat, who, in dragging a slice down a flight of subway stairs, embodied the soul of city residents determined to have it all.
Zhang’s subject speaks to a smaller, but highly visible and much parodied demographic: Millennials.
“Clearly a millennial squirrel,” one Facebook friend commented, alluding to the avocado’s perceived popularity among 20- and 30-somethings.
The fruit embraced by many lifestyle and fitness influencers as a “healthy fat” has cropped up on menus at trendy restaurants across Manhattan and Brooklyn in recent years, most commonly in the form of avocado toast. (Bucking the trend, Zhang himself does not particularly care for the dish: “I’ve had a pretty good avocado toast from Blank Slate in midtown, but otherwise don’t really eat [it] . . . I feel like an avocado’s flavor and texture is subtle enough to just eat by itself.”)
At least three cafés in the city, Avocaderia in Industry City and Chelsea and Avocado Appetit in Chinatown, have organized their daytime menus of toast, sandwiches, salads and smoothies around the pitted fruit.
Have they found their new mascot in Avocado Squirrel?
“He’s the best possible fan, the cutest, I would say,” said Avocaderia co-founder Alessandro Biggi, 30, who first watched the video Friday. He’s considering sharing it on the restaurant’s social media accounts as the “best testimonial ever.”
With demonstrated interest in his product on the Upper West Side, Biggi isn’t opposed to the idea of expanding uptown.
For its third location, after the opening of its second inside the Terminal Stores Building in May, Avocaderia is currently eyeing a more commercial neighborhood with a signature population of office workers, he said: “We’re looking more near NoMad . . . because we serve mostly breakfast and lunch.”
But the Upper West Side, which Biggi recently visited for the first time after immigrating from Italy a year and a half ago, is “super cool,” sporting a “very nice vibe and lifestyle in general,” he added. The area is poised to see a significant influx of new dining options this year, of which the dumpling counter Lucky Pickle Dumpling Co. is only the first. “It would be a very good place for what we do, maybe somewhere down the line.”
Avocado Appetit co-founder Lifu Liu, 24, had yet to view the Avocado Squirrel video when reached by phone Saturday. Although Liu declined to comment on its marketing potential after watching it, his laughter was a ringing endorsement: “It’s pretty funny,” he said.