A thoroughly endearing history of how New Yorkers -- a tough, unflappable, gay and resilient breed -- have been fed and watered over the years since Mr. Loosely, the last sycophant Tory tavern keeper, was chased from the King's Head following the evacuation of the redcoats. The Batterberrys move back and forth from the tres haut to the tres scummy; from 18th-century pubs where the no-nonsense fare was listed as ""cold meat with a pint of good ale or cyder"" to the epicurean wonders of the Old Bank Coffee House where the proprietor, a certain Mr. Niblo, served up a smoking hot bear whole and standing -- to the lowest lowdown gin mills, one of which was candidly named ""The Road to Ruin."" You'll get the impression that New Yorkers used any occasion, from the arrival of a foreign dignitary to the declaration of war, to celebrate with an orgy of food and drink. As the 19th century progressed, sociogustatorial whim spawned the Grand Hotel, the immigrant boarding house, ice cream parlor, oyster cellar, pleasure garden, beer hall, theatrical haunt, lobster palace, and, greasy spoon of every description. Like the champagne at one of Elsa Maxwell's galas, the Batterberrys stock of anecdotes never runs dry; they know all about the clientele, the prices, the chefs, the brawls and the banquets and they rattle them off throughout this dizzying tour of the ever proliferating culinary establishments of the city. It's all here from the grating cries of street vendors to the benumbed observations of visiting gourmands. As far as food and beverage go, excess is indeed the norm for the denizens of Gotham and, miraculously, the Batterberrys seem to have digested it all.