I am just having an excellent food week. Whee!
Last night I headed over to the Burger Joint. My friend Kyle (by the way, whose latest (first) article for Playboy magazine, Sound + Art, is now online on the Playboy.com website) told me about this place after one of his trips to the New York office. Hidden behind a curtain in the lobby of the swanky Le Parker Meridien is the entrance to Burger Joint. Coming out of the hushed elegance of the lobby, you duck through a door and suddenly you're in a loud, dimly-lit room. The decor is wood-paneling and painted brick and the air is thick with the smell of grilling burgers.
The menu is simple enough that I can list the whole thing here: burgers, cheeseburgers, fries, whole pickles, brownies, beer (one kind), pop, and milkshakes. I ordered a cheeseburger with the works, fries, and a vanilla milkshake. I was a little surprised, given the bare bones feel of the place, when they asked me how I wanted my burger cooked. But it made sense when I got it, because this was no thin burger -- it was thick and juicy. The fries were thin and crispy, like I like 'em, and I was impressed that the milkshake was pretty good despite being made in a blender instead of a Shake Master 3000. And, really, the cognitive dissonance of the whole experience can't be beat.
inside the Le Parker Meridien
118 W 57th St
New York, NY
Today I made some treks for food. This morning I got a little lost trying to find a bagel place (Ess-a-bagel, I discovered -- not knowing it's name was one of the barriers to finding it) that I remembered was right around the corner from my friend Alex's place. I getting kinda tired, as I was lugging around both my bags, and starting to wonder if my memory of how good the bagels were at this place was really worth this journey over grabbing any of the millions of other bagels available in NYC and just getting to work. So I gave up and called Alex, who told me where it was. And then I got lost again. And then I found it.
So, was it worth it? Well, it was a good bagel with lox. But I'm not sure it was soooo much better than the ones around the corner from the hotel. Or maybe my tastebuds were just tired by then.
831 3rd Avenue
New York, NY
For lunch, I hiked down to Grand Central Station to visit the venerable Oyster Bar. On the way down I passed a street vendor who specialized in BBQ and then once in the Grand Central Market I saw a Brother Jimmy's, whose passing from Chicago I still lament (Anyone know where to get a dry rub BBQ in Chicago? Anyone? Anyone?). This one of the challenges that face a chowhound -- there's so much good food in the world that it's easy to get distracted on your way to your goal. But I was strong and made it to the Oyster Bar with an empty stomach.
The Oyster Bar opened the same year as the Grand Central Terminal itself (anyone? anyone? 1913.) and it looks like it has expanded over time to to fill more of its corner of the terminal. There are three seating areas: a sitdown area, a lunch counter-style area, and bar seating in front of the oyster prep area. I was there in the mid-afternoon, so there was plenty of seating and I sat at the bar.
The menu is huge, with a huge selection of not just oysters (but a couple dozen varieties of those) but other seafood and fish and different ways they could be prepared. Ptolemy, who had recommended the place, had recommended the clam chowder, so I ordered that. And then I thought I would stick with something that felt a little "safer" than raw oysters, but I didn't want to ignore the name of the place, so I got the fried oysters.
The clam chowder was thick and creamy and pretty good. After I was about halfway through the bowl, my server was walking by and saw my bowl. "Why didn't you say something!?" he exclaimed and threw some packets of oyster crackers on the counter. I put a handful of crackers in my soup and suddenly "pretty good" was transformed into "incredible". The crunchy, salty crackers were just what the maybe-a-little-too-thick-and-creamy soup needed.
The fried oysters and their accompanying french fries were alright, but they were, after all, fried oysters and fried frenches and after a while I was pretty full of grease and a little regretful, after hearing some comments around me, that I hadn't gotten a pan roast.
Grand Central Terminal
New York, NY