I’m not a frequent traveler, but over the past couple of months I’ve bucked that trend. You probably noticed my string of reviews from a vacation to Maui, and I just returned from a whirlwind tour of New York City while visiting for work. I was only in town for about 40 hours with much of that dedicated to my intended work purpose. But, a guy’s gotta eat.
I flew into Newark which came with the door prize of a holding pattern prior to landing and then a 30 minute wait on the tarmac for a gate to open. Not an ideal way to end a 6 hour flight. I chased that experience down with a ride on the airport train out to the commuter rail station, another train ride to get close to the city, and then finally a quick jaunt on the subway to get to my hotel. It was about 90 minutes of trains. At this point I had only eaten a bag of pomegranate cashews and a bagel with cream cheese. I was hungry.
Another subway ride took me to a restaurant in Little Italy called Porsena where I had incredible fresh pasta (with a short rib ragu), burrata, and some other amazing things that I can’t remember but would eat again in a heartbeat. I drank water. Sorry to disappoint. Rather than head straight back to the hotel I got off at Times Square because my retina’s were feeling a bit too healthy. Seriously, the amount of artificial flight flooding that area is incredible! Not only did I want to see Times Square, I wanted to provide my readers with some insight into one of the Big Apple’s finest new eateries…Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen. Welcome to Flavortown!
Unfortunately, I screwed up and got there at 9:55pm. They close at 10. This was probably somewhat fortuitous because I had already eaten a large dinner, was very tired, and knew for a fact that the Vegas Fries and Dragon Chili Cheese Fries were not a good life choice. I was going to eat them out of duty to my readers and directly at the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort. I’m not saying that to slander Mr. Fieri, nor America’s Kitchen, just that fried potatoes covered in buffalo sauce, blue-sabi dipping sauce (huh?), chili, bacon, etc., after the day I had was bound to have consequences (potentially my insides being bound).
I took pictures and walked back to the hotel. The next day was mostly spent in meetings. I had a bit of freedom after 5pm, but only until 6:30pm. That’s when I got an order of thrice cooked fries from the hotel bar/restaurant (Hudson Common). If you didn’t click before, go ahead and click here to see that review. The fries were followed by a trip to a swanky Greek restaurant with the most pathetic greek fries I’ve ever had. The rest of the food at Limani was terrific, but the Greek Fries were just a bowl of slightly undercooked steak fries (aren’t they always undercooked?).
You’d think that that would be enough for a day, but I refused to quit. I had picked up a ticket to see Jerry Seinfeld perform at the Beacon Theatre at 9:30pm because that’s potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. He’s taken up a year-long residency at the theatre and performs about once a month. The show was hilarious. His opener was a lanky comedian from Ashton Idaho with his own brand of observational comedy. I feel like the fact that he’s from potato country earns him a mention in this blog. His name is Ryan Hamilton, and he’ll have a Netflix special out before too long. Check him out.
Surely that was enough excitement for the night…wrong! I chose to walk 16 blocks back to my hotel so that I could explore a bit more of the Hell’s Kitchen area of the city. Also, I wanted an authentic slice of pizza. I found a place that was open (and fairly busy) with a big sign that appropriately read “PIZZA”, so I walked up and ordered whatever the person before me ordered. I didn’t want to screw it up. My slice of regular (crust, sauce, and cheese) was foldable, with a cornmeal dusted crunch, and a slightly zippy tomato sauce. It hit the spot and only set me back $2. All of that made a lot of sense to me and I contemplated the beauty of the transaction for the next 6 blocks. Then I saw a hot dog cart. I got a hot dog. It also set me back about $2. It wasn’t very good. This lead me to the only possible conclusion that New York wins the pizza debate, but Chicago 100% owns the best hot dogs. Yeah, there are probably better examples than the soggy wiener with mustard that I received, but a first impression is hard to fix.
I made it back to the hotel humored, well-fed, and tired. I slept.
The next morning I got myself prepped and checked out of the hotel with no obligations until 11:30. I took myself on a google maps directed tour of Central Park, meaning that I wandered around until I felt lost then found a point of interest on Google maps and walked there. The Belvedere Castle was very cool, and the atmosphere of the park provides a beautiful contrast to the noise and structure of the city. There was still one mission to complete…lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen before heading back to Newark International.
Katz’s Deli was on the other end of Manhattan, but the boss and I grabbed a cab (the subway line was all borked for some reason) and entered the most Jewish deli of Jewish deli’s that’s ever been. If pastrami was music, Katz’s Deli would be Beethozen. If pastrami was a 90’s sitcom, Katz’s Deli would be Seinfeld. It’s exactly what it should be. That’s not to say that others can’t do a great job with their own interpretations, but this is the standard of beauty for brined brisket.
The deli is intimidating when you walk in. It feels almost like an exclusive nightclub, but there’s no music. Just meat and pickles. They give you a ticket when you enter and put you under strict orders to NEVER LOSE YOUR TICKET! You pay on the way out, and everything you order is written on that ticket. Even if someone else put your order on their ticket, you have to show your blank ticket to prove that there were no shenanigans. If you screw it up they’ll charge you $50.
I ordered a hot pastrami on rye because I’m not an idiot. They have meat carvers at the ready to slice up what looks like a half-brisket per sandwich. It’s not pulled from the steamer until you order and they slice it right in front of your hungry little eyes. They also give you a couple pieces of meat as a sample while they’re assembling your sandwich. A little bit of meat is exactly what you need before eating a whole lot of meat. A sandwich will set you back almost $20, so come prepared with cash (no cards).
While not new to me, they serve a unique brand of sodas with a long history on the east coast called Dr. Browns. I’ll probably review more of their stuff in the future, so click here to see what I’ve tried. It’s not gourmet stuff, but it has a cultural tie to the area. Their most intriguing offering is the Cel-Ray soda which is a celery flavored concoction that I previously reviewed here. I was okay with it then, but I understand it better now.
Out of context it’s just kind of a strange beverage, but combined with a mountain of tender pastrami on rye it makes sense. It just fits. The same way that pickles naturally compliment brined meat sandwiches this sparks an area on your palate that recognizes the relationship built over a lifetime of being served together. Even if you haven’t personally had it I believe that it’s built into the human genome. Your body knows what it needs. It’s still a bit sweet (sweeter than I’d like), but I don’t think I would order anything else to go with a sandwich from Katz’s Deli. I’m going to boost my rating to an 8 out of 10.
Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Before my journey to Katz’s Deli I made one more quick trip to Times Square. I felt I needed to give one more good faith attempt at Guy Fieri’s establishment. On the way I was confronted with hordes of ambling tourists, naked artists performing some sort of demonstration (a demonstration of confidence, no doubt), but I would not be discouraged. I entered the restaurant again positive that I wasn’t too late for service. Turns out I was 30 minutes too early. Augh! I can’t win. Maybe on another trip.
In conclusion, New York was awesome and I’d love to go back. I wasn’t able to try an Egg Cream (created in Brooklynn, made kind of famous by President Bartlett on the West Wing), and there were some other interesting french fries I wanted to try. Maybe I should crowd fund a trip out there…or be an adult and just plan a time when I can save up and take my wife on a proper vacation without the kids. We’ll see.
Visited June 2017