I’ve talked about New York plenty before, and shared some of our longstanding faves there. Last month’s trip (oy, I’m behind) was more of the same subway riding and great times with friends, followed by a return to L.A. with daily kvetching about how New York is so much better than L.A. Finally, we have our family’s first generation born IN LOS ANGELES and we’re already getting the NYC vs. LA comparisons and hating. Help!
Anyway, here are a few new places we managed to hit, which isn’t all that many so I have to bury the shame I feel when I look back at the long list of great recs Mr. Kim kindly sent me. Lord knows I don’t need to post about Shake Shack again, but of all food businesses, Umami Burger opened in the Village soon after we left town. Huge lines ensued. Go figure.
This company comprises a useful network of trucks — more like portable cart thingies — I first saw around lower Manhattan, but now there are TWO on the UWS. Basically, Wafels & Dinges appeals best to the very young, and to the super stoner set. Both the 72nd and 66th Street Wafels & Dinges locations were regular faves, even if I got grumpy shelling out $10 for a couple of speculoos-shmeared Belgian waffles instead of old school classic (and cheaper) bagels and cream cheese. Ah, the peculiar tastes of the next generation.
Various locations; @waffletruck
THANK GOD Irving Farm is on 79th between Broadway and Amsterdam. I wasn’t blown away by the capp — Blue Bottle and operations of that ilk has nothing to worry about — but it’s certainly the best option in the area until you get to Joe on Columbus, and when you’ve got kids, nabbing that charming front patio is key. Plus they’ve got a stocked case with Balthazar baked goods, and healthy enough sounding sandwiches and salads.
224 W. 79th St. (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam), Upper West Side; (212) 874-7979. @IrvingFarm
Our eldest son is obsessed with the 7 train. All trains and subways, really, which is why — as is the case with a lot of kids like him who have Asperger’s Syndrome — being in a city full of intricate public transit systems is HEAVEN. But ever since we took the 7 train to Citified, this line has had a particular appeal. And I totally get it. The emergence from the Manhattan side and transition into Queens is dramatic and picturesque. The views are spectacular, as are the graffiti murals and train staging yards. So when my friends who live in Sunnyside suggested we meet at SriPraPhai, it seemed like a slam dunk idea, especially since my kids will always do Thai.
Given how spoiled we are with our proximity to superb Thai restaurants at home, this meal didn’t make the biggest impression. But a braised eggplant with peppers dish, pad see ew, a quite mild penang curry, and loads of sticky rice (rolled into little “rice balls,” as per our weird Thai food habit) kept us full as we headed back to Manhattan and took a stroll through the beautifully updated Lincoln Center near us.
Only snag — I had to manage a major fit because we did not ride the ENTIRE length of the train to its terminus at Main Street/Flushing. Next time we will, I promised him.
64-13 39th Avenue, Woodside; (718) 899-9599.
Ah, Mile End. The quest, satisfied. The ultimate destination for that all-elusive treat of artisanal old school Jewish food, the lack of which in L.A. I’ve bitched and moaned about plenty. We met up with a Brooklyn cousin and friend after the Transit Museum and headed over to Mile End for a late afternoon lunch. This timing was crucial, because the (tiny) place had quieted down after the presumed lunch rush, and we could take over two out of the three tables. As many restaurants do, Mile End does so much with so little space. It’s amazing. Also turned out my dear friend who joined us is friends with the owners, completely unbeknownst to me. It’s a darn small Jewish world, after all.
We were not shy about passing around plates of the hot dogs, matzo ball soup, pickles, and poutine. It IS a Montreal style deli, so how in good conscience can you skip that dish? As the only adult meat eater of our party, I got to eat the entire relatively-modestly–sized-for-a-deli corned beef Reuben myself. The proportions are almost dainty for a thick cut meat sandwich, meaning, it was just the right amount for me, and I loved the fresh snap of the slaw. As for the soup, Mile End makes one seriously intense, deep broth; the fat might have been skimmed off, but that flavor makes itself known, and a somewhat minimalist, careful vegetable presence in implies that the chefs want this broth to stand out on its own. (The kids left a fair amount of this $8 bowl over. Grr.) The matzo ball itself was properly soft and floaty, as you’d expect. If you’re gonna do this, get the shit right. Right??
The verdict? I still stand by my demographically cliche hope and belief that L.A. still needs a modern day yet traditional deli. The spare benches and subway tile — and that telltale hipster slate gray exterior — might not be the right aesthetic for those of us who have grown up with cushy tufted booths and ample seating that’s part of suburban deli culture. When something (or something else, depending in which context you place the erstwhile Storefront Deli) of this caliber and philosophy opens, Langer’s need not worry too much about revenue projections based on Number 19 sales. But we have enough room and love for everybody, and I probably need not remind anyone that there’s plenty of incredible produce to pickle.
97A Hoyt Street, Boerum Hill; (718) 852-7510. @MileEndDeli + follow @TheSussmans too.