An empire state of mind

Part two of New York, Je t’aime (Part I here)

These are the two places that would be found if I were to dissect the stomach of the greatest city in the world and peer straight into its folds:


Sundays are brunch days: chefs with higher culinary aspirations relegated to arranging plates of fruit, yogurt and granola, scrambling eggs with deli-cuts and American cheese, manning the waffle iron, and assembling it all buffet-style- unloved by the creative and for the undiscerning masses (famished church-goers, children, and their assorted pets).

And somehow, there is a pleasing magic to this tradition. A tradition that is elevated to its lofty level in my heart by Barney Greengrass, on the Upper West Side. Barney Greengrass is so quintessentially New York, it’s a clich√©. Diner coffee that is scalding hot, and made from a shitty powder mix. None of that premium, plucked by fair-trade-represented Colombian workers, double-roasted smoky elixirs. Just inelaborate, black joe best with a liberal full 4 second pour of room-temperature milk from that steel creamer that had been sitting there before you even got to the table, and several packets of dominos.¬† It cheaply offers the same satisfying caffeinated punch necessary for waking up at the ungodly early hours of noon.

The service is no-frills, abrupt, and efficient. Egos should be firmly grounded before venturing in– no diva behavior will be entertained. Servers offer their opinions, unrequested. It’s like going to lunch at your nosy grandmother’s. She will comment on what you’re eating, and she will openly judge you for your order (if your grandmother is anything like mine– she is paradoxical. She will also comment on why my figure is not that of a ballerina’s, while pressuring me to eat more of everything else). The food though, like at grandma’s, is freaking fantastic.

Barney Greengrass (alongside those other Famous Delis) is also responsible for elevating Jewish food to its distinctive culinary form in New York. Anthony Bourdain loves it, and that man has notorious good tastes (a 10,000$/hr brilliant, nationally televised palate). The sturgeon is king here– “regret” should not be a vocabulary in the following 24 hours post-consumption of BG’s godly trinity of sturgeon, smoked salmon, or Nova scrambled with eggs and onion.

Additionally, Eric and I ordered the triple decker sandwich of roast beef, chicken fat, chicken liver, turkey, cole slaw and russian dressing. One of the servers came around and said, “Good luck with that.” Then, on the way back, he repeated, “Again, good luck.” But his assessment was incorrect. False, sir. It wasn’t enough, because it was SO DELICIOUS (the nutty, graininess of the bread spread upon with smooth, savory liver paste, and ground turkey, skipping down my throat- gobble gobbledeedoo– wholly satisfying despite the bland adjective in caps), we wanted more of it. Even though chicken fat and chicken liver usually aren’t my thing– hahahaha, who am I kidding? Fat is always my thing.


the mushroom slice I regretted getting only one of

A New York adventure is not complete without New York pizza. I’ve had many an arguments with my once-upon-an-Italian-lover over the superiority of New York pizza to the traditional Italian slices. Sorry dude, despite how charming your accent was on your persuasive speech, taste experience trumps rhetoric. The same way America takes plain Japanese sushi and transforms it into the magical Dragon roll, New York just took Roma and Sicily to the playing field on pizza and dominated. It’s just the facts of evolution. Enters one of the evolutionee at the front of the pack, Di Fara (pizzeria), out on Avenue J in the abyss of Brooklyn. The crust is feather light (a distinguishing NY trait), made with pastry dough, San Marzano tomatoes basked and plucked from the sunshine of Italy, and basil from Israel. Locavores would sit in a corner and cry as they ate this pizza, moral fortitude crushed by the crispy foundation of dough with the fresh cheese and sweet tomatoes melted together into one tasty, gooey fresco. On our visit, an outspoken Italian Brooklynite, clearly a long-time user and accomplice of Di Fara’s, leaning casually (strategically) on the counter, was cajoling Eric, with his stuck-in-an-elevator pitch of the holy virginal birth of this pizza, egging him on to purchase and consume the last pricey 5$ slice. He looked at the guy, the slice, the guy (still whispering sweet nothings), back to the slice. 2 against 1; hardly a fair fight.

Referenced Locations:

Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 724-4707

Di Fara
1424 Ave J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

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6 Responses to “An empire state of mind”

  1. EP 29. Nov, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    I think we met that guy.

    Alas, my monkish resolve was no match for the double-team seduction from that guy and Dom De Marco’s magic. That pizza is seriously addictive.

  2. Jenny Famewhore 04. Dec, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    I’d want an entire pie the next time I return. I heard the crust gets unintentionally burnt at times, but that is a hazard when it comes to a crust so thin, it’s anorexic.

  3. theresidentartist 13. Dec, 2009 at 3:19 pm #


    How are Mesa’s prices?

  4. theresidentartist 13. Dec, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    ^That comment was meant for the other post -__-;

  5. Jenny Famewhore 13. Dec, 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    You can view the menu here:

    It’s pretty moderate, I think. Lunch prices are usually at least two times less than dinner prices; which is why I usually try to go to the fancier places then!


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