Category Archives: Restaurants

Breakfast at the Saratoga Race Track

Breakfast at the Saratoga Race Track

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We got to the track toward the end of the racing season and spent the day there starting with breakfast – an elaborate buffet set up in THE PORCH at track-side. We could watch the horses getting an early morning workout as we ate.

Doc3The Buffet


Grits, Hash and Eggs

Grits, Hash and Eggs


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After a $50 breakfast and losing every bet we made, we had hot dogs for lunch.


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Caffé Roma

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I grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy and was fortunate enough to be able to walk to two very good pastry shops – Ferrara on Grand St. and Caffé Roma on Broome St. Caffé Roma was a little more homey but I liked them both.

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A few years ago, when Easter was approaching I stopped into Ferrara to see if they had started making pizza con grana*, an Easter specialty.

I asked the manager, “Do you have pizza con grana yet?”

He replied, “If you want a slice, go to the pizzeria across the street.”

I lost my temper and said “What’s wrong with you? Do I look like somebody who would go to a pasticcera for a slice of pizza? I asked for pizza con grana.”

“Senor, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand. We don’t make that any more.” As he indicated the crowds of tourists eating pastry with their early evening cappuccino** he said, “These people who come here don’t know what that is.”

So they decided to cater to their tourist customer’s pedestrian tastes instead of attempting to show them something different and traditionally Italian that they might like. That was the last time I ever went to Ferrara.

I left and walked up a block to Caffé Roma, which still hasn’t been Disneyfied with the rest of Little Italy. They had some of their tables pushed together and covered with freshly baked pizza con grana. They also still have zeppole di San Giuseppe around his feast day in March and struffoli at Christmas. They remain old school.

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Caffé Roma is a classic so don’t order like you’re in Starbucks. They serve excellent espresso, tea and even hot chocolate. For cold drinks they have the standard Italian sodas and orzata: gelato too. But it’s the pastry & biscotti you should go for, baked daily and right there. It’s been run by the same family since 1881 and I hope they keep going.counter 2

They’re located in what’s left of Little Italy at 385 Broome St. on the corner of Mulberry.

* Pizza con grana – a sweet pie made from wheat berries, ricotta and orange flower water, traditionally served at Easter time.

** from Wikipedia – cappuccino is consumed only up to 11 a.m., and Italians consider it very “strange” to ask for a cappuccino after that hour.  Espresso with milk is for little kids and breakfast. I suppose you can drink it any time, just like you can have corn flakes for dinner if that’s what you want.

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Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz's

Bridget and I went to lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen a few weeks ago on a Sunday. Bad idea – it’s way too crowded on Sunday. Besides being crowded, we noticed two tour buses parked outside so the crowd included more than the usual amount of tourists. They didn’t understand how the lines worked so instead of going to the confusion at the counters we got a table. We sat next to two women from Maryland who were on a food tour. They’d just come from Ferrara on Grand St.

When they ordered two chili dogs the waiter said, “Do you think you’re at a county fair? I’ll give you some more time to think about it and come back.”

Chili dogs may have been on the menu but the waiter knew better. We ordered frankfurters with sauerkraut, pastrami on rye and Doctor Brown’s – that got a smile of approval from of the waiter.

Maybe you saw “Annie Hall.” Diane Keaton ordered a pastrami on white with lettuce tomato and mayonnaise. The waiter almost had a heart attack.

menu

OK, it’s not cheap. If you want cheap you don’t have to go to Katz’s. But if you want to have a good laugh, look at the Yelp reviews of Katz’s. Most are 5 Star but you can sort them “lowest rated” first. The 1 Star reviews are ridiculous –

  • it was a mediocre tuna sandwich
  • they didn’t have whole wheat toast
  • it hasn’t been redecorated since the 70s
  • the man who made my turkey sandwich sent me to another counter for lettuce and tomato

Would you expect a  French restaurant to serve you sushi just because they have raw fish in the kitchen? No, it’s not what they do.

Katz's tables
Lots of free seats just before noon
Musée Cinéma et Miniature
Musée Cinéma et Miniature

One more word about mayo – Milton Berle said “Everytime someone puts mayo on pastrami, a Jew dies.”

You either got this post or you didn’t. Don’t be offended and maybe you can learn something you can use next time you go to a real deli.

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Ruby’s Bar & Grill

Ruby's - old sign
That’s me in white, having a sausage & pepper hero and a beer..

Ruby’s Bar & Grill

Ruby’s has been on the Coney Island boardwalk since 1934.  The boardwalk used to be lined with bars and restaurants like this but Ruby’s is the last man standing. We were worried that when the gentrification of Coney Island started a few years back Ruby’s long run would end but, lucky for us it’s still there and going strong.

They have a full bar with great beer on tap including Ruby’s Amber. Their menu speaks for itself – typical, traditional Coney Island food.

RUBY menu

Ruby's 4Ruby's 3

 

My family’s been regulars at Coney Island for a long time. Here’s a shot of my uncle, aunt and mother in 1932.

Coney Is 1932
Coney Island – 1932

 

Ruby’s Bar & Grill

1213 Riegelmann Boardwalk
Brooklyn, NY 11224
718-975-RUBY (7829)

Ruby Jacobs - circa 1975
Ruby Jacobs – circa 1975

 

The Oyster Bar

The Oyster Bar

The counter at the Oyster Bar
The counter at the Oyster Bar

The Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant is still there and still a great American seafood restaurant. map

When is opened in 1913 on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal Woodrow Wilson was President It’s been around for a while. A beautiful restaurant and historic too, with its Guastavino tile ceiling.

Oyster Menu
Oyster Menu

The menu changes daily depending on what’s fresh and available at the fish market.  Complete Menu

The restaurant is divided into roughly three sections – the main dining room, the bar and the oyster bar and counter. If I’m anywhere near Grand Central at lunch time I can’t resist stopping at the counter for my usual – a beer, a half dozen of something on the half-shell and an old-fashioned oyster pan roast.  If you sit at the counter you can watch the chefs opening the shellfish and making the pan roast – some ingredients; chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, butter and cream. For dessert, either Key Lime Pie or Cheese Cake.

Shucking Oysters
Shucking Oysters

 

Cherry Stones
Cherrystones

 

Oyster Pan Roast
Oyster Pan Roast

 

Fabbrica Restaurant & Bar

Fabbrica Restaurant & Bar

Fabbrica back bar

We were on our way to the Williamsburg Flea Market yesterday when we came across Fabbrica Restaurant & Bar.  We were hungry and it was the first restaurant we came to when we got off the ferry (N. 6th St. and Kent Ave.) It was a fortuitous find, crowded but with room at the bar.

Fabbrica bar

Their menu changes throughout the day – breakfast, brunch, lunch, late-lunch, etc. I was lucky to get there when Purgatorio was on it. That’s not Dante’s poem but eggs cooked in tomato sauce. It was the first time I’d ever seen it in a restaurant. My mother made it as a standard Monday lunch, using left over Sunday gravy. She called it Eggs in Purgatory.

Purgatorio

I looked at the dinner menu and will definitely go back – hearty Italian food, interesting industrial décor, friendly service and pet-friendly too (dogs at the bar and outdoor tables).

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Pier A Harbor House

 

Pier A Harbor House
Pier A Harbor House

 

It’s been vacant for a very long time and now it’s a bar & restaurant with great views.It’s the 1st pier on the Hudson River, at the western end of Battery Park on the foot of West Street.

Specializing in sea food, they have an extensive raw bar.

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They also serve standard, well-presented pub grub.

Lots of hi-quality beers on tap and a well-stocked bar.

Pier A bar

1970s
In the late 1970s when fire boats were moored at Pier A

 

 

The Heidelberg Restaurant

The Heidelberg Restaurant

The Bavarian Inn, Café Geiger, Kline Konditori, the Berlin Bar and many others are gone. The last man standing is the Heidelberg Restaurant. It’s the only German restaurant left in what used to be New York City’s ‘Germantown’ on the Upper East Side. Times change and neighborhoods evolve but I’m glad the Heidelberg is still the same. The construction of the Second Avenue subway is disrupting businesses along its route. Many couldn’t handle it and closed their doors. Fortunately the Heidelberg is weathering the storm. I went for lunch one day toward the beginning of the subway project and saw construction trailers installed in front of the restaurant. When I got to the door there was a disheartening sign saying ‘Closed for Renovation.’ I was afraid that was the end of my favorite German restaurant. But no, when I went back a month later they were open and except for some fresh paint and new tables, no real change. The menu was the same with its wursts and schnitzels, and beer, oh what beer!

Draft Beer Taps
Draft Beer Taps

Heidelberg Beer

One of my favorite meals for a group of six or so is the Stammtisch – “House Table Plate.” It includes:

Blutwurst, Leberwurst, Black Forest bacon, Bratwurst, Kasseler Rippchen, Tongue, Leberkäse, and Schweinshaxe. Served with boiled potato, potato pancake, sauerkraut, and red cabbage

If you go during the day when their neighbor Schaller & Weber’s German butcher is open and you order steak tartar, the chef will go next door and have them grind the sirloin fresh. They also have an extensive dessert selection, very good coffee and a variety of schnaps for after dinner.

Heidelberg Schnapps
Heidelberg Schnapps

DeRobertis Pasticceria

DeRobertis Pasticceria

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At DeRobertis – coffee, orzata…

I have some sad news. DeRobertis Pasticceria is closing. They’ve been on First Ave. between Tenth and Eleventh Streets in Manhattan since 1904. And I’ve been going there since, well, I remember tagging along with my father on Sunday mornings to get pastry for after dinner – biscotti, cannoli, babas and sfogliatelle to go with our Anisette and black coffee. At Easter their pizza con gran couldn’t be beat and at Christmas they had the best struffoli.

The owner said the “new” local people expect his pasticceria to be more like Starbucks. (See Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York) Too bad they don’t know what it is that they have. And that it will be gone soon.

After dinner at Lanza's we went next door to DeRobertis for dessert
After dinner at Lanza’s last month, we went next door to DeRobertis for dessert

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Ayurveda Café

 

Ayurveda Café

Lunch at the Ayurveda Cafe
Lunch at the Ayurveda Café

Ten items that include all six tastes:  salty, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. That’s what you get at Ayurveda Café. It’s vegetarian Indian cuisine served thali style. I’m by no means a vegetarian as you can tell be some of my posts (beefsteak, lamb’s head) but their meals are tasty and satisfying without meat. It might be the warm climate spices. That’s the difference between southern and northern cuisine – New Orleans vs. Boston, Sicily vs. Tuscany. I confess I don’t know much about southern Indian cooking but some dishes remind me of southern American standards like red rice and beans or southern Italian giambotta, both made without meat but still savory and hearty.

The Ayurveda Café has no menu but four vegetable dishes plus dessert are varied every day along with standard rice (white or brown), salad, nan and  chutneys. If you’d like some more of anything you just have to ask for it. For beverages, in addition to various teas and lassis they serve beer (Kingfisher) and wine.

The Ayvurda Café at 706 Amsterdam Ave., NYC
The Ayvurda Café at 706 Amsterdam Ave., NYC