Saturday, December 27, 2008
Comfort Food In New York
For Boxing Day yesterday we took a family day trip to New York City. In the Big Apple there are all sorts of dining choices including the finest restaurants in the country. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good food. We went up knowing of one place we wanted to go to, but all the others we ate at were sheer happenstance. You can get a wide variety of comfort foods no matter what your heritage or taste.
Macaroni and Cheese
We’ve been on gourmet mac and cheese hunts in New York before, but Manhattan has, not one, but two restaurants that serve macaroni and cheese exclusively. The Megabus that we took up dropped us off at Penn Station. Just a few blocks south on Broadway is Supermac, a very narrow storefront tucked next to a much fancier restaurant. It offers over a dozen different flavors in two different sizes. The large, which my son and I ordered, proved we both had eyes bigger than our stomachs. I had the buffalo chicken, my wife had hamburger, and my son went for the applewood bacon. We found it interesting that we each had picked a different barnyard animal to accompany our noodles and cheese. Each variety also uses a different base cheese. The applewood for example was rich with gorgonzola. The owner was chatting with some customers about possible franchising strategies. We concurred amongst ourselves that this concept would go over great in food courts or near college campuses.
Banh Mi Sandwiches
Chinatown is a very popular New York destination for cheap jewelry, knock-off purses and watches of suspicious origin. But it also has a great selection of dining places. To avoid the crowds on Canal Street, we had cut down to Walker Street. We were admiring the window display of XO, a good Chinese restaurant we had eaten at years ago, when I noticed the awning a store called Sau Voi Corp with some of the few words in Vietnamese I recognize, Bánh Mì. These little sandwiches have a choice of meats and are garnished with pickled carrots, cilantro and jalapenos. The store itself is dusty affair crammed with Chinese and Vietnamese DVDs, CDs, and cassettes. In one small corner is a sandwich shop making said delights. My wife got one fresh and hot and it delighted her. The smallest places are sometimes the best discoveries.
Heading up Broadway we passed a brightly lit pastry place called Beard Papa which I recognized from some food show or another. They specialize in cream puffs. The flavor of the day was green tea, but I went with the regular. The gooey oozing cream filling was delightfully tasy but not overly sweet. The same went for the mocha frozen drink which was so much better than the overpriced highly caffeinated milkshakes at some ubiquitous coffee shop chains I could name. My son went for a fruit crepe. The crepe is hand cooked in front of you (and it took the shy giggly worker two tries to get it right) and filled with fruit and cream filling rolled up like a dessert burrito. This chain seems to have been started in Japan and the decor and lightness of the flavors carries on that particular sensibility.
Passing under the awning of this restaurant elicited unbidden from my son the catch phrase “Welcome to Goodburger, home of the good burger, how may I help you?” from the All That running sketch and the astoundingly dreadful Kel and Kenan movie based on them. Other than the name, the restaurant seems to have no affiliation with the Nickelodeon show, although they do suspiciously offer a crabby patty. The burgers clearly lived up to their name. Fat and tall, they are cooked to order with the choice of all the usual condiments. The prices straddle the line between a fast food joint and a sit-down restaurant. A burger, fries, and drink combo runs just north of ten bucks. You can get milkshakes or beer as well. According to my wife, the fries compare favorably with McDonalds which is high praise from her.
The entire day of eating cost less than one person’s bill at Frankie and Johnnie’s and we all rode home on the bus well into the night fully satiated on the comfort foods that just hit our respective spots.