Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Postcards from New York 3: Overpriced Latkes and Irish Sausage Burritos

Well I am recovered from the big trip to the Big Apple - the last in a while, since it costs more than I want to pay. I got up on Saturday morning and checked out of the Candy Hostel (note the view from my own private room to the left), very conveniently located a 10 minute walk from Central Park, all ready to look for super cheap food that wouldn't break my bank account. I should have known not to choose based on the unusualness of the restaurant's name. But all-stupid here did just that!

Benny Greengrass is known as the "Sturgeon King" - and lots of Manhattanites are in agreement. The place was packed on a Saturday morning with laughing, boisterous and happy breakfasters. I was immediately seated and hardly 5 seconds after getting my coat off a waiter came by and asked what I wanted (!). Is this one of those legendary New York restaurants that get you in, get you served and get you out like clockwork?

Instead of cheap, like I wanted, I got the ridiculously overpriced, quite average (at best) latkes, complete with a large, hard clump of sour cream at Benny Greengrass. This is worth $7.50? But they were edible at least. The $5 cup of hot chocolate I got - which was brought out very fast and very steamy, so those were pluses - turned out to be milk with a big blob of chocolate syrup at the bottom. Maybe I'm being picky, but it wasn't worth $5. The ONLY great thing about the experience was the service. And silly me, assuming that a place whose typical breakfast prices are $20 (I guess lox and sturgeon are pricey) would actually take a card. No - the waiter informed me, in a very chipper and agreeable voice at least, that they only took cash, which sent me darting across the street to the CVS, whose ATM was broken, leading me to buy something in order to get cash back. I guess it could've been worse - the waiters could have been assholes. I did leave them a good tip.

After even more mishaps with bitchy security guards* at the fabulous Metropolitan Museum of Art - WOW, that museum was just, WOW - I was headachy and ready to eat. I got a hot dog and a small Diet Pepsi at a cart outside the museum. Nothing special, but it was refreshing.

Since going to Brooklyn would have gotten me way off schedule by this time, I skipped the promises of wonderful Vietnamese food in Brooklyn for not-so-bad Vietnamese in the Upper East Side, which was in walking distance. The Saigon Grill is mentioned in Frommer's NYC Free and Dirt Cheap guide. The one thing I didn't get from the guide? Said Saigon Grill is closed. For good. At least at that location. Fortunately there were some other good options available, including Mexican and Irish brunches. I went to Genesis - the Irish place - instead of the Tex-Mex spot Cilantro, only because Genesis's brunch included a free mimosa or bloody Mary (my choice). I went with the Irish sausage burrito for $11, munching as I caught an eyeful of English Premier League Socc- um, Football.

A few hours later I was back at the Metropark parking garage and my car. Before I headed south again I wanted to try out this place touted on either the Food Network or the Travel Channel (one of those forgettable "food travel" shows). Rutt's Hut, in Clifton, New Jersey (a suburb of Newark, I think) has what the locals claim are the best dogs in the universe. They are deep fried quickly, only until their skin gets hard and "rips" open when you bite into it. The inside is still soft and delicious. Or at least it was supposed to be. I got two of them ($1.80 each), and even though they were tasty, neither was the orgasmically eye-popping experience I was led to believe it would be. To be honest, I liked the onion rings (about $2.50) better. I'm glad I can say I tried it, but I wouldn't drive out of my way for these dogs. If I were in the area I'd go there, but not 30 miles out of my way.

* No sir, 'No flash photography does not mean 'No photography at all'. Sir, you are a feckless bitch.

Other photos:

The Met touts its reconstructed, imported-from-Egypt Temple of Dendur, but I thought the Temple of Perneb was a little cooler.

Just try getting mustard on this 19th century dress!

Here they are - those legendary "rippers" with some Diet Pepsi and a nice helping of onion rings.


Cham said...

Allow me to save you a big ole pile O cash when you visit New York. When you visit those big fancy museums you may notice where they list th entry fee it says: Donation $20, or somesuch. That means you don't actually have to pay the full fee. You can say, "My donation today will be $1." And they have to let you in. You can pull that stunt locally at the BMA or anywhere they ask for a donation instead of fee.

John said...

Thanks - and that's exactly what I did, waltz right past the donation booth into the Egyptian section! Actually, I wound up paying nothing. But since they made me carry my bookbag in with me ("We can't check bags with laptops in them"), I don't feel so bad.