This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC)

Filet Mignon
2012/07/19 15:45:31
I have mixed feelings about Facebook as I think it can be more of an "anti-social network" resulting in people feeling connected without truly connecting in the real world.  But every so often I'm happily proven wrong.  Lori (aka LoCo) attended the same high school as me but we didn't know each other until about 2 years ago when we found out we had many mutual friends on FB and in the real world as well as both of us being runners.  She contacted me recently and was planning on being in NYC with her friend, Franzi, who was visiting from Germany and itching to have some real American food.  I gladly agreed to meet them for lunch at Katz's Delicatessen on Houston Street in Manhattan.  I was running behind from an earlier engagement so when I arrived they had already begun eating in the waiter section.  

While I do enjoy a good reuben (in case that's not already obvious from my, ahem, "zaftig" profile!) I'm somewhat of a purist when it comes to Katz's and usually prefer a pastrami or brisket sandwich with little more than a schmear of mustard on it.  However, they had both gotten the reuben and like the Millenium Falcon I was pulled in by its tractor beam!  Never before has such a well balanced sandwich passed my lips.  I've had reubens with one slice of pastrami and one slice of swiss and others that looked like they had been buried in an avalanche below the Swiss Cheese Alps!  This one, however, was a perfect combination of peppery, steamy pastrami, briny sauerkraut, melty Swiss and sweet, pickly Russian dressing.  My one complaint is that the rye bread they use could have more flavor.  I prefer an assertive bread with a bold rye/caraway taste.  A minor quibble though as I was groaning with every bite.  Just a quick note though:  this sandwich doesn't not come buttered and griddled as many do but I suppose one could request it that way.  I do realize that there are many other great reubens out there across the U.S. but I think that this is up there with the best of them.  

 I couldn't resist a cross-section shot of this beauty.  While I do like machine sliced pastrami the rugged texture of hand-cut just really speaks to me!

On the way out of Katz's I asked the girls to walk down the street a block so I could get a shot of this mural on the other side Houston St.  We've got a friend from high school who turned a room in his house into a KISS shrine so we knew he'd love this!  It did take a few minutes as there had been a delivery truck in front of it and then the door between Gene and Paul was open for a bit.  I only wish that the door was right in front of Gene's tongue so that every time they opened it his tongue would appear to be comin' at you in 3-D!!  ;)

We started heading to St. Mark's Place for an egg cream when Franzi spotted Russ & Daughters and really wanted to check it out.  I went in with them and managed to withstand it for about 60 seconds before I had to make for the sidewalk.  Not having grown up with "appetizing" as part of my life the aroma (read: fishy), as it were, is one to which I feel I shall never grow accustomed!  I'm not sure if Franzi bought anything but Lori picked up a chocolate babka because you just can't beat a babka!

For all of my appetizing loving friends (and you know who you are!) this shot is for you!

Does anyone know what kapchunkas are?  I like the interesting bagel display.  Oh, can anyone comment on their egg creams?  I've never tried one here.

While walking through the East Village we came upon another mural, this one a tribute to the recently departed MCA (aka Adam Yauch) of the Beastie Boys.  Respect.  

The one place I really wanted the ladies to try was Gem Spa on the corner of St. Mark's Place & 2nd Avenue.  It's really just a newsstand (smokes, magazines, lotto tickets, etc but the man running it has been making fine egg creams for over 20 years. Egg creams are somewhat complicated to explain to a first timer as there are no eggs OR cream in it.  Just three ingredients:  chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer water.  As long as they are in the right proportions and mixed properly an egg cream can be a wonderful, refreshing treat.  Lori thought this would be too heavy (Milk?  On a hot day?  I don't know about this Billy-Ho!).  Much unlike Ron Burgundy's milk, an egg cream IS a good choice!  Seltzer is the transformative ingredient that gives it a light effervescent quality and changes it into a very delightful drink while walking through the East Village.

Sadly, the days where egg creams can be found at soda fountains and lunch counters are behind us as most of those institutions are long gone.  It is good to know that there is someone still putting out a quality product! He has three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and coffee and all are $2.50 and come in one size which I think is the same size as a mid-size coffee at Starbucks.

LoCo, REALLY enjoying her chocolate egg cream!  I think she was truly surprised by how much she liked this.

post edited by billyboy - 2012/07/19 16:15:38
Fire Safety Admin
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/19 16:00:16
They couldn't ask for a better New York tour guide than billyboy.  And that reuben looks ridiculously good!  Looking forward to more.
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/19 16:02:05
"I was made for loving you" does not apply to "appetizing"

The poor little bagels decided to hang.
Filet Mignon
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/19 16:40:56
I think thats the only Reuben I have ever seen that wasn't grilled. I agree Billy, hand sliced pastrami, mustard and a good quality seeded Jewish Rye bread completes the sandwich. I'm thinking they must have put the 1/2 sandwich under the salamander to melt the cheese. If I were to order a Reuben, in the most popular Deli in America, I would want it to look and taste like you described............Thanks as always Billy
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/19 20:23:41
Kapchunkas have not been for sale since the 80s (due to the risk of botulism). The sign remains. It's whole (unprocessed) salted fish that hangs out in the open to dry.
post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/07/19 20:27:44
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/19 22:10:14
An egg cream in a paper cup?  How do you see the chocolate syrup?
(Now I want chubs)
I always love your reports.
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/19 23:26:22
So what was the German visitor's reaction to an "Insiders" day in NYC??
LOVE that Sandwich!
Filet Mignon
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 00:27:30
bb, thanks for the kind words, though I can think of a few people who would definitely be more worthy.
CC, give Gene Simmons enough time and he'll find a way to take those two concepts and market them (Billy shudders).  Thanks for the info on kapchunkas.
mar, if the egg cream is blended properly the chocolate syrup should not be visible.  Just brown for the lower 2/3 of the glass and a white, foamy head on the top 1/3.  I was disappointed on my first visit there when I was given a paper cup.  However, he does make a fine egg cream and it is perfect for sipping and taking in the sights of the East Village while walking around. 
If you go up to the corner of 83rd & Lexington Avenue there is a wonderful place called the Lexington Candy Shop with an "elbow worn" counter, soda jerks, and a fine egg cream in a glass.  Not cheap, but the experience is worth it!  I went there with Chris & Amy last year (wish I had gotten a shot of the counter!) in my "Walkin' In A Dairy Wonderland" report from 08/23/11.  For some reason I can't post the link from the computer here at work.

post edited by billyboy - 2012/08/18 02:27:36
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 00:39:15
A kapchunka for every KISS lunchbox!
post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/07/20 00:43:18
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 01:27:52
Billy, I've never seen an egg cream blended in any of the delicatessens in Los Angeles.  The stirring with a long metal spoon in a real glass has always been part of the charm. 
I definitely believe you and need to try one.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 08:25:50
Great report as always. That sandwich looks amazing!
Filet Mignon
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 18:18:32
CC, that sounds like something Gene would use as a campaign platform if he was running for president!
mar, I've been a to few old school places here that add the seltzer via a pressurized glass spray bottle.  I'm sure there is a more accurate term for that but it escapes me at the moment.  I'd be surprised if any delicatessens blended them in front of the customer anywhere.  The "show" of mixology seems like something most likely found at a soda shop/pharmacy lunch counter.
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 19:38:18
I think you mean a soda siphon.

Delis & candy stores seem to have a little bit of the magic/mystique vibe and very protective of their process. Maybe since the egg cream disappeared in most places for decades. The last time I had an egg cream was in the 70s in a neighborhood candy store that still has all the fixtures for a wonderful soda bar...but sadly does not put it to use.

Have you ever tried the egg cream at Brooklyn Farmacy?

I hear it's very good.
Filet Mignon
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 19:55:44
When we left our heroes they were quenching their thirst with some refreshing egg creams.  So the plan was to head to Macy's for some shopping.  While passing through Astor Place on the way to the R train we saw these musicians jamming for the masses.  Always love live music!

The trip to Macy's was two-fold.  Franzi had a few things she was looking for and it gave us a chance to get out of the sticky, humid air and cool of for a bit.  I didn't take any pics inside of the store but I have to say that I remembered Macy's being much cleaner and or more organized when we woulds visit the city when I was a kid.  On this day it more closely resembled a close-out sale at Filene's Basement.  Shoes and clothes strewn about just didn't seem right to me.  Lori really wanted something cool to drink so I suggested Kelvin Natural Slush, a newish street truck that sells all-naturals slushes like Spicy Ginger and Tangy Citrus.  It seemed like the perfect idea so I called their Slush Phone to find where they would be located and we ended up getting Travelin'-Manned!  They were closed for the day!  On a crazy hot day?  Change of plans: we walked over to Penn Station to fill our water bottles and to take advantage of the huge industrial sized fans to cool off (plus they have some of the few public restrooms in the city!).  
I saw this on the wall and it called out to me.  I really did feel mellow right in that moment.

We hoofed it down 7th Avenue to 23rd Street and over to the Chelsea Hotel where many famous literary figures lived (and died) over the years.  

Looks like SOMEONE is a Sex Pistols fan.

Right next door is the new location of my beloved Doughnut Plant.  Just a quick note: they do not make the doughnuts at this location.  All of them are made at the original Grand Street store on the Lower East Side.  I think there may be an issue with getting a fryer installed.  I really like the doughnut artwork and the use of the box and coffee cup as a sign.

We're lucky we got any doughnuts at all as they were sold out of most everything when we arrived!  I think the heat and humidity brought everyone indoors to cool off and business was more brisk than usual for this hour.  All the had left were cinnamon buns (which I'm not crazy about), this Valrhona chocolate cake doughnut, which everyone enjoyed...

and an Orange Blossom Doughseed (read: mini doughnut).  Interesting, but a bit too perfumed for my taste.

We still had one last stop for the day, Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem which means SOUL FOOD, a true American classic for Franzi to experience!  On a sad note, Sylvia Woods, the founder of Sylvia's, passed away yesterday at the age of 86.  She opened up a place that not only serves great comfort food but has been a meeting place and a Harlem icon since 1962.  She retired in 2006 and since then her children and grandchildren have been running it.  If our meal and experience is any indication they are certainly making her proud.

They have a dining room but I convinced the ladies that eating at the counter would be the way to go.  We'd get to see them assembling the dishes and have a better chance to interact with the staff.  Score!

I couldn't pass up the chance to try some chicken & waffles.  They offered a "Harlem" waffle and a "California" waffle and I did ask but have since forgotten what is the difference between them.  I did fail somewhat here as I didn't stage this shot as well as I could have.  Lori posted a pic of her chicken & waffles on FB and by comparison it looked like her dish took my dish out back and worked it over!  Great pics, Lori!  All kidding aside, this was excellent.  A hot, crispy waffle and moist, savory chicken.  Lots of butter and maple syrup on the waffle only served to excite my taste buds even more.  

Franzi ordered the bar-b-que ribs (with Sylvia's Original Sassy Sauce).  I was very grateful that my two boon companions were completely down with sharing.  These ribs were incredibly flavorful and tender.  The meat came off the bone with just a slight tug.  And that SAUCE!!  I have never tasted anything like it in my life!  Spicy, peppery and sweet, it had a definite taste of lemon to it and I think there were other aromatics in there too.  I asked for a bowl of it on the side so I could dip just about everything else into it.  I'm still haunted by it.  AND they have bottles of it on sale for $3.00!!  Life a doofus I didn't buy any.  But they are very easy to reach by subway so I may just have to return for more and they do offer a 4-vegetable plate.

Franzi's ribs came with 2 sides and we ordered an extra one to share.  Those collard greens were porky and cooked down just right.  The candied yams were soft, sweet and impossible to stop eating.  While I liked the mac & cheese and it was incredibly cheesy, I was spoiled having a mom that made a fantastic version and I'm always looking for one that is its rival.  

Really good cornbread!

The Bowl of Liquid Awesomeness!

Our bellies full, we decided to walk to the A train closer to the West side of Harlem which would take them out to JFK airport where their hotel was located.  We passed another mural on the way, this one of Dr. King.  Respect.

And we also walked by the Apollo Theater.  I was here a few years ago to see Elvis Costello and some other musicians.  What a night THAT was!

That's it for this report.  Lori & Franzi, thanks so much so for letting me come along and show you some of the places in my city that I think make it a wonderful place.  Hope to see you back here soon!  
"Eating is an adventure, enjoy the ride!" - billyboy, 2012
The 411:
1.)  Katz's Delicatessen
      205 East Houston Street
      New York, NY 10002
      Ph# 212-254-2246
2.)  Russ & Daughters
      179 East Houston Street
      New York, NY 10002
      Ph# 212-475-4880
3.)  Gem Spa
      131 2nd Avenue (btw. 7th Street & St. Mark's Place)
      New York, NY 10003
      Ph# 212-995-1866
      No website
4.)  Doughnut Plant
      220 West 23rd Street
      New York, NY 
      Ph# 212-675-9100
5.)  Sylvia's Restaurant
      328 Lenox Avenue (aka Malcolm X Boulevard)
      New York, NY 10027
      Ph# 212-996-0660
post edited by billyboy - 2012/08/28 22:56:07
ann peeples
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/20 20:21:28
Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!!!!!!!!
Junior Burger
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/21 15:55:16
The sign should say: Katz's, Best Sandwich is ANY Town. Wowza Yowza Holy Cowza!
Root-Beer Man
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/21 16:35:31
Sadly, Miss Sylvia, (the founder of Sylvia's) has passed away. At least she left a lasting legacy.
Filet Mignon
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/21 21:57:40
Lifeis2Delicious, you sound like a super awesome, happenin' kind of food lover!  Have we met?  ;)
carlton pierre
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:This time, with SOUL!! (feat. LoCo & Franzi in NYC) 2012/07/22 07:41:17
Some outstanding pics!!  Looks like a great visit.  Thanks for sharing