Pretend someone is forcing you to eat at McDonald’s.
Fact: fast-food restaurants over serve their customers. Knowing how many calories and how much sodium in each menu item when you approach the counter will help you navigate this minefield.
I have eaten at McDonald’s exactly once in the last nine years, when a dental problem made eating painful. I got my hands on a vanilla milkshake and it was darn good. Prior to 2003, I saved visits to McDonald’s for severe weekday hangovers. Those hangovers were thankfully rare.
I can’t say I will never eat at McDonald’s again, nor must I have the proverbial gun to my head to enter the golden arches. But I would have to have a severe shortage of options.
Driving down I-95 or across I-80, one of those shortage scenarios might arise. I will be headed down both those interstates next week. If I run out of food options on the road, and am faced only with fast-food restaurants, which should I pick?
Posting Calories Helps Make Better Choices
I checked the nutrition information for both Burger King’s and McDonald’s menus. Reading the long lists of calories of every sandwich variation made me numb to the calorie counts. After a few pages, 500 calories didn’t sound like so much.
If I navigate the menu carefully, I could order a reasonable meal at each house of worship. Even though the lowest calorie sandwich at both McDonald’s and Burger King is the humble hamburger, I don’t eat red meat. So that option is off the table.
I don’t do deep-fried either, so the Filet-O-Fish is also out. The cheesed-up, tartar-sauce slathered Filet-O-Fish is worse than a burger. But I ate Filets for years thinking it was a better choice. At McDonald’s, I might opt for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich (350 calories, 820 mg sodium). The grilled version is just over half the calories of the Crispy Chicken option (620 calories, 1200 mg sodium). In a previous life, I would have considered the two interchangeable.
If the sodium level of the Grilled Chicken Sandwich scares you off, try the Honey Mustard Grilled Snack Wrap (250 calories, 670 mg sodium).
Over at Burger King, the Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich is 470 calories with 1330 mg of sodium—too high. But you can save 110 calories if you hold the mayo.
Breakfast: The Most Fattening Meal of the Day
Surprisingly, fast-food breakfast meals can be much worse than the lunch fare. Judging by the name, I would know to stay away from the BK Ultimate Breakfast Platter (1450 calories, 2920 mg sodium). But the sodium content of the Southwest Burrito (1790 mg) makes a sensible-sounding choice not so sensible.
At McDonald’s, if the breakfast includes hotcakes, stay clear. The Big Breakfast with Hotcakes has 1,090 calories and 2150 mg of sodium. Here’s where the Fruit n’ Yogurt Parfait (150 calories) can be a life saver.
I may have to walk into a McDonald’s and see what’s on the menu. Or at least, see how many calories are posted on the menu.
McDonald’s announced that its 14,000 US restaurants will post the calories in its sandwiches, shakes, fries and other food or non-food products. The change will go into effect next week. The announcement may surprise people, but the decision is logical and smart.
The fast-food chain is already required to post calories in New York City and Philadelphia. Calorie counts have always been available to customers who dine in and have the strength and will to flip over the paper placemat.
But McDonald’s, as fried and fatty as most of their food is, has led the effort to provide healthier options. McDonald’s introduced salads in 1985, way ahead of the obesity-awareness curve.
ACA Mandates Calorie Posting
Yes, you cynics, McDonald’s is just getting a jump on the Affordable Care Act’s 2014 requirement that food chains post calorie information. But give McDonald’s points for accepting the inevitable and incorporating it into their philosophy.
McDonald’s is giving posted calorie counts a positive spin with signs listing “Favorites Under 400,” according to a New York Times article.
Some people are still unhappy—McDonald’s may be a happy place, but it’s still not a healthy place. But incremental change is more likely to be lasting change. Yes, McDonald’s may be milking this for some good PR, but so what? Calories are still being posted; customers are free to make better choices. Or not.
Studies have shown a minimal amount of change in customer behavior when calories are posted—from little to none. Real change is slow, and small percentages still add up to a lot less calories being consumed. Also, these studies appear to examine the behavior of low-income customers. People with low incomes are not McDonald’s only customers, nor are they the only ones fighting obesity.
If McDonald’s and other fast-food chains use their advertising campaigns to promote their healthier choices, then the needle will move faster. They deserve a break today.
A great, inexpensive Mexican restaurant with locations in the East Village, Chelsea and TriBeCa.
Mary Ann’s, an NYC Institution
Almost every Friday night back in the day, my friends and I ate at Mary Ann’s because it was cheap, the margaritas were good, and it was across the street from another favorite location.
When my husband G. came into my life a few years later, I brought him to Mary Ann’s for the first time. Far be it from me to test a new boyfriend, but he and I had a date planned. Then my crazy friends called and suggested we all meet at Mary Ann’s. I knew that bringing G. along would be a test of compatibility, to see how he interacted with my closest friends in my new city.
Passed with flying colors, he did.
The little cantina sat just down the street from my Second Avenue apartment. G. and I ate at Mary Ann’s twice a week most weeks thereafter—sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I can chart the increase in visits to Mary Ann’s with a similar increase in my weight over the next couple years—the love pounds.
Like a Rock Star at Mary Ann’s
Light, Colorful Chips
We received rock-star treatment at Mary Ann’s. In New York, it’s not easy to become a “regular” at a bar or restaurant. Becoming a regular is more than just frequenting a place regularly; it is your frequency being acknowledged by the restaurant staff. Tip well, or being a regular will work against you.
Mary Ann’s on Second Avenue was always busy, but we got the nod from the host and were always seated quickly at one of the booths or at the round window table if we were more than four. I comment on our status as regulars, because without money in New York, you dine anonymously.
That took some getting used to after being in the restaurant biz for years in Milwaukee.
The Food and the Flan
As in most Mexican restaurants, chips and salsa land on your table instantly, buying the wait staff a few minutes (like giving Saltines to a waiting baby in a high chair). Mary Ann’s chips are light and colorful, mixed with a few orange and blue chips, good eye-appeal. The red, chunky salsa is just right.
My Favorite Margarita
In some restaurants, margaritas are made with too much Triple Sec and taste more sweet than tart. Some people like this—we don’t. Mary Ann’s margaritas, whether frozen or on the rocks, tasted perfect. We often would order a shot of Grand Marnier to share and top off each margarita. (Thank you, George, for that habit.)
Mary Ann’s served a vegetable flan side on Saturdays only. What was it about that flan? Perhaps its secret was the corny creaminess. Every time we ate at Mary Ann’s, we would ask the server if they had vegetable flan in the back. We always got the same answer: only Saturdays.
Our favorite entrées were Pollo Yucatan, a creamy chicken dish, and the Rustic Quesedilla, a whole wheat tortilla with vegetables and goat cheese. Often, we ordered one of the rotating chalkboard specials. Whatever the Special was, it was always smothered in cheese and sauce.
Over the Years
Mary Ann’s hasn’t changed much over the years. Our rock-star maître d’ left, and I learned that a frozen margarita has 900 calories.
G and I have lived near TriBeCa for seven years now and we have been a short walk from that location. But we always have somewhere else to go. Mary Ann’s represents a bygone era for us and we never consider going to our old haunt. As we prepare to leave New York, and we know every stop is a final stop, we decide a visit to Mary Ann’s is overdue.
The TriBeCa location seems spiffier than before. But the Mary Ann’s vibe remains. Our waitress suggested we do shots together. Where else would that happen?
The classic New Orleans Po-Boy sandwich comes down to two choices.
I know Johnny’s Po-Boy (511 St Louis St) is nearby and now is a good time to scratch the Po-Boy itch. Johnny’s advertises self-deprecatingly that “Even My Failures Are Edible.”
Johnny’s exudes homespun shabby. Red-checked oil cloths—with tiny red crabs silhouetted on intersecting lines—cover the tables. Bottles of ketchup and hot sauce stand on each table. Ordering at the counter, Gene picks the catfish Po-Boy and I choose shrimp, both “dressed” with lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickle.
Customers pour their own drinks from the soda fountain or from the sweetened or unsweetened Nestea ice tea dispensers. A man in a white apron calls out our order number within a minute or two.
Only a few tables are occupied: a dirty young man gorges at one table; a business man approaches his sandwich more methodically at another. An older couple sits facing the red-paned window at a table that blocks one of the doors. An Abita neon beer sign in the window advertises the local brew.
Customers start flowing in more rapidly; a line forms in front of the deli counter. I expect this pace is more typical and we were lucky to beat the rush.
Our sandwiches are crusty-white-bread good. Pieces of fried shrimp and shredded lettuce fall onto my plate but that seems like nature’s course. I can only eat half, but I eat the top slice of bread from the second half.
Tracey’s: The Local Po-Boy Fave
Center Stage: Fried Okra
We taxi with B. from the hotel to Tracey’s (2604 Magazine St) in the Irish Channel Neighborhood for a real Po-Boy. A car in front of us stops at a yellow light. Our cab driver swerves, then pulls up alongside the car and berates the driver. “You made me almost hit you!” Our cabbie repeats this over and over, expecting something from the errant driver, but I am not sure what.
B.says we landed the only angry cabbie in New Orleans.
Tracey’s is a musty barn with long wood picnic tables. T-shirts for sale hang around the big bar and metal signs are posted on every inch of wall space. Fancy umbrellas are suspended upside down from the ceiling.
B. explains Tracey’s owners used to own Parasol’s, located a couple blocks away. The landlord jacked up Parasols rent and Parasol’s lost their lease and the name with it. The owners packed up their paraphernalia, set up camp in the new nearby location and took Parasol’s customers with them. A Florida man bought the Paraso’ls lease and paid a pretty penny for the famous name.
Bryan and Gene have sloppy roast beef Po-Boy’s and I have the catfish Po-Boy. We share some deep fried okra. I can’t explain what is different from Johnny’s, the bread, maybe?
Tracey’s Po-Boys kick Johnny’s Po-Boy’s ass.
Decadence! A Flight On Vodka Airlines
The Russian Tea Room should be on everyone’s New York Bucket List
When we first walked in, we were stunned by the dramatic ruby studded lights and the eclectic artwork all over the walls. This is old, romantic Europe.
L. treated Gene and me to a birthday dinner worthy of a czar and czarina. We started with (what else?) vodka. From their cocktail list, I chose a Cosmonaut, a bilberry twist on the cliche Cosmopolitan; Gene had a Cavatini which included a generous dab of caviar on the side. L. chose from their extensive vodka list and was pleased to find a good vodka from Sweden, Purity. Purity, indeed!
2008 Cabernet with Elegant Label
Jane, the warm and friendly Sommelier, helped us choose wine and entertained us with stories of her gastronomic adventures from Australia to Florida to New York. Gene asked her if knew Columbo. She said, “Jean-Luc Columbo?” referring to the French wine producer. Gene said, “No, the crime-solving Columbo.”
Jane, as anyone might expect, said “I love Peter Falk!” Gene gave her a synopsis of one his favorite episodes, Any Port in a Storm, in which the criminal is revealed by his wine palate. Jane generously sold us her last bottle of a fine Cabernet from the Napa Valley, 2008 Cask, Rubicon Estates, Rutherford. I had a half bottle of 2010 Marie Antoinette, J.J. Vincent, Pouilly-Fuissé. Jane decanted the red to await our entrees.
Russian Tea Room Caviar, More than a Tasting
L. and Gene indulged in a caviar tasting comparison of Russian and Siberian Osetra. Our waiter, Erkan, gave us a short treatise on caviar and then returned to the table with the caviar on ice in two silver bowls with a mother-of-pearl spoon in each. (Never allow metal to touch the pearly beads, he warned.)
Dollhouse Pancakes: Blini, Warm & Fresh
The dramatic presentation began with a plate of miniature blinis, so round and cute, arranged in an artistic swirl and waved under our noses. The other accoutrements were sour cream, melted butter, chopped onion, chopped egg and parsley. (Erkan advised against using the parsley due to its strong flavor.) Erkan laid each tiny blini gently laid on our plates with tiny silver tongs, then baptized each with a single drop of melted butter, a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of egg and onion, and finally, the blessed black eggs.
We watched Erkan reenact this ritual sixteen times, glorious torture as we waited to be allowed to sample the finished product. Each one was perfection!
I ordered the Russian Tea Room’s signature dish, the Chicken Kiev, stuffed with herb butter, on top of jasmine rice and cherry sauce on the side. Erkan made the first cut for me so the herb butter would not squirt indelicately out.
Gene opted for the Kobe Beef and Grass-Fed Beef duo and L went for the traditional Beef Strogonoff. Both were beefy heaven.
We read the dessert menu and the will was there but capacity was not. However, Erkan brought a small plate of dark chocolate truffles. We had no problem eating these, a perfect finish. We had to leave a little wine in the decanter, because it was definitely time to go home and return to the real world.
Milwaukee has a surprising number of casual, but chic places to eat in the Historic Third Ward and the East Side of town. Cafe Hollander and Comet Cafe are among my favorites.
Looking for a casual dinner on our first night in Milwaukee, Gene and I head to familiar territory, Café Hollander (2608 N Downer Ave). We share a pound of Wittekerke Ale Mussels with whole grain mustard and onions and cream. Gene has Ahi tuna with a wasabi sauce and sweet potato hash. I order a portabello mushroom sandwich with roasted red peppers and chipotle mayo.
Cafe Hollander is know for its beers; we must come back when we have no morning obligations. I agree with this recent review of Café Hollander, the perfect place for summer dining.
Beer Menu at Comet Cafe
I meet Gene outside Comet Café (1947 N Farwell Ave). He is holding his Bulls Eye Records (1627 E Irving Pl) haul in a cardboard box. Uh-oh, I guess Gene bought a few albums. He takes the box back to get his goods shipped to New York (only five bucks!). Comet Cafe is a regular Milwaukee haunt for more than its proximity to Bulls Eye. Comet manages to be old-school and new-school, vegan-friendly and comfort-calorie-friendly all at once.
Flash storms crackle through the heat with lightning and buckets of rain. No rain in months I’m told, and the dry yellow grass confirms it. Comet has a short wait–odd for a weekday afternoon, but people are looking for dry comfort this afternoon.
We sit at the fifties-style counter. I love the draught beers listed on individual cards in sleeves mixed in with classic baseball cards. I order a grilled Buffalo chicken sandwich (hold the Buffalo!). Gene goes for Ahi Tuna again, this time in sandwich form. Food is slow, and not especially great, the first time Comet has let us down.
Benelux Grand Cafe
Tara, Tammy, Kate and Eden
We plan to meet Tammy who has flown in from Virginia; Eden who has driven in from Iron Mountain, Michigan; and Tara who has traveled here from New Zealand via Green Bay. We are meeting up at the Wicked Hop (345 N Broadway).
We wait for the elevator in the Milwaukee Athletic Club. The elevator door opens and Tammy pops out in a long black-and-white striped jersey dress. She is with a guy she introduces as her old friend Joe. The Wicked Hop rendezvous has moved to the Milwaukee Athletic Club rooftop, just a dozen steps above our room, the “Lakeview Suite.” (I keep looking out the window, but I don’t see the lake.)
Eden and Tara arrive within minutes of each other and Tammy screams greetings across the roof deck. We drink a glass of wine or two, then we leave to get dinner at Benelux Grand Café (346 N Broadway) a few blocks away, across from the Wicked Hop. We wait for a table on the patio rooftop.
Gene and I share a crab and lobster salad appetizer that is too salty and spicy for me. Gene and Eden swear by the long flat fries called pannenkoeken chips, which I suspect is another word for doughnuts, so I don’t touch them. My rocket salad with apples, almonds, honey-lavender vinaigrette and salmon rocks and I eat every scrap of greenery on my plate.
Benelux and Cafe Hollander are both Lowlands Group restaurants and the similarities are clear. However, I prefer Cafe Hollander; they don’t seem to be trying so hard to be cool and the food, even with multiple common menu items, is just better.
Wicked Hop Brunch
Our Room at the MAC
Today we will make it to Wicked Hop finally. Brunch at 11:00– no, 11:30. We sit on the second level, looking down on the main room across the iron rail. Tara and Tammy order Bloody Marys. Wicked Hop’s standard Bloody comes with a Slim-Jim stick and Silly String bouquet of string cheese. The concoction is served with the de rigueur beer chasers.
I order the waffles because I am just a waffle girl. But this waffle is thin and sad, not even close to the fluffy Belgian served at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Gene has corned beef hash with Hollandaise Sauce. Double whammy. Add a side of brat patties and you may have the most decadent brunch meal in Milwaukee.
Tammy asks for a glass of ice, then slides me a bottle of her own vodka: a basil, grapefruit concoction she made in her hotel room.
Not bad, though I didn’t plan on any alcohol this morning. I will have to ask her to send me the recipe. I put the rest in my purse. The Wicked Hop is okay, but came so oversold to us it was destined to disappoint.
Starting in 1993, a restaurant empire sprouts up across Milwaukee
Yes, I’m talking about the Bartolottas.
Some restauranteurs open additional locations; it’s much more difficult to open different, successful restaurants. Gene and I hit two of the Bartolotta’s places, Bacchus (925 E Wells St) and The Rumpus Room (1030 N Water St) during our recent visit to Milwaukee.
We tried to go to Bartolotta’s newest fine dining restaurant. Gene makes reservations at Harbor House (550 N Harbor Dr), the former Pieces of Eight, for 6pm. Pieces of Eight used to be one of the most talked about restaurants in Milwaukee. However, everyone said the same thing: go for the drinks, go for the view, but skip the food. I managed to skip the entire experience. But now the Bartolotta’s have added good food to the mix, according to my local Bartolotta expert.
Bad news—the restaurant calls us almost immediately and asks us to move the reservation later because they had a power outage. Not a good sign for tonight, Gene suggests.
We cancel and rebook at another Bartolotta restaurant, Bacchus, where we’ve eaten at least twice before and were never disappointed.
We go directly to the restaurant in the Cudahy Tower, the former Fleur di Lis and the former Boulevard Inn. The wood walls and Victorian furniture in the building entrance feels like stepping back to a more elegant time. Old phone booths are now designated “cell phone talking booths.”
The waiter brings me a non-alcoholic pineapply drink in a martini glass, a good pretend drink. Gene orders a Manhattan and discovers there is a reason the drink is called a “Manhattan” because many bars outside Manhattan can’t make a good Manhattan. Hint: no olives.
We share appetizers: scallops with porcini gnocchi and escargot baked in phyllo. We split a Maine Lobster dish in a corn succotash (good, but a little salty). We finish with a five cheese plate. Forgot to mention the amazing fruit-and-nut bread. The serving-partner system works well; our guys are spot-on. We have $100 in Bartolotta Rewards, so our bill is only $35, but we leave an extra generous tip.
The Rumpus Room
On Saturday, Tammy suggests we go to “Omar’s Place.” Omar, she says, managed The Safe House for 20 years. Omar’s Place is really called The Rumpus Room in the old Eagan’s.
The Rumpus Room has atmosphere in spades. I want my home to feel like The Rumpus Room. Dark purple walls, brushed silver tin ceilings, old-time black clocks, muted chandeliers and sconces. Gene orders a Manhattan and this one is perfect, strained into one of the classic short, round glasses. I order a Hemingway Daiquiri and it comes in the same glass.
The bar keeps its fruit in jelly jars and their syrups are in small coke bottles sitting in a wooden box. The bartender has frizzy hair pulled back in a small tight knot. He has khaki pants that are tight everywhere but the butt. Not attractive, but somehow he pulls it off.
Gene and I are done, even though it is early. The food and drink I’ve consumed has expanded and I feel like Violet Beauregard. I will feel like a helium filled blueberry until Sunday morning.
The Bartolotta’s are taking over the city. But that seems to be a pattern in cites lately, just like celebrity chefs Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio have created New York empires. Other Bartolotta properties are: Lake Front Bistro, Ristorante Bartolotta, and Mr B’s Steakhouse.
Visit Bar 89 in SoHo for gourmet comfort food, martinis filled to the brim and restrooms that test your trust in technology.
No one just stumbles upon the subtle facade of this chic-but-not-too-chic bar. Bar 89 (89 Mercer St.) is one of those special bars that seem like a local secret whether it really is or not. Bar 89 is one of the best, if not THE best, place to bring friends or family from out of town. That’s right, this gem is fun enough for friends, but safe enough for family.
The bar’s clean, modern decor has changed in a startling way. I walked in early Friday night and had to take a step back. The pink graffiti splash of wall art made it seem like the usually monochromatic gray bar got, well, hit by graffiti. The explosion of color is the opposite of Bar 89′s look.
After my eyes adjusted, I decided it was cool.
Art installations at Bar 89 are just that—temporary installations. “Bar 89″ makes a fast costume change and becomes “Gallery 89.” The bartender Ryan said customers are reacting so well to this show that the management plans to keep it up for awhile.
For more details on the art installation, check out the Gallery 89 page.
Bar 89′s Humble Origins
I order a watermelon martini because it matched the room.
The menu is simple: burgers, salads and desserts. The appetizers are standard fare (nachos and wings and such). The burgers are as big as frisbees. Keep your napkin close by because the butter from the bun will be dribbling down your chin.
If the menu feels midwestern, that’s because it is. The seed which grew into Bar 89 came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the offspring of Elsa’s 0n the Park, (833 E Jefferson). Elsa’s was ahead of its time in the early 1980s and remains hot today. The martinis, the burgers and the rotating art installation concepts all came out of Milwaukee.
To add to Bar 89′s humble roots, you need to know that Elsa’s itself was born from even humbler roots. Karl Kopp, who owns Kopps’ Frozen Custard in Milwaukee opened Elsa’s, named after his mother.
The wholly New York twist are the restrooms. When you bring your guests, make sure EVERYONE USES THE BATHROOM. I won’t say why, you’ll just know.
−“Americans consume 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks.” – The Mayor’s Task Force on Obesity
The fun begins.
The New York City Board of Health unanimously approved the restriction on the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces this week. Now the proposal enters the official 90-day public comment period.
The public commenting began the minute Mayor Bloomberg popped the top on the issue. New Yorkers will continue to hear a cacophony of hysterical disagreement for the next three months.
Predictably, the public is screaming they can’t be told how much soda they are allowed to drink. They also are pointing their fingers at other fattening foods, trying to make Bloomberg’s action against one culprit appear illogical. How can soda servings be limited if milkshakes can flow freely?
First, Bloomberg is not restricting how much soda anyone can drink. People are willfully misinterpreting the gist of the proposal. The proposal only limits the size of a single serving of soda. Why does size matter so much when consumers can purchase a second serving (or a third)?
Because Americans have grown up defining a serving—not as a fixed amount—but as the amount put in front of them. Who hasn’t been secretly pleased when a larger portion than expected appears? I have, I won’t deny it.
When birthday cake was cut, I hoped I would be served the piece with the blue frosting flower, but I would never ASK for that piece, especially when others were asking for “just a sliver.” When the skinny girls at work cut the Crumbs cupcakes in half, I took a half but I really wanted a whole.
Consumers want to drink 20 ounces of soda, but they won’t buy two sodas because that is piggish. But if a vat of soda is put on their tray, they are happy because they bear no responsibility for their overindulgence. Refusing to acknowledge true serving sizes is the underlying principle of People’s Argument #1.
Punishing One for the Sins of All
Argument #2: NYC cannot fairly limit serving sizes of one item while allowing unlimited sizes of other fattening food and drink. The issue isn’t fairness; it’s fatness. Bloomberg’s proposal limits the serving size of the biggest villain: the empty calories of liquid sugar.
Argument #2 works for the folks who are smugly amused by people washing down a hamburger and French fries with a Diet Coke. They believe there is no point in the Diet Coke.
There is a point—150 of them (or 243, if you’re talking a 20-ouncer).
If you shave 150 calories from your lunch or dinner five times a week, you’ve racked up a 750 calorie savings. That’s 39,000 calories a year. That Diet Coke drinker would be 11 pounds heavier at the end of the year if he substituted “sugar lava” on top of the greasy meal.
Restaurants and beverage suppliers are going to put up a big battle against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal. The coming fight doesn’t surprise me considering the large profit margins at stake.
Now the fight is between the government who wants us healthier to save costs and the businesses who want to profit from our weaknesses. Ultimately, this issue, like every issue, comes down to money.
On a whim, we stopped at Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. I faced a mandated clear-liquid diet the next day and what better way to consume two days worth of calories in one? Curveballs (like someone else’s rules) tend to make me throw my own rules out the window.
Tucked away in Brooklyn for 50 years, Junior’s Restaurant expanded into tourist venues over the last decade. First, they opened an outlet in Grand Central Station in 2000. Now Junior’s has restaurants in Times Square and in Connecticut at MGM Foxwoods. But nothing beats the experience of going to Flatbush and DeKalb and eating at the original, throwback-in-time Junior’s.
New Yorkers know Junior’s famous cheesecake (thanks to QVC, so does the whole nation), but the real star dishes at Junior’s are their Egg Creams, their French Toast and their Blintzes. Their Corned Beef Hash, Pastrami and Brisket are pure comfort.
The Staff & Patrons
The wait staff exudes an aura of permanence; you can bet most have toiled there for decades. Maybe they are like The Shining wait staff; they never leave the premises. Working at Junior’s is a career, not a stop-gap. That is comforting—I don’t know why.
A larger percentage of the morbidly obese are inside Junior’s rather than outside Junior’s. The chubby know where to find the bad-for-you-comfort food. Don’t eat at Junior’s too often or you will become like fat guests at the Overlook hotel.
Breaking the Rules
Though I was craving waffles, I ordered French Toast. The French Toast seemed to be coated in corn meal and deep fried. I haven’t touched anything deep-fried in a long time, but today, no rule was going to stop me. The French Toast is served with an apple-raisin mixture that I ignored and a ramekin of clear yellow liquid that may or may not be butter.
Gene ordered Corned Beef Hash and Eggs with an Egg Cream. We approached the meal as if we were never going to get the chance to eat this food again. Six years since we have been in Brooklyn, and not tempted by the Junior’s outlets, we may NOT get the chance again.
That doesn’t legitimize a pig-out, but at the time, my reasoning felt sound.
In my former life, my Junior’s tradition was to convince my companions to order an entrée apiece and then order Cheese Blintzes for the middle of the table. That strategy works better for four people, rather than just two of us. But being down two dining companions did not stop us from maintaining the Blintz tradition.
After deep-fried French Toast and a deep-fried Blintz, we—believe it or not—we took a piece of Cheesecake and a piece of Red Velvet Cake home for later. Later, that night, full of cheesecake and a bit of a bellyache, I had no regrets.