Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vintage New York Presents: The Great Joints of New York City

Big Nick's Burger Joint is a great place for some casual dining in New York City.
By Mitch Broder

You can always get out of a joint — unless, of course, it's the joint.

But you can't always find a Joint, unless you bone up on your Joints.

New York just got its latest Joint, Sticky's Finger Joint, which is a great joint if you happen to like Joints that have fingers. But in its Jointhood, it is a rarity: New York is not crawling with Joints. It has little more than a handful, and they're not exactly hip joints.

Here, nonetheless, is a gallery of Manhattan's best-known Joints. I won't be surprised if I've missed a couple. Joints are just the sort of thing you blow.

Maybe you'd rather Big Nick's Pizza Joint to get a taste of traditional New York City Pizza

Above is Big Nick's Pizza Joint, which is to the left of Big Nick's Burger Joint, which is shown at the top. The joints are on Broadway near 77th Street. I took these pictures on February 22nd, the day that Big Nick celebrated his golden anniversary by selling burgers for sixty cents. The enormous lines alarmed passersby.

Big Nick's Burger Joint & Pizza Joint Too combines the best of dining in New York City, but is no longer owned by Big Nick.

While Big Nick also founded Big Nick's Burger Joint & Pizza Joint Too, he no longer owns it, though it still acts as if he does. It's on 71st Street at Columbus Avenue. When I took this picture, its burgers were $6.75, and there were no lines.

Paul's Da Burger Joint is another great place for casual Dining in New York

Paul's Da Burger Joint, on Second Avenue near St. Mark's Place, has long claimed to have the best burger in the city. Either way, it has one of the best fake burgers in the city, and it's next to Gem Spa, which has long claimed to have the best egg cream in the city.

Joint hunters shouldn't miss the Burger Joint which is a place for dining in New York that is tucked behind Le Parker Meridien

Behind a great curtain at Le Parker Meridien is the somewhat secret Burger Joint, whose only signage is a neon burger and the jaunty poster you see here. The hotel is fancy; the joint is a dump. That's the irony. Find it on 56th Street between Sixth and Seventh.

Vegetarian joint lovers will have one less joint to frequent as Kate's Joint has now closed down

Clearly, joints are for meat, except in the case of Kate's — which may be why her joint, on Avenue B at Fourth Street, shut down last week. Kate Halpern's "vegetarian diner" sold things like Buffalo Unchicken Wings and the Not Reuben Sandwich. At the end, Kate was thinking of adding some meat. Maybe she just should have changed the name.

Sticky's Finger Joint is casual New York City dining at it's finest

Tell me if you know of another Joint. Just don't get yourself out of joint.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New in New York: It's Time to Take a Dip at Sticky's Finger Joint

The New in New York Sticky's Finger Joint

By Mitch Broder

I believe that Paul gave me his candy fries to shut me up.

If nothing else, the guy knows how to work his crowd.

But he does know something else: He knows how to perk up a finger. This explains why he has opened a place called Sticky’s Finger Joint.

Casual dining in New York will never be the same with Sticky Finger's like these.
These are my fingers. Above, the guy standing up is Paul.
It’s as good an explanation as any, and I didn’t press him because he was busy and because his candy fries really did grab most of my attention. They were the Okinawa Purple Sweet Potatoes Drizzled with Honey and Glitterbanged with Pecan Coconut Glitter. Per his plan, they made me less inclined to ask anything.

What's a good chicken finger without fries and this New in New York establishment has some tasty fries.
Paul Abrahamian has taken his potatoes and his chicken, not to mention his chocolate-chip sauce, and created an all-finger restaurant. Actually, he created a sign. The store took months to open. I’d have gotten the details if I hadn’t been preoccupied with his Creamy Pineapple Mint Slaw.

Paul is just a guy who can’t sit still, at least not while he’s trying to get his fingers in your face. So he made me a tantalizing lunch, sat with me briefly, gave me a fist knock, and disappeared into the kitchen, secure that his chicken would speak for itself.

It was eloquent. I had The Wasabi Finger, crunchy with zesty panko. It made me weep, though that was because I can’t tolerate wasabi. I had The Southern Finger, crunchy with fried-chicken batter. It had a buttermilk-ranch dressing described as “secret,” which I know means “healthful.” I had The Lemon Lime Candied Rind Finger, which was grilled and thus not crunchy, but candied enough so that I didn’t notice.

Step right up to the menu and begin dining in New York at this New in New York chicken finger restaurant
Along with these, I had the fries, the tastiest I can remember, and the pineapple slaw, which confirmed that what other slaws are missing is pineapple. I also had the Strawberry Slurp, which tasted like strawberries and yet didn’t clash with the lemon, the lime, the honey, or the pecan coconut glitter.

It was an unlikely meal, yet not as unlikely as it might have been. For one thing, I didn’t try the chocolate-chip barbecue sauce. And alternate fingers include The Pecoconut, The General Sticky Tso, The Salted Caramel Finger, The Pepperjack Flauta Finger, and The Buffalo Balsamic Maple Finger.

You get three of most fingers for $9, and three make a meal, particularly when you add a side order and a drink for $5. Other side orders include the Green Bean Fries and the Idaho Truffle Fries, which are “Glitterbanged With Lemon Pepper Glitter.” Sticky’s introduced me to glitterbanging.

Sticky Finger's Joint Robot mascotPaul was undoubtedly up to his hips in glitter, but he gave me the Sticky’s Finger Joint backstory thumbnail. He calls himself a “serial entrepreneur.” His last hit was a tech start-up in China. “Things weren’t working out so well, so I turned to my love of food,” he said. “I looked at the market and saw that there really wasn’t an option for fast-casual chicken.”

New in New York the restaurant may be, but this is the Sticky's Finger Joint vintage TV.You could argue that point, especially since there’s already a finger chain called Raising Cane’s. But it’s not in New York, and it wouldn’t recognize glitter if it got banged with it. Paul teamed up with Jonathan Sherman, whose father had worked for the Bojangles’ chicken chain, to build what he hopes will be a chicken chain for the cheeky.

Bojangles, of course, was a dancer. Sticky is a robot. The other thing Paul has a love of, besides food, is robots. So Sticky became the symbol of Sticky’s, and robot retro rules. On the counter is a red Panasonic TV that broadcasts snow.

Sticky’s isn’t exactly a comfy place. It’s set up mostly for take-out, its few seats are metal, and its few tables are down at your knees. But people still party there, because furniture doesn’t matter when you’re with friends and you’ve got the latest food. And half of it tastes like dessert.

Do some dining in New York at Sticky Fingers Joint.

Get stuck on Sticky’s Finger Joint, 31 West Eighth Street, at MacDougal Street, in New York City.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Old New York: Easter Parade Tips Its Hat to Vintage New York

Everyone gets into the spirit at the Old New York tradition of the Easter Parade
By Mitch Broder

Vintage New York was launched last year on Easter Sunday, and this year on Easter Sunday New York City celebrated.

It was celebrating Easter, actually. But it was still on my anniversary. So thank you, New York. I bet I can count on you next year, too.

It's a good bet, because the Easter Parade has been running for a century and a half, since it began as a casual stroll on Broadway south of Canal Street. It has evolved from a pageant of finery to a display of funny hats. But it's still the best parade in the city because you get to see it without homesteading.

For most of its life, of course, the parade has been on Fifth Avenue, which it still overruns each year, from 49th Street to the park. It's really less a parade than a tangle of the people who didn't get around to making funny hats taking pictures of the people who did.

On Sunday, Vintage New York was among the former. Here's what we saw before we OD'd on fake flowers.

Flowers abound on these Easter Parade bonnets

I saw a Michael Jackson hat, a God Save the Queen hat, and a Titanic hat with chickies and bunnies on deck. But I prefer the ones that stick more purely to springtime themes. That's why I liked these flower hats and the above watering-can hats. I asked the gentlemen if I could photograph their cans and they obligingly turned around.

Young and old alike strap on their Easter hats for this Old New York tradition

These girls were getting worn down by the weight of their egg heads. This was about as close as they could get to a smile.

Concept hats are all the rage at the Easter Parade in New York City

The first boy's hat is a bridge (those are cars on it); the second boy's is a BMX track. Their sister took the traditionalist route.

This New York City Easter Parade hat adorned with peeps looks so good we could eat it

Everybody knows that Peeps are yellow. I believe that those other colors were made expressly for this hat.

Old in New York the Easter Parade may be, but some of the costumes are truly out of this world

This guy claimed that he was the iBunny. Either way, he was a mobile device.

Some people have better head control then we do when they put these Easter bonnets on their head to celebrate the Old New York tradition of the Easter Parade

That's a woman under there. The beige appendage at the center of the photo is one of her arms holding up the hat. She confirmed that it was heavy.

Easter bonnets come in all shapes and sizes for the Old New York tradition of the Easter Parade

This young lady opted for one big bloom. It appeared to be a more comfortable choice.

Never underestimate the power of tradition at the Old New York tradition of the Easter Parade

These people are regulars. They evoke the original look of the parade. I asked the guy for his morning suit but he turned me down.

Nothing says Easter like a hat full of flowers

Vintage New York will keep on cheeping and try not to lay an egg.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New in New York: At Hello Deli, Rupert's Finally Got the Goods

Hello Deli is not New in New York, but Rupert as a tshirt and hat salesman is

By Mitch Broder

The best way to meet a beloved late-night TV star is to ambush him while he’s selling a cup of meatball-and-spinach soup.

But then, this is intuitive to New York City tourists, who meet such a star every day by bounding into his delicatessen.
Tourists in New York City pose with this Old New York deli owner.

The star, of course, is Rupert Jee, who, against Mega Millions odds, became a household name in comedy while running a sandwich shop. He took over the shop, Hello Deli, in 1992. The next year, “Late Show with David Letterman” moved into his building and drafted him.

He has since made dozens of improbable appearances on the show, while, with his deli partner, May Chin, remaining a humble proprietor. And lately, along with the air time, he has been entrusted by his network with the “Late Show with David Letterman” souvenir-stuff stand.

Meatball-and-spinach soup has given way to tshirts and hats at this New in New York souvenier shop for Rupert Jee
The stuff used to be sold at the nearby CBS Store, but CBS closed the store, which has become a meat-pie shop. The network offered the “Late Show” merchandise to the likeliest neighbor. So now Rupert has T-shirts, caps, and mugs where his soda fridges used to be.

The stuff attracts more business, which means it attracts more fans. People sweep in all day and greet Rupert as if he’s their best friend. They tell him what they’ve seen in New York and then make him pose for pictures. It’s a wonder he has time to make sandwiches, let alone meatball-and-spinach soup.

The Hello Deli has now become the defacto gift shop for the Late Show with David Letterman“It’s almost like a broken record,” he acknowledged. “They ask the same redundant questions. ‘Do you hang with Dave?’ ‘How long have you been on the show?’ ‘What are your favorite moments?’ ‘What’s Dave like?’” He had just finished acknowledging this when a woman from Toronto swept in and said: “Can I take a picture of you, famous man?” She wasn’t talking to me.

Fortunately for everyone, Rupert’s the picture of composure. He is every bit as accommodating as he seems on TV.  He appears to have limitless patience, unless it’s just resignation. When you meet a celebrity, you dream that he’ll treat you the way Rupert does.

One would never guess that the Hello Deli would be a staple of comedy in America, but this New York city staple is now truly famous.He is nice because he’s doing what he really wants to do, which is to run a delicatessen, not to be a TV star. And he’s nice because being a TV star turned out to be fun anyway, and he recognizes that such fun comes with a measure of compromise.

The fun began soon after “Late Show” premiered in August of ’93, when Dave decided to introduce the nation to some of his neighbors. “I was just too scared to be in front of an audience, so I told the writers not to come in,” Rupert recalled. “Of course, they went against my wishes.

“Six weeks into the show, they brought the cameras in without any warning. Dave interviewed me here first, and then he said: ‘I want to do something special for you, something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.’ So he brought me onstage for a standing ovation. An undeserved standing ovation.”

Or maybe not. Rupert’s good nature made him the perfect character to execute some of the show’s more perilous comedy concepts. In one famous piece, Dave sent him out as a dimwitted waiter and fed him lines designed to drive diners to profanity — which they did.

Rupert Jee of the Hello Deli embraces his stardom at the New In New York souvenier shop
Though he’s on the show a little less often, his fame is undiminished. “But I’ve always carried a simple philosophy in life,” he told me. “If something happens to you, you don’t take it for granted. If people come in every day for pictures and autographs, you just remind yourself that it could have been a lot worse.”

In fact, sometimes he’s on the show even when he’s not on it, which turns out to be every bit as good for business.

“Dave said on the show that if you come in to Hello Deli to purchase ‘Late Show’ merchandise, it’ll smell like salami,” Rupert explained. “Whatever he says sells. That’s the power of television. He called this place a dump one day and, needless to say, the next day the place went crazy. They came to see the dump.”

A sandwich and a tshirt please, at the Hello Deli, deli and tshirt stand.

Get a snack from a star at Hello Deli, 213 West 53rd Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, in New York City.