Adventures in Chow City: The First Decade

27 Mar

This past January, our group celebrated ten years of traveling New York City’s environs searching for mostly unheralded, inexpensive, usually ethnic eating establishments. To honor this very important anniversary, we hoped to gather at a place somewhat representative of the restaurants we had been visiting the past decade. We were looking for something maybe slightly more broadly appealing than a place where cow foot soup and goat belly were the signature dishes. And since this was supposed to be a special occasion, we also decided to invite spouses, partners, significant others; anyone our members wanted to bring along.

Gerry recommended an old time Italian place in Mount Vernon, just over the Bronx border, called the Lincoln Lounge. From his description; “good pizza—old school, family-style Italian in a run down neighborhood with a full bar,” the Lincoln Lounge sounded exactly what we were looking for.

It took numerous group emails to nail down a date when all could attend. And then things happened. A wife dropped out due to family obligations; a girlfriend couldn’t come because of a conflict until we got an email from Rick saying “Sounds like its turning stag. Should we just commit to no wimmin?”

We never did commit to it, but as it turned out, no “wimmin” were in attendance.

And on the appointed day, neither was Rick; a family emergency denying him our celebration.

To make up for the loss of Rick, we were graced with the presence of original member, Charlie, who left us in 2005 for the greener pastures of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.

It was a Friday night and the Lincoln Lounge was mobbed with large groups; the small bar two deep with “regulars,” including one uniformed policeman who ate at the bar with his bullet-proof vest on and gun holstered around his waist.

No room at the Lincoln Lounge bar.

After we were seated; cramped in a corner, we quickly ordered a sausage pizza and here the Lincoln Lounge did not disappoint. With its thin crust, sauce bursting with flavor, nicely charred crust topped with fresh sausage; the pie, as it turned out was the highlight of the meal.

Lincoln Lounge’s excellent pie.

The antipasto salad, a bowl of greens topped with provolone, sopressata, and olives and doused in a vinegary dressing was passable while the steamed clams in white wine and garlic, standard and more than acceptable.

The calamari pasta, however, along with the shrimp scampi were disappointments. Apparently, when the dishes at the Lincoln Lounge are advertised as family style, they don’t mean our gluttonous family.

The shrimp, of which here they most definitely count, were barely enough for each of us to get a taste. As it turned out, a taste was more than enough.

The modest amount of spaghetti adorned with a light tomato broth and tiny pieces of calamari was devoid of flavor.

Calamari compromised

Zio shook his head as he gazed at the miniature calamari.  “I like big fat calamari rings,” he said. “Not these little ones.”

“Was it really worth slaughtering baby squid for this?” I questioned indicating the “family-sized” platter.

“Yeah, it’s inhumane,” Gerry said as he speared one with his fork.

Thankfully, the pork chops with peppers and onions were good enough to almost redeem the travesty that was the squid and shrimp.

Pork chops with vinegar peppers and onions

While we cleaned our plates, Eugene began to, once again, muse on a trip to a Caribbean all-inclusive he was soon to embark on. “You know what I like to do,” he swooned. “Eat a big breakfast, stay at the beach until two, take a nap, and then eat dinner. You never have to leave the hotel.”

Trying desperately to divert the conversation back to why we were at the Lincoln Lounge, I was curious about our group’s memories of the past ten years.

“Remember the bean dessert,” Eugene barked out. “At the Filipino place in Queens. The worst!”

“Yeah and the cheap Polish place in Greenpoint,” Zio added. “I went back once.”

“What about that one in Chinatown. The place with fish stomach and goose feet,” Mike from Yonkers reminisced.

“Sheesh, that was inedible,” Eugene spat. “Even Gerry had a hard time eating it.”

And from there they all came back. The highlights and a few lowlights of our ten years.

Chow City’s Top Ten Moments (Good and Bad)

Presented in chronological order:

  1. Eugene’s bean drink revulsion The Beans of Halo Halo
  2. Cherriolies and Kvass Kvass and Vodka  
  3. Pan fried chicken and old school soul   Across 125th Street
  4. Eating ribs in a South Bronx backyard junkyard Southern (Bronx) BBQ
  5. Traversing mountains of snow to get to the great Tandoori Hut. Dining With Sikhs

    Tandoori Hut

  6. The rending padang at Upi Jaya  Spice Tsunami
  7. An after dinner espresso served on my lap. The Un American African Place
  8. Broccoli rabe pizza, the choice meal of strippers. Bronx Broccoli Rabe From a Brother From Corona

    Bronx broccoli rabe

  9. Fuzhou fish stomach and goose feet. F(e)asting on Fuzhou Style Fish Stomach
  10. Zio’s upper body massage apres fufu and four fingers. The Bistro that Serves Fufu and Four Fingers

And let us not forget those who are no longer with us.

R.I.P

La Fonda Boricua

LeWoro Dou Gou

La Pollada de Laura

Southbound Bar-B-Que

M&G Diner

Bay Shish Kebab

Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Brew

Malaysian Rasa Sayang

Zabb Queens

Florence’s Restaurant

Yamakaze

Spicy Mina

World of Taste Seafood and Deli

Treichville

M&G Diner circa 2010

One Response to “Adventures in Chow City: The First Decade”

  1. Paul March 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Congrats on 10 years of steadfast service in ferreting out the unheralded, unheard of eateries of New York. You and the guys have done yoeman work. Keep it up!

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