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The Caffeine Chronicles: Twin Donut (Plus)

6 Feb

Twin Donut


Early on, when I first started this site, I wrote a paean titled La Pavoni Love Call to an old espresso maker I had that was called La Pavoni. That espresso maker sputtered out its last brew soon after I wrote the piece and was replaced by another La Pavoni, this one very efficient, but just not as vocal.  Since then I’ve neglected my espresso and coffee love on this site until recently when I posted Rooftop Iced Coffee. I hope now to include coffee into the Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries repertoire under this newly formed category, The Caffeine Chronicles beginning here with a photo salute to one of the few remaining Twin Donut spots in New York.

Does "Plus" mean that fresh made soups and oatmeal are available along with coffee and donuts? I didn't ask.

Does “Plus” mean that fresh made soups and oatmeal are available along with coffee and donuts? I didn’t ask.

Now that's a counter where a person can really enjoy coffee and a donut.

Now that’s a counter where a person can really enjoy coffee and a doughnut.

Twin Donut

I’m not sure that the coffee at Twin Donut was the “world’s best.”

Twin Donut

But any caffeine deficiencies were easily overcome by the addition of the vanilla marble doughnut that accompanied the coffee.


Twin Donut Plus
5099 Broadway
New York



Hawkeye, Fonzie, and The Coach Eat at Margie’s

29 Jan


The door opened and, as if someone gave him a swift kick to the buttocks, Zio stumbled into Margie’s Red Rose Diner. Koko, the restaurant’s proprietor, jumped back in shock as Zio’s rotund frame almost fell on top of her. It took a moment for Zio to right himself from his Kramer-like entrance, but longer for Koko’s heart to stop racing from what could have been a very ugly and most likely painful experience if indeed, the heavy load that is Zio did knock her over.

It was a cold, snowy evening and maybe that was the reason for Zio’s misstep. Or it could be just his over-eagerness to finally eat at Margie’s Red Rose Diner. Either way, no damage had been done and Gerry, Zio and I had our pick of any table or seat at the counter we wanted. The restaurant was empty.

Once Koko’s heart settled, she gracefully assumed her role as both hostess and chef of the family-run Margie’s. The restaurant’s namesake, Margie, was Koko’s mother who ran the restaurant for over thirty years before her passing in 2009. After closing to reassess and remodel, Koko and her husband, known as “Poppa,” now run the small Harlem soul food spot continuing in the same, down home tradition Margie fostered.

Margie back in the day.

Margie back in the day.

We looked at the menu which featured “breakfast all day,” but it was dinner time and though sage sausage, fish and grits, banana pancakes, and salmon croquettes were very tempting, we stuck to the “PM” side of the menu.

When asked what he was going to order, Gerry, who was intently perusing the dinner options, mentioned either the turkey wings or the smothered pork chops.

“I really want those smothered pork chops,” Zio announced, making sure he staked his claim on them. And then feeling somewhat guilty for preempting Gerry, added; “it’s okay if we both get it, isn’t it? There are no rules tonight, are there?”

We weren’t on a Chow City assignment. There were no rules.

But Koko, who stood over us as we were deciding, helped settle any possible conflicts. “It’s all family style here. Everyone shares.”

That made it easy. Gerry went with the turkey wings, Zio the smothered pork chops and now it was up to me to decide between the porgies or whiting.

“It’s really whiting?” Zio inquired suspiciously. “It’s not tilapia posing as whiting?”

Koko glared at him. “No, we don’t do like they do downtown.”

That made it easy. I ordered the fried whiting with collard greens and baked macaroni along with a delicacy for me: toasted, buttered white bread.

“I’m gonna do one dish at a time ‘cause everything here is made to order,” Koko told us. “Since you ordered first,” she said, indicating Zio, “I’ll start with the pork chops. You all right with that?”

Even if we had a choice in the matter, we were more than all right with that.

Red roses were everywhere at Margie's.

Red roses were everywhere at Margie’s.

While we waited for the smothered pork chops, to arrive, the television above our table was on to the evening news. The lead story was a report on an epidemic attack of the norovirus, also known as the stomach flu that was sweeping across the United States. While we listened to hysterical warnings of projectile vomiting and extreme diarrhea, as if on cue, the pork chops, fried and then literally smothered in a dark brown gravy arrived. Despite the unappetizing news, we vigorously devoured the tender chops.

Smothered pork chops, candied yams, collard greens.

Smothered pork chops, candied yams, collard greens.

Next to arrive were the turkey wings, the meat falling off the bone, and smothe in the same gravy used for the pork chops. On a cold, snowy night, no one was complaining about too much gravy. The fried whiting completed our family-style trio and received high praise from all for how delicately they were fried. “This is definitely not tilapia,” Zio confirmed rapturously.

Fried whiting, baked macaroni, collard greens and buttered white toast.

Fried whiting, baked macaroni, collard greens and buttered white toast.

“Where you from,” Koko asked as she came over to check on us.

“125th Street,” I told her.

“You come all that way just to eat here,” she said. “That’s sweet of you.”

I thought for a moment. “It’s not like I came from Cleveland.”

“Are you in radio? You have a radio voice,” she asked me.

“I usually mumble,” I told her, “but when I order food I use my deep, clear disc jockey voice to make sure there is no confusion

She laughed and turned to Gerry. “You know, you look like Henry Winkler.”

“The Fonz,” Zio snickered.

Gerry posing as Arthur Fonzarelli

Gerry posing as Arthur Fonzarelli

“And you…” she stared at me. “Hey, Poppa, remember that show ‘Coach,’ what was the name of the coach?”

Poppa came out from the kitchen. Both Koko and her husband were wearing Pittsburgh Steelers’ baseball hats. We knew where their gridiron loyalty lay. He thought for a moment and then said: “Craig T. Nelson.”

“And your voice is like his too,” Koko said.

“The coach? I always thought I was the quarterback,” I said, disappointment obvious in my now mumbling voice. I knew what Craig T. Nelson looked like. He was balding—with a prominent nose. I didn’t see the resemblance, but if Koko thought I looked like Craig T. Nelson, I wasn’t going to argue.

The Coach

The Coach

“And you,” she stared at Zio. “Let me think on it.”

After the dishes were cleared she came back. “I know, the doctor on ‘ M.A.S.H.’”

“Alan Alda?” Zio said.

“Yeah, him,” Koko said.

“How many pounds ago,” Gerry cracked.

Zio posing as a doctor who actually knew how to use chopsticks.

The expert use of the chopsticks are a giveaway that the man above could not possibly be Zio.

We were hoping for dessert, but Margie said she had run out of her homemade lemonade pie.

“Lemonade pie? Wasn’t that in a song?” Gerry asked.

“Judy in the Skies,” Zio said.

Gerry quickly googled the song on his phone.  A You Tube video from the 60’s came up. We watched it and heard the lyrics mentioning lemonade pie.

“John Fred & his Playboys,” Gerry read. “And it’s ‘Judy in Disguise.’”

“I always thought it was Judy in the Skies,” Zio said.

"Judy in Disguise, well that's a-what you areA-lemonade pies, with a brand new car..."

“Judy in Disguise, well that’s a-what you are
A-lemonade pies, with a brand new car…”

We paid the check and took the allotted ten minutes to get coats, gloves, and hats on.

“We’ll be back for lemonade pie,” I said, speaking for all of us.

“You better,” Koko said and then made sure she steered very clear of Zio as he attempted to exit.

Margie's Red Rose Diner

Margie’s Red Rose Diner
275 W. 144th Street

And the Answer is…

7 Jan

On Friday I presented you with multiple photos of a restaurant and challenged you to Name That Place.  To revisit the photos, you can click here: Name That Place, or you can scroll down these pages.

I’m relieved to report that one well traveled eater was able to correctly Name That Place as:

Cafe Edison


That’s right, the Cafe Edison, also known as the “Polish Tea Room;” its nickname derived when a patron, of which there were many from the nearby theaters; playwrights, directors,actors,  producers, and stage hands, deemed the decor and food superior to the much more expensive and haughty Russian Tea Room.

Cafe Edison

228 W. 47th Street

See if the you can get goulash and noodles, cup of soup and a beverage for $16.95 at the Russian Tea  Room.

See if the you can get goulash and noodles, cup of soup and a beverage for $16.95 at the Russian Tea Room.

If the matzoh ball soup I had at the Cafe Edison wasn’t the “greatest soup in the history of soup”, as proclaimed by the New York Times, then it was certainly in the top 50.

Cafe Edison

But at the Cafe Edison, those who know don’t flock to it just for the outstanding soup. These sandwiches are pretty good too.

Cafe Edison

I had one on my recent visit but it wasn’t roast beef, corned beef, brisket, salami, or pastrami.  For bonus points, I wondered if any of the food obsessed out there could identify what type of sandwich I ordered. Here’s a look again:

Cafe Edison

Now that you know I was dining at the Cafe Edison, perhaps you will realize that what I was about to enjoy a generously stuffed vegetarian chopped liver sandwich on rye.

That concludes this edition of Name That Place. Be on the lookout for another serious challenge in the near future.




Name that Place

4 Jan

It’s a new year. The previous year wasn’t one of the better ones in these parts. So to get the new year off on a positive and giving note, I’m offering what is, I hope, a no-brainer, slam dunk of a Name That Place.

Now, granted, at first glance this entry might appear to be a toughie, but I’m going to include here a number of photo hints that I hope will help you, without too much difficulty, identify the name of the place.

Let’s start here.

name (19)

This should get you off to a rousing start and maybe, with just the picture above,you will be able to identify the place in question. If not,  go to the two photo below for more help.

name (9)

What type of place would have such classical grandeur?

name (12)


Believe it or not, a place that serves this.


And this.

name (17)

Bonus points to whomever can identify the sandwich above, a specialty of the place in question.

Finally, I offer this one last quip of a  photo taken in the same restaurant where there are elegant chandeliers and wall etchings, soup and a sandwich, and where no large luggage is allowed inside.


name (22)

Good luck and leave your answers in the comments section below. The place will be revealed on Monday.

Cuban Chuletas in a Casa in Chelsea

20 Nov

Rick’s choice of a Venezuelan place in Chelsea quickly raised some eyebrows amongst our group when we were notified. A few months earlier, we traipsed to Inwood for Venezuelan cachapas on Dyckman Street Stalking Corn on Dyckman Street.  It wasn’t only the relatively quick repeat of a cuisine that was odd, it was also the location. Chelsea, in its present incarnation, is not a neighborhood where we would think to find our kind of restaurant; meaning one suited more for our penny pinching tastes.

Still, we gave Rick the benefit of the doubt and to El Cocotero we all planned to meet. But a couple of hours before our meeting time, Rick sent an email that read as follows:  “Guys. Just got a call from the wife and we have to go to the hospital! It may be a false alarm, but please go enjoy Venezuelan food without me.”

The false alarm was a reference to the impending birth of his first child; the due date set for early December. We all wished the best for Rick, but his pronouncement was just too sudden and late in the day to stop us from heading to Chelsea.

Before anyone else had arrived at El Cocotero, Zio had scouted it out. “It’s so dark in there, you won’t be able to find your mouth with your fork,” he wrote in a text.

You couldn’t tell that power had been restored weeks ago in Chelsea judging by the lack of light in El Cocotero.

When I entered, I immediately thought Zio was exaggerating. It was dim, for sure, but the flickering candlelight wouldn’t stop me from stuffing my face. Reading the menu, however, was a more challenging issue. Without my reading glasses, the menu print seemed as insurmountable as trying to read a Russian novel without a magnifying glass.    Thankfully, Eugene’s eyes were stronger than mine and he informed all of us that the cachapas were ten dollars—almost $4 more than what we paid at Cachapas y Mas on Dyckman Street.

To make matters worse, the table we were given was so cramped that there was the very frightening prospect of rubbing thighs with Mike from Yonkers while trying to get the food from fork to mouth.

“This is a date place,” Eugene blurted out.

Indeed it was, and Mike from Yonkers was not my date. Since Rick was not going to be joining us, there was no reason to endure eating at a romantic restaurant with the likes of Eugene, Gerry, Mike from Yonkers and Zio—and I’m sure the feeling was mutual.

Our group slunk out of El Cocotero, lamely apologizing to the manager as we exited.

The prospects of finding something Chow City like in Chelsea, we knew, were not good, but we had to try. I knew of a nearby Szechuan place that I liked, though it was probably as expensive as the Venezuelan we just left.

And then I remembered passing a Cuban diner on 8th Avenue on my way to El Cocotero that looked like something closer to our criteria. I mentioned it and our ensemble headed in that direction.

In front of Casa Havana was a placard advertising Thanksgiving dinner for $10.95 and another displaying a glistening suckling pig for $12.95. Eugene didn’t have to see anymore to be convinced. He was halfway to a table when Gerry, still out on the street, whined that he had eaten Cuban food the previous day.

We looked at him. You could never tell whether Gerry was joking or serious.

“Really, I did—in Montclair,” he said.

We all hesitated. Eugene came back out of the restaurant. “What now?” he barked.

This was becoming a fiasco and Gerry knew it.

“All right, let’s just go here,” he gamely conceded.

While our Mexican waitress brought the Cuban menus to our ample table, Dominican meringue played over the restaurant’s loudspeakers. Glancing at it, I noticed that the prices were lower than what we would have experienced at the Venezuelan place around the corner, but more than we would have paid for similar food uptown.

There was nothing out of the ordinary on the menu; rice and beans, fried pork, fried fish, roast pork, shrimp in garlic sauce, beef stew, etc.

“Do you have the turkey?” Eugene asked our waitress, referring to what was advertised outside the restaurant.

She shook her head. “No, we just have that for that other day,” she said, meaning Thanksgiving.

Instead, he settled on shrimp criolla while Zio, keeping to his fishy pattern whenever we gather,  ordered the “lubina frita,” fried bass.

After his Cuban meal in Montclair, Gerry eschewed the entrees and instead chose a Cuban sandwich with a small bowl of black bean soup. Mike from Yonkers was rebuffed by his first choice of fried snapper and had to go to plan B: the baked chicken. I decided on the “chuletas,” (pork chops) in red sauce with yellow rice and black beans.

While we waited for the platters to decorate our table, all of us except Zio, who sipped a mango “batido,” had $5 Mexican beers.

Embargo beer options at a Cuban Restaurant.

The food came and we plowed through it without many exclamations. No one complained. No one praised. The chuletas were skimpily thin and swimming in a non-descript tomato sauce that benefited greatly by a large dousing of the house hot sauce.

Shrimp Criolla, yellow rice and black beans

Because the food did not inspire discussion, we had no choice but to listen to Eugene describe the annual Christmas party he attends—the one with the Viennese dessert buffet—as well as the many meals he eats at the all-inclusive resort he frequents in the Dominican Republic.

Who knew Shakespeare vacationed in old Havana?

Gluttons for punishment, to name just one of the things we are gluttons for, we could have just called it a night in Chelsea. Instead, hoping we would find something to praise, we all had dessert. Sadly, even the desserts; coconut pudding, coconut cake, tres leches cake, and chocolate cake, did not surpass uptown standards.

And, as he suspected it would be, Rick informed all of us that indeed the trip to the hospital was a false alarm. If only we could have said the same thing about our trip to Chelsea.

The Uptown Burger Deluxe

21 Sep

There was a time when the type of beef used in making a basic diner/coffee shop burger was never disclosed. We didn’t know if the diner ground the meat or not. We didn’t know if they made the patties themselves or if they were pre-made. The beef patty—or should I say the slab of chopped beef—was tossed onto a hot griddle, or, in some cases, a grill, and cooked until done. “How do you want it cooked?” was never asked.

Once done, some cheese (for a few coins more) was melted onto the meat. The patty was then was put onto a bun with a leaf of iceberg lettuce, and a slice of tasteless, out-of-season tomato. In various instances, a pickle and grilled or raw onions were also added to the bun. The burger was assembled onto a plate surrounded by French fries. This was the prototypical “Burger Deluxe” found at countless diners, luncheonettes, and coffee shops when I first moved to New York. And I ate at a lot of them.

Many food folks these days, when given their weekly—or monthly—burger allowance, would rather spend it at a place where the beef is derived from animals that eat only grass, never consume hormones or supplements, and are treated with the utmost kindness before being slaughtered. And I can’t blame them. In most instances I would rather travel to a shack, bistro, or joint for a high quality, organic, grass fed, humane, rare or bare, juicy five napkin burger. But sometimes nostalgia gets the better of me and I just can’t help myself. That’s when I yearn for the “burger deluxe.” And, thankfully, they are still out there.

There’s a soul classic called Across 110th Street, by the great Bobby Womack. And north of that street, from river to river, is where you will have your pick of a mini-chain of diners called  Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace. At Jimbo’s, the “burger deluxe” is a mainstay on the menu.

Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace at 284 Lenox Avenue

Jumbo’s on 116th Street, not to be confused with Jimbo’s, and how could you?

To satisfy my nostalgia craving, I found myself at the Jimbo’s on Lenox Avenue across from Harlem Hospital. I sat at the pristine counter and, not bothering with  pondering the sandwich wraps, gyros, or delicious breakfast options, went directly to the cheeseburger deluxe. The waitress who took my order did not ask me how I wanted it cooked. She didn’t even ask what type of cheese I wanted. She only asked if I wanted everything on it which I assumed were the various vegetable condiments. I said I did.

From my seat I watched as a generous patty/slab of meat was tossed onto the hot griddle and then covered with a bowl to steam heat it through.

It wasn’t long before the cheese was added—a thin slice of bright orange American. The bun was assembled by another cook, a slather of mayo, iceberg lettuce, a few grilled onions and two slices of an under-ripe tomato.

It took enormous self control, but I was able to keep my mouth shut.

The fries were frozen, dumped into a deep fryer and then scattered around the burger. Ketchup came in a red squeeze bottle. I decorated the burger and the fries with it. Though if I had been asked, I would have said “medium rare,” in regards to how I wanted it cook, but really, it didn’t matter. The meat was cooked the way a burger deluxe should be cooked; juices running from it dampening the bun, the ketchup, tomato, and thin layer of mayonnaise all melding together to form a perfect hot mess.

The fries, however, were another story. Maybe my memory of past burger deluxe experiences have dimmed so much I forgot how tasteless the fries were. Or maybe it’s just that I doused them so thoroughly with ketchup it never really mattered how they tasted. How could fries like these make a burger deluxe? And then I realized that of course they did. That the starchy blandness of the frozen French fries bolstered the already intense flavor of the meat—they were the perfect accompaniment.




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