Archive for the ‘Food’ category

The Shake Shack at Madison Square Park

September 5, 2007

The Shake Shack is legendary.  And now that Famous Ankles has partaken, he’s ready to pass supreme judgement on the place.

You don’t know the Shake Shack?  You must be new to NYC.

Okay, you’ve heard of the Flatiron Building?

Flat Iron Building in Manhattan

The building is shaped like an old-fashioned flat iron.  That is, it’s wedge-shaped.  It’s real name is the Fuller Building, but no one ever, ever calls it that.

Anyway, the Flat Iron building is on 23rd St at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.  Anytime Broadway crossed an avenue, it creates a “square”.  (The most famous being Times Square where it crosses 7th Avenue.)

Well, the square next to the Flat Iron building is called Madison Square.  Yep.  You’ve heard of Madison Square Garden.  It’s not here.  Well, it used to be…twice, actually.  The current Madison Square Garden is way over to the west.  But the first two versions of it were right here, at Madison Square.

So.  What are the current glories of Madison Square?   Ummmm…they’ve got some metal trees….

Madison Square Park trees

And….it’s a nice, family-friendly place.

And…it has the Shake Shack.

The Shake Shack

Don’t let the empty seats fool you.  Let the line be your guide.  This place is popular.  Wildly popular.  Strangely popular.  I’ve never been here when there was a line less than 50 people long, and they serve FAST.  I’ve seen the line with at least 200 people.  And they’re all so patient.  It’s a NYC thing.  You go to the Shake Shack and buy a burger or hot dog or ice cream or shake.  They give you a little signaler (a vibrating gizmo you see at a lot of very busy restaurants) and send you out to wander the park while they fix your food.  After 10 minutes or so, you get your food and sit out in the local areas and eat.

I’ve seen this place at least a dozen times and turned down the opportunity to experience the wait and the food about 11 times.  This time I stayed and ate.  I ordered the “Shack Burger” and a strawberry shake.  I got the food and ate it.  It was $10 and it was fine.  It just wasn’t legendary.  It was fine.  But I don’t know why it has the cult following.  I coulda gone to Burger King up the street and gotten more for less.  It wouldn’t have the ambiance, but I could have just wandered back to the park.

I guess it is something that I don’t get.  There’s some reason for the long lines.

But, I can fault them for something that happened a few months ago.  It was “Barbeque NYC” and the city had brought in first rate BBQ makers from all over the country.  And they served their food at Madison Square Park.  Just a few yards from the Shake Shack.  And it was great BBQ.  GREAT BBQ!  It’s nearly impossible to fine good BBQ in NYC, and they had GREAT BBQ.  And people lined up at the Shake Shack for burgers and hotdogs.

NYC gourmands.



Wandering Chinatown

September 1, 2007

This isn’t a real easy post.  In my LES post, I confessed that I find nothing “cool” about Chinatown.  I don’t.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t get a frisson of anticipation when I go there.

What I get is a stench.  This is coming from a man with a minimal sense of smell.  Chinatown stinks…odorwise.  In other ways, perfectly enjoyable.  It all depends on how much of a connection there is between your sense of smell and your sense of adventure.  Because you can explore Chinatown for a long, long time.

Okay, where’s Chinatown?  Uhh…..southern Manhattan.  It’s kinda all spread out and amorphous.  It is growing at a pretty good clip from what I see.  It isn’t all of southern Manhattan, of course.  The Financial District and the government district are still alive and healthy.  

Amongst Manhattan neighborhoods, Chinatown makes the least allowance for the rest of America.  There’s at least one McDonalds on the periphery and I know there’s a Subway Sandwich Shop somewhere right in the middle of the place, but they are just sort of add-ons if you know what I mean.  A lot of the street signs are actually in Chinese script (alongside the western alphabet name of the street).

And what stinks?  The grocery stores.  Mostly the meat places.

Chinatown open air fish

They’re all over the place.  The locals like their food fresh.  Lots of the stuff is still alive.  I’ve seen buckets of moving crabs and swimming frogs (with the occasional dead frog floating on the surface).  There’s lots of relatively large fish swimming in aquariums, ready for the net and dispatching.  Already dead fish are generally kept on ice, but that doesn’t stop the smell.  I’m hopeful that I’m just smelling the stuff that dripped yesterday or so.

The grocery stores are of several sorts.  There are indoor ones, which I really don’t want to go into, and there are the outdoor stalls.  They’re interesting.

Chinatown - Lychees and Loganberries

Okay, on the right are some plums, the center are Lychees, and the right….my notes say “Logan Berries” but the sign says “Sweet Apples”.  I don’t think either fits.

And, veggies…

Chinatown - odd veggies

And, something called “Durian”.  Apparently it’s a fruit.  I’ve seen it many times but I just saw some “foodie” show that described it as a horrible-tasting/smelling food.  I think the commentator (Andrew Zimmern) said it smelled like feet and tasted similar.  That’s it in the yellowish mesh bag.


It looks like a mutant pineapple.  At present, I’m not feeling adventurous enough to test the description.

And no post on Chinatown would be complete without a shot of dead poultry in the window.

Chinatown ducks and chickens

Okay, that’s a baldfaced lie.  Future posts may not have one at all.  But you would have complained if I didn’t include at least one duck picture somewhere.


The Lower East Side and mighty good pickles

August 30, 2007

As good/wonderous/cool/interesting/artistic/gritty that the Lower East Side’s Rivington Street and Ludlow Street are; in my book, the real street in LES is Orchard Street.  Ya wanna see Orchard St? Go a bit further south than the Rivington St and Ludlow St area and cross Delancey St.  Physically and interesting-wise, Orchard actually parallels Ludlow St., but below Delancey, there’s no contest. First, Orchard St. has the historical Tenement Museum, which I would encourage you to visit if you have the chance. My favorite part of that was when I looked at one of the places they’ve restored to it “tenement” condition and saw how closely it resembles my own place (before I had it completely renovated).

But the real reason is the greatest, most wonderous, most awe-inspiring place for many a block around:  Guss Pickles.

Guss Pickles - closed

Sad to say, they are closed on Saturdays. The pickles are unbelievably good (get the spicy! Get the Spicy!! GET THE SPICY!!!!).  They sell them singly or by the small bucket. Note: this is not the place you’ll find if you google Guss Pickles. I’m told there are legal proceedings over the name and that this one on Orchard Street is the original.  UPDATE (9/8/2007):  I talked with Pat Fairhurst, owner of Guss Pickles on Orchard Street and she said the proceedings are resolved.  The other Guss Pickles has obtained the trademark, but the Orchard Street Guss Pickles can keep the name.  She re-iterated that they are the last of the “old-time pickle makers” in the LES, established in 1920 by Izzy Guss).

If you get there, you’ll discover that the storefront is a sham. You wanna buy pickles: they roll the barrels out into the street every day and you buy them there. GET THE SPICY!!!!!!!!!!!!

I like them pickles.

I once took a bucket to work and some people complained that they smelled up the place. They still grabbed three or four pickles each, but that was beside the point.

GET THE SPICY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I now have a hankering for pickles. Soon…soon…