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You Want to Hear the Specials?
2006-10-13 05:21
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

I enjoy going to Artie's Deli on the Upper West Side because the food is decent. Artie's is a neo-old-sytle Jewish Deli (it's only been around about a half-a-dozen years) without the neighborhood prices. I grew up on the Upper West Side, and Broadway is now littered with big chain stores--Staples, Circut City, Victoria's Secret, Godiva. Artie's stands out--not because the food is so terrific--but because it's not outrageously over-priced. There is something synthetic about it, but if it doesn't have the history of other classic Jewish deli's like Katz's or Ratner's or the Carniege, it does have its heart in the right place, and it does provide some of the atmosphere you like to see in such an establishment.

I arrived early for a dinner date with a friend last night and saw that my favorite waitress was on duty. When the plump, black hostess greeted me, I pointed to the waitress, an squat, older woman who has the gruff disposition (not to mention charm) of a William Demarest character, and said, "I'm meeting a friend and want to sit in her section." The hostess grabbed two menus and as she led me to a table said, "Are you sure you know what you are doing?" "Yeah, I know exactly what I'm doing."

You go to a Jewish Deli in New York and you want a slightly mean waitress, who talks fast, calls you sweetie and makes no attempt to hide her displeasure at your meager order. I sat in the front section of the restaurant, right next to the street. Behind me was a side-enterance for the delivery guys. Four short Latin kids milled around just outside, wearing matching navy-blue "Artie's" t-shirts. They all wore baseball caps underneath protective helmets. I remembered waiting tables a dozen years ago in a similar neighborhood jernt (Italian not Jewish) just a few blocks north--it's no longer there, and the restaurant that followed it recently closed as well (get ready for another chain store of some sort). The delivery guys didn't have helmets back then. A nice advancement, I thought. Nobody wants a lawsuit, right?

The hostess stood next to me and I told her why I liked my grouchy waitress, who has scolded me virtually each time I've sat in her section in the past. The waitress has short, spikey hair. She moves quickly, her back hunched and her pants hiked-up well over her waist. As I chatted with the hostess, a bald man carrying an over-stuffed plastic green shopping bag walked in through the side enterance and sat down across from me at a four-top table. When the hostess noticed him she became instantly annoyed. "Excuse me, can I help you?" He mumbled that he wanted a table. "How many will you be?" He spoke sharply and you could tell that she had seen him before. He said the was alone and she asked if he would please move to a smaller table. He gestured to a cane--which he was carrying, and not using for support, when he came in. Before he could go into his spiel, she cut him off, holding up her hand and looking away, "Alright, go ahead." I knew exactly the kind of Upper West Side character this guy was--entitled, fussy, cheap.

The man looked like a puffier version of Alan Arkin. He was bald except for some hair around the sides. He wore glasses and had on a white, short-sleeved shirt with a pad and pen and cell phone in the breast pocket. Charcoal grey slacks and inexpensive black shoes. He picked up his phone and began to talk as he scooped the complimentary cole slaw onto a small plate. Then he picked up a sour pickle and began crunching it as he spoke. When William Demarest approaches him, he holds his hand up to her, indicating that he is on a call. She raises her eyebrows, turns to me, and then walks away.

A few minutes later, he raises his hand and catches her attention. Taking out her pad, she approaches his table. "Can I interest you in our Specials?"

"No."

"We've got Hungarian gullach---"

"No, I don't want that."

"I got a skirt steak with a baked potato, I got meatloaf platter--"

"I want a turkey burger, rare."

"You don't want it rare."

"I don't? Why don't I want it rare?"

"Because you'll get sick."

"OK, no onions."

"Can I get you something to---"

"And french fries."

"Comes with fries."

"Cooked lightly."

"They come cooked one way."

"I'll have onion rings instead."

"To drink?"

"I'll have a Diet Coke with lemon."

"Terrific."

He took out is phone again as he shoved cole slaw in his mouth.

The waitress tried to charm some of the customers--she told one table about what a wonderful cook her husband is ("He makes me a salad--lettuce, tomato, onions, and cucumbers, aren't I lucky?") and to another couple she raved about how good Reese Witherspoons was in "Walk the Line" ("I seen it twice now on cable")--but mostly she was irked because it was a slow night and she was stuck with a lousy section ("Two chicken salads," she barked to the hostess about one table, as if they were the worst people on the face of the earth). She didn't give my companion and me any trouble and when we were leaving she said, "I heard that you requested my section." I told her I did and she thanked me and called me "sweetheart." Now filled with chicken soup, french fries, pickles and cole slaw, I left a heppy ket.

Comments
2006-10-13 07:05:53
1.   Sliced Bread
Pastrami on rye, mustard, dill pickle, hold the slaw.
Chicken zoup. Dr. Brown's Black Cherry.
That's livin'.

Dippin' knish in zoup is livin' too.

Usually get mine at the Stage, or Carnegie to go. Friggin' terrist traps. Gots to try Artie's someday.

2006-10-13 07:27:42
2.   Matt B
The Simpsons had a great bit in a kosher deli with a classic kosher deli waitress. I believe Bart asked for more pickles and she shuffled off mumbling "Watch how fast I go."

Artie's ain't bad - a tad ersatz, but it's a good nosh.

2006-10-13 07:35:19
3.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
For good deli on the Upper West side, Fine and Schapiro can't be beat. It's in the same league, if not better than the famous downtown places. 72nd btwn Bdwy and Columbus iirc. If you haven't been you must try.

Surprised the waitress didn't get on you Alex for not ordering a sandwich with your soup. Gotta have a sandwich with the soup, even if you're just gonna bring most of it home in a bag.

2006-10-13 07:37:26
4.   pistolpete
1 OMG, it's been too long since I've had a decent knish - my only sources here in CT are the supermarkets, and those are drier than hell.

That's it, now I have to have one. Toasted. With some brown mustard. Mmmmmm....

BTW, Alex, that's pretty impressive remembering the entire exchange between the waitress and the older gentlemen.

2006-10-13 08:00:39
5.   Alex Belth
Hey Pistol, Well, I took notes so that helped...Barney Greengrass is another Jewish food institution and has been around since Roosevelt was govenor. It's been over-priced for as long as my old man can remember.
2006-10-13 08:00:44
6.   dianagramr
Artie's deli? I was just there 2 weeks ago.

Small world!

(whitefish salad on an onion bagel with a Diet Dr. Brown's Cream soda)

2006-10-13 08:10:07
7.   pistolpete
5 I'm looking at Barney's and I notice you can shop online and they deliver. Do you happen to know what their shipping rates are?

As in, would they tack on 6 bucks delivery charge for a $2.75 knish? Ha..

2006-10-13 08:39:00
8.   Bama Yankee
You guys are making me hungry with all this food talk...

Off topic: you think maybe that someone said last year that hell would freeze over before the Tigers would be playing an ALCS game at Comerica Park?
http://tinyurl.com/ych5k9

2006-10-13 08:56:50
9.   Benjamin Kabak
When i go a game and don't feel much like a hot dog, I'll often pick up a pastrami sandwich on rye from Artie's and take it to the Stadium. It's great.
2006-10-13 09:13:05
10.   vockins
My NYC hookups:

1. free barney greengrass
2. cut the line at the cyclone

who is the mack?

2006-10-13 09:15:26
11.   Rich Lederer
"Life in New York" with Alex Belth. When is the book scheduled to hit the shelves?
2006-10-13 09:15:43
12.   Matt B
9 - You can get a decent pastrami at the Court Deli up near the stadium, by the courthouse.
2006-10-13 09:21:13
13.   RI Yankee
The closest thing we have to a jewish deli here is Subway . . . .

I have a friend here who used to rave about Carnegie's pastrami . . . until I sent him to Katz's.

2006-10-13 09:23:18
14.   RI Yankee
1 4 Don't know if they still have them . . . it's been a long time since I've been to the Stadium. But in the 80's I remember the vendors yelling "Hotknish" (as one word) . . . never had one . . .
2006-10-13 09:27:56
15.   mehmattski
Man, Jewish/Italian delis are definitely in the top 5 of things I miss about NY/NJ. Diners, too. Whoda thunk I'd miss diners when I moved to North Carolina??? Anyway, with the influx of "carpetbaggers" like myself to the Raliegh/Durham area, hopefully some delis will pop up. Soon, I hope, because I haven't had a decent bagel in months...
2006-10-13 09:44:13
16.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Yeah Barney Greengrass is way pricey.

Fine and Schapiro on the other hand was quite reasonable, tho I haven't been there in probably 10 years.

Wait, they've got a website up:

http://www.fineandschapiro.com/

Still looks ok price-wise.

2006-10-13 09:47:55
17.   RIYank
13 RI Yankee, not true!
Try Davis Dairy Products, on Hope St just south of Rochambeau.

(By the way, I have to apologize to you for being "RIYank". I hadn't seen your tag when I registered.)

2006-10-13 10:07:02
18.   pistolpete
17 Oh boy, now that's going to be confusing...
2006-10-13 10:12:48
19.   Yankee Fan In Boston
i apologize for meandering off topic here.

i was watching clips of matsuzaka pitching and i saw one that i thought might be of interest to some people here.

is karim garcia playing in japan?

if so, i believe he is one of the 14 hitters K'ed by the (please oh please) future yankee here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLAgxBHWNeM

2006-10-13 10:25:37
20.   Bama Yankee
19 Good eye, yes our friend Karim Garcia is playing in Japan (btw, Karim Garcia is never off topic ;-)
From Wikipedia:
"Following his major league career, García has been playing for the Orix Buffaloes since 2005 as the cleanup hitter and right fielder. Thanks to the advice of Hideki Matsui, he has become more patient than before, adapting to his new environment in Japan."

"On August 10-11, 2005, García hit three home runs in each game against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, becoming the only player in Japanese baseball history to accomplish that."

2006-10-13 10:35:22
21.   Bama Yankee
19 We might not know who he is, but we know where he is:
http://www.buffaloes.co.jp/teaminfo/index.asp
(I really could have used mikeplugh to help me translate that site, but I finally found him)
2006-10-13 11:06:32
22.   Jeb
They make me hungry too Bama Yankee. But they don't have the BBQ that we have! You're not too far from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur. Eat some of that and smile while our northern friends eat their deli food (Posted with all the sour grapes in the "Woild").
2006-10-13 11:13:46
23.   Murray
I haven't been to Artie's. I miss Second Avenue, which, to be fair, was coasting during the years after Abe was murdered, but they still could deliver a good triple decker. I think that Barney Greengrass is both overpriced and overrated. Worst of all, it looks like it hasn't been cleaned in 36 years. And I feel the same about Fine & Schapiro.

It's as out of the way as you can get, but the current champ on my deli list is the Mill Basin Deli, near Brooklyn's Kings Plaza Shopping Center. Not only can you find a nice sandwich, the owner collects art, and there are Erte originals all over the place.

2006-10-13 11:30:27
24.   rbs10025
"and the restaurant that followed it recently closed as well (get ready for another chain store of some sort)"

Or more likely another freaking bank branch.

Sorry, just a disgruntled person from 30 blocks up Broadway wondering what the hell is happening to the neighborhood.

2006-10-13 11:36:45
25.   bobtaco
You guys ever go to Yonah Schimmel's?

Last time I was in NYC I dropped by there for knishes and pickles. So goooood!

http://www.knishery.com/main.htm

2006-10-13 12:28:40
26.   jkay
http://www.sargesdeli.com/

548 3rd Avenue
between 36th & 37th Sts.

2006-10-13 12:51:04
27.   LA Yankee
OK you guys are making me hungry. I grew up on the Lower East Side. Went to a local Deli on Grand St and Essex St where I lived. Went to Ratners on Delancey (can't belive it's gone), but it was never as good. That Deli was taken over long ago, and has not been as good since.
Living out in LA, we have a lot of NY transplants, so in turn a lot of Deli choices. Have not been to a ton of them, but a good amount. Love Canters on Fairfax, lotta history, open 24hrs and the closest to a real Pastrami on Rye you can find. Never go to a Jerrys Deli, most overpriced, crappy food I have ever had. One question though, why can't they make a good Knish out here. Just are not the same from what I remember a Knish being...just like a Bialy. They try and pass off some soft weird Bagels as Bialy's out here...not even close!

my 2cents from LA

2006-10-13 13:38:00
28.   KJC
When I read the title in my RSS reader, I initially expected to find out that Alex was a ska revival fan...
2006-10-14 08:46:53
29.   yogifan
As to LA delis, Langers is by far the best. Especially the pastrami.

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