Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Here Today...
2007-03-01 05:09
by Alex Belth

When I was growing up, my grandparent's lived on 81st street, directly across from The Museum of Natural History. Their apartment served as a homebase for my father at various times, and I was often dispatched to Zabars, the specialty food shop, just a few blocks away on Broadway. I was usually asked to get the same thing: a beef salami and a seeded rye, sliced (must be seeded, must be sliced, I learned the hard way). The salamis hung above the meat counter and you had to take a number before being served.

One time, when my twin sister Sam and I were 12 or 13, we were standing on line facing the counter, when we heard two excited voices from behind us. They were discussing all of the treats behind the glass counter. In a nifty bit of timing, we both turned our heads around slowly, and who should we see but Danny Devito and Rea Pearlman. I think we may have had an inch on them, but we were essentially looking at them eye-to-eye. Just as our heads were completely turned, facing them, they stopped talking, looked up at us, and gave us a big smiled. They waved, which was comic because they were standing about two feet away. We turned our heads slowly back around, looked at each other and shrugged.

Zabars is still around of course (it practically takes up the entire block now). I stopped in earlier this week and was nearly floored when I got to the deli counter and found that there were no salamis hanging above it anymore. It made me think of my father. They still sell beef salami, but it just isn't the same. Such is life in the big city. But I did feel better--at least somewhat comforted--after reading Alex Witchel's piece in The Times yesterday. Hey, I'm thankful that Zabars is still here--and it's not likely to go anywhere for at least a minute.

2007-03-01 05:40:36
1.   unpopster
hey Alex, thanks for the little piece of nostalgia to break up the baseball chatter. To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons why I so love Bronx Banter is because of your occasional musings on non-baseball, New York-centric topics (i.e. old school hip-hop, etc.)

Speaking of "Here Today...Gone Tomorrow," one of the most depressing examples of this trend is the loss of the Second Avenue Deli on the corner of 2nd Ave. and 10th street. For those familiar with that East Village landmark, very few places on the isle of Manhattan made a better matzot ball soup and pastrami on rye. But, alas, the rents of the re gentrifying Lower East Side pushed the place into losing its lease and closing shop. This all happened as brand new Starbucks and Donkin Donuts opened up literally across the street.

I used to live around the corner from the Second Avenue Deli and always looked at it as one of the few remaining examples of the OLD Lower East Side, and then...poof. It was gone. It's really depressing.

Alex, enjoy Zabar's as long as you can because that full block of culinary delicacies may one day be forced to give way to yet another Bed, Bath & Beyond.

2007-03-01 05:49:27
2.   Sliced Bread
Must be seeded, must be sliced... like me.

Rye w/out seeds is like calling a lemon a pickle, or somesuch nonsense.

2007-03-01 05:52:27
3.   Alex Belth
Yeah, the Second Avenue Deli was the bomb. Hard to believe that it's gone. My brother and my old man used to meet up there regularly and hang. One time, they were waiting to be served, and my dad was dogging the complimentary cole slaw. The waitress arrived and dad was stuffing his face, so my brother did the ordering. Two pastrami sandwiches. Just then, my dad started gagging on his cole slaw. He reached for a glass of water and held up a finger for the waitress to wait. He downed the entire glass in one gulp, then looked at the waitress, seemingly recovered. His face was red and his eyes teary and he said, "Fatty." The old man did not believe in lean pastrami. It had to be fatty if it was going to be good.

Bless his heart.

2007-03-01 06:04:16
4.   unpopster
Alex, off topic, but did you catch any of VH1's "The [White] Rapper Show" with Serch? Any thoughts?
2007-03-01 06:07:37
5.   Bags

That's beautiful.

It is the funny little moments like that that I remember and miss about my own Dad.

I've been mostly lurking and not posting here for a couple of years now Alex. But wanted to say that I was really sorry to hear about your loss.

On a separate but related note -- you strike me as a guy who loves food. Did you ever go to Staubitz when you lived in Brooklyn? I love that place.

I'm not a big burger guy but if you buy their fresh ground beef and fry it with a healthy dose of salt and pepper in a good cast iron skillet... Wow. Just serve it on a bun with a slice of onion. Nothin' else. Wow.

2007-03-01 06:23:00
6.   Alex Belth
I never went to Staubitz, where is it? Thanks for the nice words about my Pop.

And no, I haven't seen Serch's show, but isn't Ego Trip behind it? Must be pretty good then. I always liked Serch as an MC. There is a great, nine-minute freestyle session he did with O.C. back in 94 on the Stretch Armstrong Show. Serch brough O.C. out that year, just like he did with Nas. Anyhow, he could really bring it..."Pleny of kids are losin' sleep in Seattle, cause I hang over your head just like a tassle."

2007-03-01 06:24:29
7.   Chyll Will
5 You could try a touch of oregano when you grill it, Bags. Ain't nothing like grilling in cast-iron. Toast the bun in it, too...and don't forget the A-1. Mahvelous... oh, and wlecome. I did the lurking thing for a while before joining in for much the same reason. Enjoy!
2007-03-01 06:29:13
8.   mikeplugh
I love Zabar's. The sawdust on the floor keeps it real. I also loved the 2nd Ave. Deli. I'm sorry to hear it's gone. That's bullshit. Everyone always hypes up Katz', but I was a 2nd Ave. Deli man all the way.

Best 24 hour kebab in NYC is Bereket on the LES. I'm blanking on the name of the bar I used to go to down on Rivington, but Bereket was the late-night-drunken spot of choice for food. The bar was down some little alley....

2007-03-01 06:31:34
9.   mikeplugh
If you're ever out in BK, head over to Brawta on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. I used to live around the corner, and was a regular. Love that neighborhood.

2007-03-01 06:52:24
10.   vockins
I think Ratner's was the biggest closing letdown for me. The onion rolls were something else, among other things.

Kebab Cafe in Astoria is the Jeter of kebab to Bereket's Womack. Granted, not 24 hrs, but it tears the roof off.

And you ain't a true NYC foodie until you've spent serious time in Queens!

2007-03-01 06:59:50
11.   YanksFan
Fans of the lamentably disappearing kosher deli would do well to visit (and support) david sax's savethedeli project:

2007-03-01 07:37:23
12.   wsporter
11 Damn, now that is a gig worth having. I'd be big as a house with a job like that and probably twice that happy.
2007-03-01 08:08:43
13.   Dimelo
I used to work at Zabar's, and I still have family members that work there. I remember working there as a teenager and raiding the boxes of cider, eating the chocolate rugelach, chocolate croissants, etc. Plus the cashiers were always hot.....those were definitely the days. be a teenager again.

They have two owners now, they are Saul and Stanley Zabar. But when I worked there they had three owners, the other one was an old holocaust survivor (I think he was) Murray Klein. Probably the most unpleasant person I ever met, he was always nice to the girls though and he loved pinching their asses.

The Zabar's brothers are f'ing crazy crackpots....the caviar is their big money maker in the holiday season and I remember this one kid packed the wrong caviar in the cheaper tin cans, I think he got docked an entire day's pay (at the time we got paid $4.25/hour) and then he got fired not long after. I guess it didn't help that his pop was the manager in the pots-and-pans section upstairs.

Nevertheless, I still have great memories of that place....I remember every other Monday we would clean out the fridges and one of the managers always would bring beer for us. It was great being in high school and drinking there. AND everyone there loved baseball....I could sit and talk to the managers about baseball all day long. The summers were great because we would go play softball on Sundays at the park. Man...I forgot how much fun that place was. Thanks for reminding me, Alex.

The other part about Zabar's that's great is after it gets warm in the city then you see all sorts of nutjobs protesting in front. I remember this one bum would come in roller skates and with earphones, he'd come in dancing but the earphones weren't connected to anything. I remember he gave Saul Zabar the middle finger and Saul knocked his ass out. I was dying. That place was crazy. It is as much a part of NY as the Empire State building.

2007-03-01 08:30:29
14.   Dimelo
1 I highly doubt Zabar's will ever be gone, but who knows. The Zabar's brothers (Saul, Stanley, and Eli) own that entire block of land, they own their fair share of buildings in NYC too. Zabar's place makes a ton of money, so unless they decide to sell....I can't see that place ever leaving. They really have little overhead costs.

That place is one of the biggest employers of Dominicans, too. It has made put a lot of money in a lot of the Dominican families who work there. When I worked there in the early 90's, my older brother worked there in the late 80's, and we were both astonished at the amount of money they would give out for Christmas bonuses.

2007-03-01 09:32:09
15.   Shaun P
I've been to one NYC deli one time in my entire life, and I don't remember what it was or where it was. But the sandwich I had was damn good.

Anyone else making sure they get a nice sandwich to enjoy while following today's game?

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