By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
This week I thought I’d write about some of the greatest places to eat both east and west.
I’ll start in New York – where I grew up. To me, there is nothing more “New York” than a New York deli. Where I grew up in Brooklyn, perhaps one of the best delis anywhere is called Juniors Restaurant.
Take a look at the menu (on their website). You simply cannot believe a couple of things. First, their meat sandwiches. Whether Corned Beef or Pastrami – on fresh rye bread (with seeds!) with cole slaw, Russian Dressing and mustard. First, you will not believe how large and thick these sandwiches are. I guarantee you will not be able to finish the entire sandwich.
Next, Junior’s NY Cheesecake is, as they say in Brooklyn, “to die for.” The expression “to die for” actually means two different things. First it means it is that good you will find you can’t catch your breath. Second, the cheesecake is so rich that it will actually hasten your death.
Next, Manhattan eateries: If you’re talking about Steak Houses, one of the finest is Sparks Steakhouse. This is infamous for several reasons. The most infamous is that this is where John Gotti arranged to have his boss in the Gambino Crime Family “rubbed out.”
I guess in those families you don’t ask for permission to get rid of the boss (you can actually go to the heads of the other five Mafia crime families and ask for permission to do this but it is rarely granted), rather you just “act” and hope you don’t get rubbed out in return, or that you don’t start a gang war among the surviving “Capos” in that family.
Let’s move to Boston, where we lived for most of our adult lives. Perhaps the most famous high end restaurant in Boston is called: Locke-Ober. In fact, it closed in about 2012 due to the changing tastes of American Diners. Guess paying $150 a place for lunch got to be a bit much. But the cream of Boston Society could be found regularly “lunching” there.
Another “over a century old” restaurant was Jacob Wirth Restaurant. It also has since closed (2018) again due to the changing tastes of the American dining public. But their fare was German American and worth every pfennig.
For the “in-crowd” of Boston politicians, there was a group of restaurants run by Anthony Athanas. Anthony’s Pier 4 Cafe was the most well-known, and popular – along the Boston Waterfront. For just about forever, it was the highest grossing restaurant in the U.S. At lunch you would never fail to see at least one of the Boston Brahmins (a “Brahmin” is a member of one of the old founding families of the city such as the Cabots and the Lodges, and later on The Kennedys) dining there.
Perhaps one of the most famous traditions at Anthony’s Pier 4 are their blazing hot popovers (In the U.K., often called Kidney Pie). When they were served, you split them open and steam would come out of them. You actually could not take a bite for several minutes until it had cooled off a bit.
Okay, let’s move to the Pacific Northwest. By far my favorite high end restaurant remains Canlis. It is very expensive – but I have not met anyone who was disappointed in their dining experience there.
Now, in fact, I have found that greater Seattle, to me, tends to be more a breakfast place than either lunch or dinner. Just in our area we have a chain called Patty’s Eggnest. There are a half dozen or more – all owned by relatives of each other (mostly cousins). Their breakfast menu is very large (I mean the portions as well as the varieties). I would suggest their Swedish pancakes with Lingonberry butter.
Patty’s serves so many eggs that, in fact, they own their own egg farm.
Another breakfast place well known north of Seattle is in Maltby. Called, of course, the Maltby Café. I guarantee that you will be unable to finish any of their “main” breakfast orders. The first time my wife and I ate breakfast there, we not only were unable to finish either of our meals, but taking the left-overs home still required two separate days to finish them.
Now I am saving one particular place for last. It is located (still) only two miles from where I was brought up in Brooklyn. That place being Nathan's Famous, Brooklyn. Nathans should be familiar to all of you as the site of the famous hot-dog eating contest held every July 4th. The record is still held by Joey Chestnut: 73 hot dogs consumed in ten minutes, (12,000 calories!)
Nathans is known not only for its hot dogs, but for its French fries as well. They make them extraordinarily thick, and full of garlic and salt. I think you can order them salt free – but the garlic is part of the bill-of-fare, like it or not.
To this day, when I’m there, I don’t miss an opportunity to get one of the dogs, but as well to take a ride on the Cyclone (part of Steeplechase Park – home of the Parachute Jump) which was the largest wooden roller coaster in the U.S. (no longer). One has to be careful to take the coaster ride BEFORE eating the hot dog – or else almost guaranteed the “dog” will re-emerge.