The Last Meal Tour has come to an end.
This past weekend, the Complementary Spouse and I visited New York to eat at some of my favorite restaurants. I know that these calorieriffic meals seem unwise, especially given that I am trying to change my eating habits and lose more weight before surgery. Emotionally, though, they’re very comforting. It’s like saying farewell to a friend that you know you won’t see for a long time.
We began our weekend at Katz’s Delicatessen, a Jewish culinary landmark on Houston Street. Everything on this menu appeals to me. There’s not a ham sandwich with mayo in sight. Even the Complementary Spouse, who grew up on Southern food, loves Katz’s.
I had originally intended to order the pastrami sandwich, but at the last minute I changed my mind to corned beef. We shared the sandwich, a plate of pickles, and a serving of latkes (Footnote 1). The restaurant was crowded, dingy, and loud, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The corned beef was just the right consistency, substantial but not chewy, and tasted great with a smear of deli-style brown mustard. I posted on Facebook that “corned beef is made out of cows and magic.” The latkes were perfectly cooked, crispy but not crunchy.
There was a possibility that our friends from Reykjavik (Footnote 2) would be able to meet us, so we waited for a while in the Starbucks near the Stonewall Inn to see if our plans would line up. Unfortunately, we couldn’t connect, so we headed across the street to another one of my happy food places, Big Gay Ice Cream.
Here’s the secret of Big Gay Ice Cream: All of the genius is in the toppings. Take those away, and you have vanilla and chocolate soft-serve in a cone. However, Big Gay Ice Cream puts a lot of creativity and thought into what goes on top of that soft-serve. The American Globs is rolled in pretzels and then dipped in chocolate. The Bea Arthur is drowned in dulce de leche and topped with crumbled-up Nilla Wafers. The Monday Sundae, which the Complementary Spouse got, contained both Nutella and dulce de leche.
I ordered my favorite, the Rocky Roadhouse, which is like a deconstructed scoop of rocky road ice cream. All of the ingredients — marshmallows, nuts, chocolate — are on the outside. One thing I like about Big Gay Ice Cream is that they put drip protectors on their cones, so you don’t have to worry about it melting all over your hands when the weather is hot. Nonetheless, I got a little sticky.
We relaxed in the room a little bit after that, and I took care of some homework for the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks. Then we headed south again to meet the Complementary Brother-in-Law for drinks at the Marlton Hotel on 8th Street. The Marlton lounge is steeped in wood panelling and old furniture, but large windows keep the place from feeling stuffy. I ordered a cocktail, while the Complementary Spouse got an IPA and the Complementary Brother-in-Law got a vodka and soda. I finished my drink quickly and ordered a second, a rum and coke.
After drinks, we headed two or three blocks to Mario Batali’s upscale pizza restaurant, Otto Enoteca, on Fifth Avenue. One of the Complementary Brother-in-Law’s friends joined us, and we all grazed on olives and cheese before our pizzas arrived. The menu was bewildering, so I wasn’t quite sure what to order. I settled on one called the cacio e pepe, which was loaded with cheese but didn’t have any tomato sauce. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but I found it delicious nonetheless. I drank too many beers with dinner, which is fine because (a) we weren’t driving anywhere and (b) I’m very charming when I’m inebriated.
The friend left after dinner, so the three of us went to a famous bar in the West Village called the Monster. It’s one of the few gay bars left where everyone feels welcome, even an overweight guy from Florida like me. The beer drinking continued with Rolling Rocks as we stood near the piano, where gay anthems like “I Will Survive” were being warbled.
Eventually, we made our way downstairs to the dance floor. The Complementary Spouse did something that looked like a jig. It was too loud down there, so I asked to leave. We hung out a local park for a while, hopped on the subway, and said goodbye to the Complementary Brother-in-Law.
The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel. I got a lemon soufflé pancake, which was topped with an orange syrup and poppy seeds. It was like eating cake coated with candy. Soon after that, we headed downtown to the 9/11 museum and memorial. It’s always a reflective place for us, because one of the Complementary Spouse’s former students was killed in the attack.
After that, we went to another place on my must-do list: Shake Shack. I really enjoy the burgers at Shake Shack, but I truly believe — I know this is controversial — In-N-Out Burger is better (Footnote 3). I ordered a plain cheeseburger with no tomato, and we shared an order of crinkle-cut fries. I also got custard for the first time, as it’s also the last time I’ll be able to. Everything was delicious. The bun was soft enough to feel good in the mouth, but thick enough to keep all the burger components together. The special sauce was kind of a like a creamy mixture of ketchup and mustard.
After our trip to the World Trade Center Observatory, we headed back to our hotel in Midtown, stopping off at a bodega to pick up a black-and-white cookie. It tasted good, although the inside was more yellow than I expected it to be. We also made one more Starbucks trip, as it was convenient and on our way back.
Then, as quickly as it started, the trip was over. By 4:30 p.m., we were on the train from Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport, where I stood in the security line for nearly an hour and saw a fight break out. (Ah, New Jersey! You never let me down.)
And that’s it. No more food crimes. It’s healthy eating for me from here on out.
1. You goyim will know these as potato pancakes.
2. They are actually from Philadelphia, but we met them over many beers in Iceland.
3. Shut up, Eric. We’ve had this conversation already.