More advice for 2011
Top, the "Woody Allen" is at available at Carnegie Deli. Above,
St. Elmo Steak House has been a landmark in downtown
Indianapolis since 1902.
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot…."
There are some meals I should forget. One in particular comes to mind – a place in New York city that had punctuation for a name and was staffed by really pale, emaciated people all dressed in black. They gave me the impression they really didn't give a damn if I died right there at the table. And the food was bad enough it was a possibility.
And then there are the great ones. Here are 10 suggestions for 2011.
1. Any restaurant survey should begin in New Orleans because it was the town that always told us that food could be great and be American and that it didn't have to be French or Italian. New Orleans should also be a meal destination for all of us because it still needs our help.
Treat yourself to a mufaletta at the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. Stacks of sausage, meat, cheese, and olive salad in Sicilian loaf wrapped in butcher paper. Central Grocery has plywood counters, tired Mardi Gras posters and please-get-your-own-beer-and-wipe-the-counter-when-you're-done service.
2. The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. Sit at the bar, eat a couple of dozen of the best oysters from anywhere – get the sea urchin, if it's in season, and then go even farther out on the richness ledge with a pan roast.
3. Tootsie's in Nashville – Because the atmosphere is so perfectly honkey tonk – the same joint it was when Willie Nelson played there. A cold beer and a pickled egg count as a meal here.
4. Carnegie Deli in New York – Get the "Woody Allen" and a crisp green pickle and a Brown's soda. The mix of flavor from the pastrami and the fat and juices from the corned beef is perfect. The sandwich really is as big as your head. Eat slowly, eat as much as you can and then go back to your hotel and lie down and watch T.V. until the stuffed feeling passes. The service is classic – they treat you like a visiting in-law until that big warm smile, just before the check goes down.
5. Gramercy Tavern in New York. Maybe America's greatest restaurant. Honest, almost perfect American flavors, proudly and handsomely presented. It has the best cheese course any where.
6. Bones in Atlanta – It helped make the rules about what a steak house should be – prime American beef, cut, aged and cooked by artisans who know their trade. With football helmets on the wall, because they loved the kids that really wore them, and not just because the corporate buying team got them at garage sales.
7. St. Elmo's Steak House in Indianapolis. Because of all of #6 above, and because it has the best, most horseradish, shrimp cocktail in America.
8. Chez Panisse in San Francisco – Alice Waters has baked and cooked with the best of them forever and she has taught us the importance of great ingredients – fresh meat and produce, tended by Americans who love their farms and raise the best food product in the world.
9. Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, just off Harvard Square. Great burgers, damn fine fries and one helluva Lime Rickey. And there's the osmosis – maybe you will have more IQ points after sitting in the same chairs as the Harvard guys.
10 One special meal to be savored is right here in town. Ocean Star in the little center between Walgreens and Publix is serving tasty sushi and Asian fare for lunch and dinner. Great product served by neighbors that are deserving of your support.