You could see the sign if you looked for it, but in the throngs of people walking toward whatever destination they were headed to, it’s a little tough to tell. The picture above was taken in Times Square, June 2010. It was a hot and humid day and we had already walked from The Met to the Apple Store on 5th Ave and 60th Street via Central Park. We then walked from there to Rockefeller Center and finally to Times Square. We had walked a lot that day, especially in the suffocating New York summer.

The sign I referred to above is The Roxy. I’ve eaten at The Roxy twice. The first time was with my brother when I visited him in CT and we had gone down to New York to watch one of the best plays in recent memory: Angels In America. For lunch, he took me to The Roxy, a delicatessen that would give Adam Richman, of Man vs. Food fame, a run for his girth. I remember what I had ordered: A chicken salad bacon sandwich. What came out was not a sandwich. It was a statement. A statement that said, “I dare you.” And of course, there was no way. A triple decker sandwich that was loaded with at least 1/2 pound of bacon and then another 1/2 pound of chicken salad with 3 slices of gigantic bread and cheese to boot. It was by far, the scariest, yet inviting thing I had known to that point. We gorged on our own sandwiches with delight, but ultimately defeated with ignominy.

The second and last time I ate at the Roxy was clearly on September 14, 2001. Four days after 9/11. Who would have thought the numbers 9 and 11 would forever be imprinted in our minds and hearts for those who lived through it, no matter what city or country you were in at the time. For us [my mom, brother and I], we were right dead center in New York City near Wall Street, 5 avenue blocks away from the World Trade Center. It took us 3 days of calls to United Airlines and my cousin finally getting through in San Francisco to get my mom and I back home. My brother, who had lived near Wall Street at the time, had to live through the aftermath of a city that to this day, no doubt, continues to heal from that infamous day.

The day we finally left the city to my cousin’s home in New Jersey was a rainy and cool September day. With public transit still down, we walked with our suitcases, dozens of blocks to the nearest working subway line to get a train to Times Square. We had time for one more meal in New York, and we settled for The Roxy.

I still remember what I had that day: Pastrami and eggs with hash browns. The boat load of food came and I looked at the portions thinking, “The city was just struck by the worse terrorist attack in history and The Roxy is still churning out ridiculous portions.” Those eggs and pastrami never tasted so good. I can still feel the taste and the heat of the food down my throat and into my empty stomach. You have to understand that for 3 days, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing was open where we were except for various places in Chinatown. Nothing was getting down to Downtown. No deliveries, no news, no electricity, no hot water. NOTHING. So, when I put a forkful of eggs and pastrami in my mouth, it imprinted not only the taste, but a memory for me. On our way out of Roxy to get the ride to Jersey, I had gotten a gigantic chocolate dipped palmier. That sucker was the size of a frisbee. And I took that thing all the way to Jersey and on the plane when we finally left the city on 9/16.

That was the last taste of New York for me for almost 9 years. We didn’t eat at The Roxy on our recent trip to New York. We didn’t have enough meals to fit it in our schedule. But I had to take a picture of the place where I ate my last meal in New York just days after the terrorist attack.

The Roxy is not the best place to eat in New York, nor would anyone say it’s near the top 5 delicatessens. But for me, it’s a place of refuge where we had none. A place where people, still talking about the events of the World Trade Center, came to eat, live, and be satisfied – if only to satisfy their hunger. It took 9 years for me to go back to New York. Not because of 9/11, but life happens. This time around, I am married and I enjoyed the city as if it were my first time there because I came with my wife. Next time, I will surely visit The Roxy again, if only to get the cartoonish frisbee size chocolate dipped palmier.