Category: New York


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.

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The first thoughts I had about the Chelsea Market is how chic and wonderful it is. We have nothing like that around these parts, not unless you want to count outdoor “malls”, which I don’t. It’s filled with various cafe’s, markets, and dessert shops. One of the places I saw was a spot called Fat Witch, which we didn’t try because we just didn’t need anymore sugar and butter to our already fattening dining itinerary. But oh did it look good and boutique-y.

We did eat at a spot called Ronnybrook Dairy Farm for lunch, which you can read about my review here. It was a spot for both savory and sweet and it was a good spot to hit on the day we left. Iron Chef Masuharu Morimoto has also opened his restaurant there called Morimoto, but we didn’t get a chance to dine there.

Then I started to think. Is this really just an upper crust kind of food court? I mean, there are food courts [the kind you find at the outlet malls] and then there are food courts [with italics to show they’re unique and kind of snooty]. And in doing research on Wikipedia about the Chelsea Market, it is labeled as an “urban food court”. So my thoughts were not totally off, but can you really call it a food court? To put the Chelsea Market in the same breath as a sBarros and a Charley’s Steakery just doesn’t seem right. And, it’s not. No matter what category you think Chelsea Market ought to be in, it is not, in my mind, a food court. There’s no “court”, a central area where you wander aimlessly to figure out what grotesque food item combos you’re going to ingest, then sit down with the other tired shoppers who are eating to merely get mor energy to pump more money back in our battered economy. There’s also no Auntie Anne’s or Wetzel Pretzel, a sure sign that you are definitely in a food court. And of course, there’s no sBarros, the pantheon of all food court royalty cafes where they somehow think that more processed Parmesan cheese is what diners want.

I would be proud if we had a Chelsea Market where we lived. But for now, I’m staring down the barrel of Panda Expresses, sBarros, and pretzel places where our appetites and diets go for a slow death. I don’t hate food courts, heck I’ve eaten at them with gladness at times, but no one can deny that as far as food goes, there is a fine line between edible and barely edible. And that’s where food courts come to help you decide. The Chelsea Market offers fresh, organic, and truly good food that doesn’t lead one to think how much chemicals did I just ingest. It’s a place where one can wander and let your senses dictate what you want to eat. Then you go in to that cafe/restaurant and eat. No centralized area where people are herded like cattle to sit and dine. You sit and dine where you order your food. What a novel idea.

Gray’s Papaya. It’s meant to illicit thoughts of hot dog heaven. Everyone in New York knows about Gray’s Papaya. So, we had to go and try it, right? Right.

Gay Pride Parade. It’s meant to illicit freedom of individuals. Everyone in New York knows about the Gay Pride Parade. That’s a good thing, right? Sure.

Gray’s Papaya, meet the Gay Pride Parade. Gay Pride Parade, meet Gray’s Papaya. That’s what happened to us on our way to Gray’s Papaya near Greenwich Village. We had walked a lot that day. I mean A LOT. We had only had a bagel sandwich and half of a crappy chicken salad sandwich at ‘WichCraft, of which you can read about my scathing review here on Yelp. We needed energy. We needed, a hot dog. And not just any hot dog, because we could have had one via the Sabrett hot dog carts. No, we had to have Gray’s Papaya.

When we reached Greenwich village, we were met head on by the parade and its barricades. We walked patiently along Waverly, then turned right on 6th Ave. Pushing, shoving, weaving through the throng that was amongst us in the heavy afternoon air on a hot summer day in June in New York. We get to the corner of 6th Ave and 8th Street. And there it was. The picture you see above. We were about 50 feet from Gray’s Papaya. And we crossed the….Wait. There is a metal barricade blocking us from crossing the street to Gray’s. Oh no. It was the parade. 50 feet!!!! Could we climb over the barricades and jump over to Gray’s? No chance. The NYC police were strewned along the street. And then the free condoms were thrown into the frenzied crowd and we were defeated. Defeated because we had come so far only to be stopped by the Gay Pride Parade from our destination. But that did not deter us. We walked along 8th Street back towards 5th Ave. Our legs felt heavier by each step. Side stepping overly excited supporters who would not let the heat stop them from being part of the party. We walked to the end of the parade and crossed the street. Again, being pushed, shoved, and shuffled our way for another 15 minutes until we got to Gray’s.

We had arrived. Gray’s Papaya. We were hot, sweaty, tired, and parched. We saw a sign that read, “Stimulus Combo – 2 Franks and a drink for $4.99”. Bingo. That was our ticket to energy and dining heaven. One plain Gray’s Papaya hot dog and one with “everything”. We looked at each other and thought, “For what we had to go through to get here, this better be one damn tasty dog.” We took a bite. “Dammit. It tastes like a damn hot dog,” I thought to myself. I expended my last bit of energy for a hot dog. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a damn dog.

Sure, our experience of struggling to just get there took all of our expectations to new heights. But at the end of the day, it is just a dog. A dog that had been on the griddle and shoved in a bun. Just like many other dogs. Nothing is ever what it seems. We thought we would be enjoying a great hot dog from a local favorite spot and what we got was a gallon of sweat, energy sucked to the bone, and unmet expectations.