Joe In The Big AppleSeptember 11th, 2013
As promised, Joe is recounting his weekend trip to cover the Bucs in New Jersey, and spending a couple of days in The Big Apple.
After bouncing from train to train and having but three hours sleep the previous evening, Joe didn’t get to his New Jersey hotel until 5 p.m. Friday. Joe figured (wrongly) it was too late to go — as the northeast types say — “into the city.” So Joe decided to take a nap. Next thing Joe knows it is 9:45 p.m. and Joe had to settle for late-night fine suburban Italian dining at Bensi’s in Hasbrouck Heights.
The next day, Joe took a bus into the city (it was a straight shot from Joe’s hotel, only took about 40 minutes and was the cleanest mass transit bus Joe had ever seen). Joe was dropped off at the Port Authority, and when you walk up the two flights of stairs inside (think of a dark Tyrone Square shopping mall with a train/bus depot beneath it) and then walk outside, you are right in the middle of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street, plopped down amid thousands of people, many in a hurry to who knows where?
It’s like being dropped off in the center of the universe. Joe did a very Floridian thing that day. He walked around Times Square a couple of times and, after having his No. 3 sandwich in the world, a pastrami at Carnegie Deli, found a sports bar, Tonic. So Joe sat there the rest of the beautiful afternoon (the weather over the weekend in New York couldn’t be beat) watching college football and throwing a few back.
(On the way to get his sandwich up Seventh Ave., in Times Square, where every national media outlet has a bureau, there were protesters of a potential Syrian military strike by the U.S. caged off by the NYPD. Most of the protesters were middle eastern types, save for five or six who were 70-year old hippies).
At Tonic, just about every decent-sized college was represented by fans in the bar. Even a Noles fan and a Gators fan were there, though roughly 20 feet apart. It had to be the quietest sports bar Joe had ever been in. Dead silent, save for periodic hollering from said Gators fan.
Every screen but one had college football on. The lone non-college football screen had the U.S. Open on (which is huge in New York). To the credit of the New Yorkers, only about a half-dozen were transfixed by tennis; the rest of the patrons were locked in on college football.
The two-story sports bar was packed but not crowded, if that makes sense. The top floor was virtually wall-to-wall Ohio State fans. The place is also an Oklahoma bar and Mississippi State bar, apparently, but Joe found scant Sooners fans (but about a dozen Bulldogs fans).
On the way back to the Port Authority while walking through Times Square, there were scantily-clad lasses selling something (cosmetic or perfumes or something) and Joe had to do a double-take. This lovely brunette Joe thought was wearing a bikini was actually body-painted. As in no clothes. Don’t see that too often in Pinellas County.
Just to play it safe, Joe didn’t want to get hammered in the city and then try to stumble back to his hotel in Jersey. That’s begging for a disaster. While heading back to the Port Authority for the ride back, of all things on the corner of Eighth Ave. and 43rd St. is a craft brewery named “Heartland Brewery.” Yeah, when Joe thinks of the heartland, he thinks of the Port Authority at Times Square.
Joe can confirm after rigorous research the “Cornhusker Lager” is much, much better than Bo Pelini’s defense. Cool thing about this place is, you can relax, have a pint of cold craft beer, and feel the floor shake as the trains rumble in and out of the Port Authority.
Sunday was the Bucs-Jets game, which has been well-documented. Joe had to take a cab (Cadillac actually) there. $35 getting there and here is where the cabbie/thieves come in. Joe had to wait for a cab after the game n an empty lot. This is some four hours after the game. Joe was told by the dispatcher it would be about 45 minutes at least for a cab. Welp. Either wait or sleep at the stadium.
Roughly 10 minutes later, a car drives by, a cabbie but not like the one who dropped Joe off, more of a car service, Cadillac/Town Car type. The driver had no idea where Joe’s hotel was and his GPS wasn’t working. Four or five times the driver asked Joe where to turn and Joe replied, “You’re the driver. I live in Florida.” The guy twice had to ask pedestrians for directions. smh
Then when Joe is dropped off the thief wanted $55 claiming it was fair. And Joe had to do all the work! Joe gave him his money because, if not for him, Joe could have been sitting in an empty parking lot for hours waiting on a ride. Better to get thieved than stranded.
So Monday comes and Joe heads back to the city. Joe just roamed around checking things out on foot, like the public library, various parks. Nothing spectacular though Joe thought it was amusing that the closer you got to Park Ave, the less and less riffraff you saw on the sidewalks.
Joe wanted to go up in the Empire State Building, but like last year at the Freedom Tower, you not only got airport strip-searched, you must pay to gain access. Huh, uh. Joe doesn’t mind paying or getting airport strip-searched, but Joe sure as hell isn’t going to pay ($37) to get airport strip-searched. Naturally, Joe found a bar and a couple of cold pints to pass away the disappointment.
Joe wanted to dine at a place that Tampa Tribune humorist Martin Fennelly has been begging him to try for years, “John’s of 12th Street.” Fennelly described it as “it looks like the place where Sollozzo was offed.”
To get there, Joe took a subway to Union Square East. Little did Joe know that this is the very heart of the east coast liberal establishment, the East Village/NYU area of the city. When Joe climbed out from the subway, the air was thick with the stench of tobacco (the legal kind). There were all sorts of protesters for this or that and there was even a pretty good-sized farmer’s market going on.
Joe walked from there to John’s. Ordered lasagna. Now this place, Johns’, has been around over a century. It was featured, Joe learned, on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” yet it is neither a diner nor a drive-in nor a dive. Joe was expecting dynamite food. For starters, he was given stale bread and frozen butter. WTH! A two-bit bar in Clinton County, Ill. wouldn’t pull that stunt.
Later, his lasagna was runny and overloaded with tomato sauce, buried. Joe sampled it and rather than being from John’s of 12th Street, Joe thought it was Stouffers of Publix. Joe was PO’ed. All that work (and money) to get there and it was worse than Midwestern bar grub. He literally didn’t want to take another bite. He was furious and took to Twitter. Joe’s had (much) better Italian meals on St. Pete Beach. Joe almost paid and walked out. He had no desire to continue eating. But, hell, may as well choke it down.
Once Joe pried away the sausage and the pasta and the cheese from the overwhelming tomato sauce, it was quite good. The sausage was very good. The cheese also. The pasta, as good as Joe has had.
But then came dessert! Tiramisu. OMG! This blew Joe’s socks off. It was exceptional. By far the best Joe has ever had. Absolutely five-star stuff. There has only been maybe a half-dozen times Joe has eaten something that was exquisite, so good. Joe dropped his fork/spoon on his plate, leaned back and savored the moment. This tiramisu was one of those times. If there is a better tiramisu in the world, Joe has not eaten it.
John’s of 12th Street someday will get a second chance from Joe. The tiramisu all but demands a second trip.