Joe In The Big Apple

September 11th, 2013
times square

Walking up Eighth Avenue Saturday with Times Square in the background.

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).


Joe’s No. 3 sandwich in the world: pastrami at Carnegie Deli.

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.


Joe crossed paths with “Woody” on 42nd Street.

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.


Joe’s perch at MetLife Stadium Sunday for the Bucs-Jets game.

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.

union square

The scene just outside the main entrance/exit at Union Square East.

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.

Fourth Avenue

Walking north on Fourth Avenue just a few blocks from Union Square East, Joe thought (if you blow the photo up) that was the Freedom Tower in the background. But Googles Maps suggests that is not accurate. Maybe veteran New York types know the name of that building. It was pretty cool-looking, sort of blueish with the afternoon sun shining off of it.

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.

29 Responses to “Joe In The Big Apple”

  1. Raphael Says:

    Careful , it’s 9-11 anniversary…. Watch out for backpacks and chemical weapons

  2. BucfanBF Says:

    Great story Joe, Have been to NYC numerous times and have always enjoyed my visit there…
    Visiting the site of 911 is a humbling experience to say the least…

  3. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    I might have been on the same flight back, Joe! You weren’t near the pastel blue suitcases in the luggage compartment were you? I was the onexsqueezed into the black trunk!

  4. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Joe…you talked about painted naked women then showed a picture of a Woody!

  5. Patrick Says:

  6. Justin Says:

    Joe, you are looking south on University Place. That is indeed the Freedom Tower.

  7. Bucs4life Says:

    Joe – I live in NYC and work in times square not too far away from ol’ Tonic West. There are so many great sports bars in Manhattan, so I’m a little disappointed you went to that tourist trap…That said, did you happen to stumble into Lace afterwards 😉 ?

  8. Harry Says:

    Very cool! LOVE the “City”. We go there every year at the beginning of December, after the Christmas stuff is out. It usually chilly, but not freezing and a perfect time to go. LOVE the pastrami at Carnegie Deli, and the corned beef is killer too. Time Square is something you just have to see in person, I don’t care how many times you see it on TV, it is just unreal in person – freaking people watching heaven!! And China town is a must. Next time you go Joe, visit Emilo Ballato’s on Houston for Italian – its a very small place, very Italian, and amazing food.

  9. Keith Says:

    Yes, no good sports bars in Times Square because nobody really lives there.

  10. Mike J Says:

    Hank Jr. got it right:

    Just send me to hell or New York City

    It would be about the same to me

  11. Pewter_Power Says:

    No picture of the brunette in body paint? #ComeOnJoe

  12. BKNYfootballhead Says:


    I’m sorry you found yourself in Tonic and Heartland of all places; it’s unlikely any patrons of these places are even New Yorkers, save for the employees (illegals in kitchen not counting). If you live here, you don’t go to Times Square unless your job is there or you’re catching a show. The best sports bars are in Brooklyn or on 3rd Ave.

    Carnegie deli has a good pastrami, but you should consider Katz’s Delicatessen next time. It’s a tourist trap itself, but still the best.

    There’s no better place to find good food than in New York.

    A good rule to follow if you ever catch a car service again, always negotiate the price once you’re seated. If you do it outside the car, he’ll just drive off.

    By the way, it’s called One World Trade Center. Freedom tower is a nickname.

  13. Oil Derrick Brooks Says:

    Did I walk into a Peter King column? 😉

  14. Joseph Says:

    Joe- you bumbling fool. First off, no one cares about your trip. Post stuff like this on your personal page. Secondly, you got hosed by doing all this touristy stuff and you look like a real idiot.

    Ahh, insults. How refreshing. Funny how you read so deep into it. Joe doesn’t care what readers think of what is written here, whether it’s Bucs or otherwise. Joe writes about what he finds interesting. For everything written on this site, there are thousands who don’t like it, and many more thousands that do. –Joe

  15. Luther Says:

    I’m staying in the Millenium Hilton right now looking at the Freedom Tower. This is my first time in NY…LOTS of great places to eat for sure.

  16. stvcl Says:

    Pic of the pastrami sandwich made my dang mouth water! Sounds like a good trip to the city. Sorry our Bucs made such a poor appearance.

  17. tonytwocents Says:

    Ive never seen so many dime peices in one spot.. especially those spoiled sexy b!tches walking up and down 5th ave…. Best city in the world. San Fran is a close second. Just too many hippies and hipsters.

  18. Joe Says:

    Secondly, you got hosed by doing all this touristy stuff and you look like a real idiot.

    Hhhmmm. Since Joe doesn’t live there, just a hunch, but that would make Joe a tourist, no?

    What’s Joe supposed to do in New York? Not go to Times Square? Not go to the Empire State Building? Not walk around midtown? Not go to the public library (the best in the world)? Not take public transportation?

    Never knew Johns of 12th was such a tourist trap, given the fact it’s in the middle of a neighborhood way off the beaten path. Never heard of the place before until a native New Yorker advised Joe to go there.

    Joe loves the pastrami at Carnegie. Who the f’ are you to tell Joe what food he’s supposed to like or not?

    (Joe enjoyed his time at Tonic. So what’s it to you?)

    As a New Yorker would say, “What a maroon!”

    Don’t like any article Joe writes? Don’t read it. Who put a gun to your head to read this?

  19. Joe Says:

    I’m sorry you found yourself in Tonic and Heartland of all places.

    a) Joe enjoyed his time at Tonic. Thought it was a cool place. Reasonable prices for beers, too.

    b) As Joe stated in the story, Heartland is way convenient. Right next to the Port Authority as Joe was headed back to Jersey. The Cornhusker lager was fantastic. Joe ain’t complaining.

  20. Joe Says:


    Thanks for the clarification. Joe really did think he was walking north (obviously, Joe was wrong) and thought sure that was the Freedom Tower but Google Maps threw Joe off (not the first time).

    That building really looks cool with the afternoon sun shining off of it from vast distance.

  21. BKNYfootballhead Says:


    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself at both joints. Tonic has some hot ass waitresses and I once hooked up with a chick from Heartland:) I can’t complain.

    Shoot me an email next time you’re heading up, and I’ll tell you where to find a sports bar with the tons of t.v.’s, the friendliest staff, and easily the best wings in the Northeast.

    And if you like beer, there are numerous beer gardens/bars offering tap and cask beer that will make a cornhusker lager taste as weak as Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch’s NFL career.

  22. Joe Says:

    Tonic has some hot ass waitresses


  23. BrianDorry55 Says:

    Sounds like a great trip…

    But you didn’t get hammered at McSorley’s…so you at least failed in one aspect.

  24. Buc1987 Says:

    New Yorkers LOVE to slobber their pasta is sauce. I worked in a quite a few Italian restaurants in Florida in my younger years. That’s one of things I’ve learned from the mom and pop restaurants. Love to drown their pasta with sauce.

  25. Buc1987 Says:

    Mike J Says:
    September 11th, 2013 at 9:29 am

    “Hank Jr. got it right:

    Just send me to hell or New York City

    It would be about the same to me”

    I concur and I’m from the Boston area. I’ll take redneck Pasco county over NYC.
    I tell NYers all the time when I run into them. If someone were to tell me I’ll give you a 100 grand to live in NY for a year. I’d turn them down. I’d be in liberal hell and my head would explode in about a month.

    Anyways great post Joe.

  26. Joe Says:

    That’s one of things I’ve learned from the mom and pop restaurants. Love to drown their pasta with sauce.

    First thing Joe thinks of when something is totally buried in sauce: What are you hiding?

    Joe’s of the mind sauce is supposed to enhance the entree, not overpower it.

  27. Solaire of Astora Says:

    Joseph if you don’t like the article go read something else. Asl Joe I’m hurt that you don’t care what we think:(

  28. Simon Says:

    $55 from the stadium!!! I’ve got one better. We stayed at the Sheraton literally across Route 3 from the stadium and they charged $25 in a taxi from there!!! We actually stood on the side of the interstate weighing up whether we would be killed attempting to run across the road….. We didn’t, we survived!

  29. BigMacAttack Says:

    Joe sounds like a cool trip. Thanks for the details, I found it enjoyable. My old man used to live in Farmingdale, so I spent time there into youth. I’m down with Katz Deli, that place was awesome. Every time I left NY I had a better appreciation for where I lived. I’m more of redneck country boy and the big city wasn’t for me.

    It’s funny how far you guys have come since starting this mess (joking). Now have full access and press credentials, radio time, TV time. Everybody wants a piece of JoeBucsFan. Great work, stay true as always because if we don’t like something, we’ll get over it.