Empire of the Bland
Certain restaurants are the bedrock of existence (Chennai Garden, Mendy's). Some restaurants are like old friends who you know won't write or call more than once a year -- and that's okay. Whenever you meet, you immediately pick up again where you left off as if no time had intervened; phone calls or e-mails would just get in the way. Such a restaurant was Gan Eden Glatt, an Uzbekistani place (I think; I'm not knowledgable in Central Asian cuisine, but I know what I like) on 74 W 47th St. Whenever I found myself nearby, either for reasons of jewelry or buying Chasidic newspapers, I would drop by for a plate of plov, some spicy soup, or a skewer of grilled meat. All ridiculously cheap, and served up with a Soviet-style, um, nonchalance: "You don't like it, find another restaurant.' Usually there was a group of guys in the corner dressed in sweatsuits, talking tough and looking nasty. I'm sure they were perfectly lawful gentlemen whose dress was only an ironic tip of the hat to the prevailing stereotype. Once I (accidentally) stepped on the foot of one of them, and had to quickly apologize because I wasn't packing any heat that day.
I was in the Diamond District the other day to replace some jewelry I had lost (more on that in my next column), and I decided to satisfy my need for non-humanely slaughtered, kosher meat. I walked up the two flights of stairs and I stopped stock still at what I saw on the door:
Now, you might know Dougie's on the Upper West Side. I'm probably one of about six or seven people on the planet who find it a somewhat unappetizing -- okay, gross -- testament to Orthopop* conspicuous consumption. But it serves a purpose. Then Dougie's opened a dairy place next door. Two is maybe one too many, but stil not out of the ordinary. This Dougie's Express, this extra slice of white bread added to a tasteless table of kosher alternatives in the city, is just too much. I (should have) immediately ripped a hole in my lapel and sat down on the floor, wailing and lamenting.
*Orthopop: Orthodox pop culture. I'm trying to find a good term for it. I know "Orthopop" sounds like it means pop music, though, so if anyone can figure out another good word -- or if there's one already I'm ignorant of -- speak up!