One of the thousand-and-one things I love about this city is the food. High or low, from cheapo Chinese noodle joints to French bistros, those who feed and those who are fed embrace the authentic, not withstanding the few sad pockets of TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouses. We have congee houses and chicken feet and a million-and-one kinds of sushi. And we have a native cuisine: coffee shop/deli food. One of the finest spots to enjoy the delights of the deli table is Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop at 174 Fifth Ave. Not only do they serve many of the great deli specials (pastrami, etc.) they also offer a wonderful range of classic diner foods. Grilled cheese, French fries, a really, really good egg salad. The sort of food New Year’s resolutions are built around. Eliminating.
But I’m not going near any resolution that deprives me of my weekly Eisenberg’s fix. Lucky enough to be working nearby to this sacred place (open since 1929! That’s like the Great Pyramids in New York restaurant years) I find their array of egg products (scrambled, salad, cream), milkshakes, and butter-strewn breads and grits indispensable to my happiness.
But equally happy-making is the convivial atmosphere. There is always someone who says hello, in that “I recognize you” kind of way, always a paper to read if you’ve forgotten your book (just ask). And if you’re really lucky, and there at a slow time with a sad look on your face, you just might get a story from Josh, the owner: just before Christmas he told me about his father-in-law, who is the animator who produced the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special. The little stop-action figure is still around, and living in his creator’s house — he gets pulled out on special occasions. I find it somehow encouraging, the thought of that tiny figurine still admired and cared for.
Eisenberg’s also has fixtures that must date back to 1929, or pretty darn close, which I also find encouraging. The counter is of dark green marble, the chrome soda spigots still run fizzy… but that’s all been covered extensively in other places. Eisenberg’s is the kind of place that draws nostalgic New York writers in droves. All I want to say is, the food is good. Unhealthy, but really good. And no amount of new-leaf turning-over will keep me away. That’s my New Year’s resolution.