On East Houston Street has been standing Katz’s Deli for God-know-how-many years (since 1888 – I don’t do maths). This is a proper Jewish delicatessen of NYC Lower East Side (which London’s dear Mishkin’s takes an inspiration from). The walls are adorned with memorabilia of the past (with a lot of sleb diners) and straight to the future (I’m sure the place will have 100 more years to go). As I walked in, I was given a ticket, which was to be presented at the counter as I ordered my food. The menu is as vast as the deli itself and has everything Jewish – Chicken soup, Salt Beef, Pastrami, Knishes…
(As I was on a mini food crawl), I settled just for a Reuben ($16.55) and a Salt Beef Sandwich ($15.25). It was a mouthful of spectacle seeing the corned beef being sliced and then two slices were given to me as samples. Steaming hot. Tender in texture and powerful in taste. The same was repeated while I was waiting for the salt beef, which was gelatinous (thanks to the fat) and snapped apart very gently. Once turned into sandwiches, I did not like them as much. For the salt beef, I found the American mustard too sweet and did not contribute a striking contrast to the beefy forte. Personal preference. The Reuben was far more calorie-worthy thanks to the corned beef alone. Dressing-wise, the Russian dressing could have been more piquant and the sauerkraut sharper in acidity. But again this is a personal preference for sourness (as I noticed they seem pro sweetness over there). The rye bread were pretty spot-on spongy. A great meal, nonetheless, and the sandwiches were MONUMENTAL!!!
A digestive attempt. I walked into Economy Candy – a rusty-looking, wholesale+retail candy shop on Rivington Street, still on the Lower East Side. The range of sweet things (mostly American brands and cartoon-focused goodies) here is incredibly orgasmic, considering how not-so-large the shop is. A sort of place that makes your aged retina beams with gleeful youth. The price of all things at Economy Candy is also a tempting bargain, about 1/3 – 1/2 cheaper than the regular retail price.
(I only bought 3 monkeys – below)..
And my mini food crawl ended here – Crif Dogs. A famous hot dog cafe with a “secret”.
Crif Dogs is dungeon-like with an odd resemblance to Camden. There are a great variation of toppings to choose from (16 kinds, I think), while the price fluctuates between $2.50 – $5. Tater Tots ($2.50) were these little cylindrical hash browns. Light, crispy and additive. No greasy aftertaste. The New Yorker was an all-beef sausage ($2.50) served nude in a bun (toppings on request) seemed fried rather than grilled and did not burst much taste (BAHD’s Pimp Steak beats this one hands down). The Chihuahua ($4.50) was a bacon-wrapped frankfurter with avocado and sour cream. Velvety touch. The sausage was snappy and juicy and the bacon very crackling. The Chilli Dog ($3.75) was pleasant and claimed a good mustard heat. I wasn’t keen on the cloyingly sticky texture, though. Apart from this, I also felt underwhelmed by the paper-like bun (it tasted a bit like the ones we feed fish in Thailand). My favourite of the meal was The Corn Dog ($4.75). I liked the sweet gummy batter and the moist hot dog. My only criticism was that my Corn Dog was a few minutes over-fried, resulting in a mildly burnt aroma and bitterness.
Hot dogs, done!
So, the “secret”?!?
The telephone booth inside Crif Dogs leads way to a secret cocktail bar called PDT (“please don’t tell”) which is opened daily from 6pm till late. You need to secure a reservation over the phone at a designated time (I learn it is 10am of the day you visit). If not, aim to arrive very early. I can’t tell if their cocktails are good because, during our visit, the place was so secretive nobody told us it was shut (for refurbishment).
RATING: 4, 3 Out Of 5
205 East Houston Street
New York City
Tel. 001 (212) 254-2246
108 Rivington Street
New York City
Tel. 001 (212) 254-1531
113 St Marks Place 2
New York City
Tel. 001 (212) 614-2728