Friday, July 11, 2014


Monday, July 7, 2014
You don’t think of turning to Consumer Reports for excitement. Often, in its attempt to appear sober and authoritative, it seems to regret not printing in black and white. The current issue features "America’s Best & Worst Fast Food." Almost exactly two years ago, July 4, 2012, I commented on its review of chain restaurants, finding that absolutely none of those that "earned especially high marks across the board" could be reached using New York City’s extensive public transportation system. In fact, only one could be reached by traveling less than one hour in an automobile.

Fast food restaurants are found throughout New York City, but again we are denied the better alternatives, in the eyes of Consumer Reports. In the critical category of hamburgers, the top five chains, selected by tens of thousands of readers, are, in order:
.   In-N-Out Burger, headquartered in Irvine, CA, which I patronized when in exile in Los Angeles, operates predominantly in California, with a presence in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas.

.   The Habit Burger Grill also is headquartered in Irvine, CA, not exactly cow country. It has dozens of locations entirely in California, Arizona and Utah. However, a Fair Lawn, NJ site is promised soon.

.   Culver’s, based in Wisconsin, does not appear anywhere in New York or New Jersey.

.   Burgerville, never straying far from its Vancouver, Washington home, is only situated in Washington and Oregon.

.   Whataburger, headquartered in Denver, CO, extends nationally, with a modest local presence, 1 store in Brooklyn and 2 in Manhattan.

Note, if we reach down into the next 5 favorites, only Five Guys Burgers and Fries (#7), counter to its highly-rated competitors, has 9 Manhattan locations, 4 in Brooklyn, 7 in Queens and 1 on Staten Island, among its hundreds throughout the country. I know that I ate in one of the Queens locations, which was not far from my mother’s residence, but no closer to home. Also, Steak’n’Shake (#10) has one Manhattan location.

The really big guys (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and the like) appear on the bottom half of Consumer Reports’s list of 21 companies, with McDonald’s last of all. In conclusion, I am sticking to Chinatown for fast and good and interesting and occasionally nutritious food.

Not that every Chinatown joint is a winner. Queen Bakery, 150 Mott Street, may be the start of a chain with its sister at 139 Centre Street (December 4, 2013). It is small; 1 table for four and 4 two-tops occupy the space in front of the counter. Prepared baked goods are on the shelves to the left. The menu offers congee and noodle soups, along with a variety of beverages, hot and cold. Hot beverages of any sort were unwelcome today with the temperature in the high 80s, so I asked if I could get noodles without soup. I wound up with shrimp dumplings, mei fun (vermicelli) and vegetables (bean sprouts, mushrooms, pea pods and Chinese broccoli) freshly cooked, but dry ($5.50). I put some hot sauce on it to give it some flavor, which ordinarily might have come from the broth. I also had a sticky roast pork bun (80¢) to round out the meal and my stomach. I won’t bother telling Consumer Reports about this lunch. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
I’m trying to find a comparison for Brazil’s loss to Germany 7-1 in the World Cup. How about the last Super Bowl, when Seattle trounced the favored Denver 43-8? Tired of sports? How about Ted Kennedy’s television interview, on October 12, 1979, when the senator, riding high in the polls to challenge the renomination of Jimmy Carter, answered the question why he wanted to be president in a manner described by the Boston Globe as "at once incoherent and repetitive?" Maybe, Ishtar, a 1987 film written and directed by the very witty Elaine May, starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, considered an extravagant flop, although I found one comment that the "movie is far from being unwatchable?" Eric Cantor?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Pho Pasteur Vietnamese Restaurant, 85 Baxter Street, is Faux Pasteur now. The whole place has been done over and is now called Pasteur Grill and Noodles. The storefront is entirely framed glass panes. The boxy interior holds about 50 customers seated on dark wood furniture. Two walls are entirely mirrored, the other holds two photo murals and a small television set.

The menus are clearly laid out, with many photographs. I ordered stir fried shrimp in tamarind sauce ($12, a small portion of white rice unnecessarily extra at $1.50). The shrimp dish was very good. 14 or so medium-sized shrimp were cooked with onions, cucumber, green peppers, red peppers and lettuce, in a sweet-tangy sauce that did not have the consistency of industrial sludge. It really was worth the money.

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Dose the lack of success of black and Hispanic students on the Stuyvesant High School entrance examination justify closing the school, or changing the role of the examination in the admission process?
I am unwilling to punish the school because of the limitations of parents, politicians and educators, in that order. 

Friday, July 11, 2014
In response to frequent requests, here is my summary of Chinatown favorites:

Best classic Chinatown food and atmosphere – Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street (downstairs). Noodles and fried rice are excellent, as is egg foo young, elevating a cliché to fine food. Note, avoid beef dishes where beef is not sliced thin.

Best lunch time deal – Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street. Hot and sour soup, rice and main course around $6. Add a scallion pancake (no worse than second best in Chinatown).

Best dim sum food – Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway. Dignified, no carts. Order assorted platter, each piece (all steamed) different size, shape, color, contents.

Best dim sum experience – Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street. Big, noisy, countless carts; great with a group.

Best Peking duck – Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street. Don’t bother with anything else. 1 duck for two, $25.95, can’t be beat.

Good alternative – West New Malaysia Restaurant, 46-48 Bowery Street, Chinatown Arcade (between Bowery and Elizabeth Street). Order roti canai, pancake with curry dipping sauce; satay chicken or beef (or both) on skewers with peanut sauce.

Another good alternative – Kori Tribeca, 253 Church Street (Korean). Order a lunch box, $12-14.

Still another good alternative (with almost no room to sit) – Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich, 369 Broome Street.

Still another good alternative (with a little room to sit) – Banh Mi, Vietnamese Sandwich, 73 West Broadway.

For a "nice" evening meal, Ping's Seafood, 22 Mott Street. Very good food and tablecloths.


  1. and the best scallion pancake is?!?!

  2. Shanghai Cafe Deluxe, 100 Mott Street by an eyelash.