You may recall that, at readers’ instigation, I offered to answer any question put to me. Well, here you go.
1. If you only had $50 to spend on a Saturday for meals and activities in Tribeca, how would you do it? Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Fifty bucks for one day? Hmm…. I’d start with iced coffee and a pain au chocolat at La Colombe ($5). I usually run errands on Saturday mornings while walking my dog. One of the great delights of writing this website is noticing all the interesting details that people otherwise zoom by—I get a lot of my “Where in Tribeca…?” and “Photo Safari” material from these walks, especially on less-traveled streets such as Franklin Place, Cortlandt Alley, and Washington. I’m a regular at the Tribeca Greenmarket to pick up fruits and vegetables ($10): For lunch, I’ll make a big chopped salad with those vegetables and eat it with pizza and a Pellegrino Chinotto soda from Grandaisy ($8), or better yet, I’ll stuff the salad into Grandaisy’s pizza bianca, call it a sandwich, and picnic in Duane Park. The afternoon is a gallery crawl: Tribeca has a ton of galleries that I’m guessing most of you have never visited: Pelavin Gallery, Cheryl Hazan, RH Gallery, Skot Foreman Fine Art, KS Art, Soho Photo, Kimmerich, Jack Hanley, Carriage Trade, Hionas Gallery, One Art Space, Apexart, Hal Bromm, Art in General, Arts and Sciences Projects, Dream House. (Clocktower Gallery—a fascinating space—is only open weekdays, alas.) At some point during the crawl, I’ll reward myself with something sweet; I patronize every bakery in Tribeca, so my choice would vary ($3). Between 4 and 6 p.m. I’d stop by Terroir for a free glass of sherry ($2–3 tip, depending on how cheap/guilty the experience of ordering a free drink makes me feel). That leaves $22 for dinner. I’d be tempted to picnic again, but that’s sort of avoiding the question, so instead, I’d wander over to the new Shake Shack, where even after a ‘Shroom burger, non-cheese fries, and a shake ($15) I’ll have enough money left for a round of mini golf on Pier 25 ($5).
2. What’s the best sandwich in the nabe?
I believe that almost everything tastes better between two slices of bread. My very favorite sandwich in Tribeca—and this probably has something to do with its seasonal scarcity—is the BLT at Wichcraft. I rarely eat meat anymore, but I make an exception for that sandwich. (Sandwiches are generally better with meat, unless you’re prepared to do extra work.) By the way, close readers will notice that I’m always yapping about how I don’t eat meat—I do it not out of sanctimoniousness but to remind everyone why I can’t personally praise the steaks and such at the Palm, Wolfgang’s, Dylan Prime, and so forth.
But we were talking about sandwiches. My runners-up: fried egg/bacon/gorgonzola/frisée at Wichcraft; Indian Street Burger at Mehtaphor; Malibu vegetarian at Columbine/Clementine (why won’t Columbine open on weekends?!); Mediterranean tuna at Columbine (better if you take it home and pour good olive oil on the tuna); lobster roll at Ed’s Lobster Bar kiosk on the WFC plaza; the Traditional (lox and cream cheese) at Zucker’s; two fried eggs with American cheese on a toasted, buttered roll with salt and lots of black pepper at Morgan’s Market (when they get it right—about half the time—it hits the spot).
There are several sandwiches that I liked when I had them, but I’d need more research before I could say for sure: sausage hero at Locanda Verde (no longer on the lunch menu); fried cod sandwich at the Harrison (lunch only); the angry lobster sandwich at Ponte’s; croque monsieur at Plein Sud. I’ve long wanted to try the eggplant sandwich at Terroir, but it’s usually too noisy in there for me.
For all that, when it comes to sandwiches, I think Tribeca could do better. And when will someone open a good sandwich shop south of Chambers? Maybe this is my calling! (Those “tartines” at Le Pain Quotidien don’t count.)
3. Is Smithers your partner (business or otherwise)?
Ha! No and hell no. I have no business partner; my life partner is named Adam (he swears that he isn’t Smithers). As for Smithers, I don’t know who (s)he is, but given his/her tone, I’ve always thought Montgomery Burns would’ve been a more apt nom de plume….
4. Three words to describe what you don’t like about the nabe?
Quiet, bourgeois, uptight. Of course, those are also among the reasons I like living here.
Creating this site has left me in a funny relationship with Tribeca. On one hand, I love it—that’s obvious, I hope. On the other, I’ve spent so much time walking around the neighborhood, studying it, exhausting it, that I’m left feeling a little like I’ve dissected a frog or a joke: I can’t really look at it the same way again. In many ways Tribeca is perfect, but perfection can get dull. It’s not the New York that drew me to New York; little in Manhattan is. And yet if I really wanted more grit and energy I could walk down Chambers or Canal more often.
When I go to dinner in the Village or the Lower East Side or gentrified Brooklyn, I’m struck by how many people in their twenties there are. They can’t afford to live in Tribeca, with its mammoth apartments, even if they wanted to. Likewise, neighborhoods like Nolita and the East Village have tiny storefronts where entrepreneurs can try stuff out. Tribeca has huge ones with exorbitant rents—so we just don’t get the same kind of lively city experience that you see in other areas. So many of the businesses that give Tribeca character—Let There Be Neon, David Gage String Instruments, New York Nautical—presumably couldn’t afford to move here now. And that makes me concerned about where the neighborhood is headed.
5. Two celebs we should be proud to claim as neighbors and two celebs we should not proud to claim as neighbors.
I’m a little uncomfortable dissing (at least publicly) people I don’t know. Actually, I don’t love the idea of praising people I don’t know—a celebrity whose work I admire could be a real shit. (In fact, a friend in entertainment journalism tells me that pretty much every celebrity whose work I admire is a real shit.) So how about this: Two celebrities I’d love to chat with on the street are Beyoncé and Meryl Streep. Two I would get less excited about—but I’d still brag about to everyone I know—are James Gandolfini and Bethenny Frankel (I’ve actually never seen her on TV, but people I like say Bethenny is respectable).
6. Best cocktail?
The next one. I’ve always found novelty overrated in a cocktail, so I tend to order the same drinks—gin and tonic, Negroni, Manhattan, Americano. Two I’ve been wanting to try again, however, are the Shiso Gin at Brushstroke and the Kaffir Jimlet at Macao Trading Co. Also, the bartender at Compose made me a lovely less-alcoholic take on a Manhattan that I wish other restaurants had the recipe for.
7. Most overpriced store, restaurant, bar, drink, anything….
I was genuinely annoyed to learn that the special pasta I ordered for lunch at Acappella was $38; I believe the waiter had a moral obligation to mention the price. I try not to exact my revenge via this blog—however tempting it may be—but that was beyond the pale.
8. Two businesses you would like to see here.
Taïm (a West Village Middle Eastern restaurant), Murray’s Cheese Shop, No. 7 Sub, and Franny’s (locavore Brooklyn pizzeria par excellence). I would’ve added Freeman’s barber shop, but I got a terrible haircut there last month. (I try not to exact my revenge via this blog, but I don’t always succeed.) Beyond that, I’m sure there are many I should want in Tribeca, but I don’t get out of the neighborhood often enough anymore to know about them. OK, Chelsea Piers, because I prefer to swim for exercise, and the pools around here tend to be too warm (children like it like that).
9. Tribeca needs more [fill in the blank].
Top-notch pizza, high-end prepared food, neighborhood restaurants, menswear, edge. Probably homosexuals, too.
10. Tribeca needs less [fill in the blank].
You want me to say nail salons, don’t you? But the market decides what the market decides. So let’s go with entitlement, potholes, rallies at City Hall Park, and Escalades with tinted windows.
I hope this was interesting—I’ll be adding some of these questions to the TCQ&A. Please feel free to chime in on any of these topics (if I’m missing a good sandwich, I need to know).