Why does it always have to be a contest? That said, I’m only too happy to offer my not necessarily expert opinion based on one visit to Schwarz’s and many visits to Katz’s. While I enjoyed my sandwich at the former, for me it’s Katz’s all the way, and I must (yes, must) take issue with a few things in the original post:
1) The size question. I do NOT think they’re equivalent. I had no trouble eating a whole Schwarz’s smoked meat sandwich (and in fact also ate french fries and a bunch of half-sours along with it), but I have to go halfsies on a Katz’s pastrami sandwich (and I apologize for using the word “halfsies”).
2) The mustard issue. Ok, dude, knocking Katz’s because the counter guy put too much mustard on your sandwich is nuts. YOU PUT THE MUSTARD ON THE SANDWICH YOURSELF. Then you won’t be all, “Waah, it’s too mustardy! Waah!”
3) The fattiness issue. Like the mustard issue, this one also has a very simple solution. When you taste the sample slice the meat cutter offers you, you politely say, “I’d like that a bit fattier, please.”
thingsiate posted a link to the Time Out cheap eats list. Since I actually spend a fair amount of time in Murray Hill, a neighborhood maligned for many reasons, I thought I’d offer my 2 cents on foods both cheap and not so cheap.
1) The weekend brunch at Dhaba is a great option for the very hungry bargain-hunter. $12.95 gets you an AYCE buffet that features 8 or so items (a mixture of veg/meat options, including a few more unusual dishes like their achari lamb), rice (regular basmati and a biryani) and dessert (golub jamun and excellent kheer). Plus, you get tandoori chicken, poori/naan, and some snacky chaat-type stuff brought to your table (the last item is an especially nice treat).
2) Don’t neglect the French Dip at the Waterfront Ale House. It may be $2 more than the pulled pork or chicken sandwiches, but you get a behemoth that will provide you with lunch for the next day. However, if you want your bill to stay reasonable, you need to neglect the beer list. Pints start at $6, so if you decide that you’d like to have a couple with your meal (a not-unreasonable thought since you’re at an ale house, after all), you veer out of the cheap eats category very quickly. Kind of a bummer (also a bummer is their really stingy excuse for a happy hour: $1 off drafts from 5pm-7pm, if you’re seated at the bar. Whoop-de-damn doo. I think they get away with it because it’s one of the only tolerable bars in the area).
3) People line up outside Penelope for their shabby-chic “homestyle” menu (a wait of 2 hours is not uncommon), but it’s really not that great (it’s basically a less-good version of Kitchenette). It’s just better than many similarly priced but awful, anonymous joints in the area that get by catering to the needs of the popped-collar demographic (hard-drinking, tacky nightlife and unchallenging, Bloody Mary/Mimosa-heavy brunches). If you’re in the mood to spend $15-$20 on a Saturday afternoon, go to Resto instead and load up on chicken and waffles or boudin with scrambled eggs.
4) Grandma pie from Rosa’s Pizza. Order it well done. Proceed with caution with the rest of the menu, but the GP is a real winner.
5) Tandoori fish from Haandi: highly spiced, golden brown, and tender. It’s well worth putting up with the frequently rude service and chaotic atmosphere.
Looking at the Village Voice’s hot dog round-up, I was reminded that I never posted this photo from last September’s Max’s vs Windmill taste test. The Windmill dog was delicious, but I still give Max’s the edge. A bit more snap (they definitely griddle until well done), and I can’t get enough of that hot relish. Sadly no photo of the latter, but enjoy gazing at the Windmill’s offering in all its glory.
Max’s, 24 Matilda Terrace, Long Branch NJ
The Windmill, 586 Ocean Boulevard, Long Branch NJ (multiple locations)
Behold… Souse! Al brought some home (below, on the left) from SAR’s, a Trinidadian restaurant that has become a favorite of ours for its excellent black pudding and white pudding (above, on the left). Sadly, the souse proved to be a bit too much for us. I like chicken and duck feet, braised or fried in the Chinese style, but I just can’t handle the big, slightly hairy cow feet. And while the sauce is delicious – sharply vinegary with pickled onions, peppers, and cucumber – I don’t think this is a dish we’ll get again.
Their white pudding, on the other hand, is something that I could probably eat 3 meals a day without complaint. Definitely one of the best things I’ve tried within the past year or so. The black pudding is great, too, but perhaps slightly less interesting. This stuff just has the most incredible flavor.
SAR’s Restaurant and Bakery, 1222 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Alan Richman recently revisited his childhood favorite, Katz’s Deli. He wasn’t happy. Me? I’m happy. I just picked up a half-pound of chopped liver from the 2nd Avenue Deli. For my money (and I forked over $8 for a small amount of something that is essentially made with scraps), their version is the best. And while I’ve never tried Katz’s, I don’t doubt Richman’s assessment that it’s awful. But the thing is, a lot of the food at Katz’s is awful, and it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with the place that most of what Richman ate was lousy. What they do well (pastrami, hot dogs, knockwurst) they do exceedingly well, and while some of the other stuff isn’t bad (LEO pancake style, french fries, salami, pea soup) most of the rest of the menu is horrid. That’s just how NY deli is, I think. Places tend to have a couple of dishes that they excel in, and everything else is order at your own risk. Personally, I like this kind of vaguely cranky, old-timey specialization. And really, if you order a cheesesteak or fried chicken at Katz’s then you deserve what you get.
Posted in New York City
Here is where memory fails me. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place we went to (also in Union) for Italian hot dogs. I think I repressed it, actually, so grossed out was I by these monsters. As you can see, they’re something else. I don’t know who came up with the idea to stuff a quarter of a ciabatta with hot dogs, griddled peppers and onions, and about a pound of fried potato slices, but he or she was a real sicko. The fact that the only other customers aside from us were morbidly obese did nothing to alter my judgment. Though I felt bad for wasting food, most of mine ended up in the bin.
Mystery Italian hot dog joint (Charlie’s?), Union NJ
Our next stop was the Galloping Hill Grill in Union. They get the onion ring award, plus they have birch beer (!), but the dogs themselves were a bit bland and served on ridiculously thick, puffy rolls. Normally I’d welcome some good, chewy bread, but when you’re trying to eat at as many different places as possible, stomach space is not to be wasted lightly.
Galloping Hill Grill, 325 Chestnut Street, Union NJ