4/06/2010

Liver Lady and Anything Man, Pt. 2

"Nick & Eddie was a pioneer in a long line of Soho restaurants that served fancy comfort food made with a lot of fuss, at inflated prices. If you know the original Blue Ribbon, this was started by one of those guys, and occupied the corner of Spring and Sullivan Streets for about eight years. Nick & Eddie served “a great burger” and a “solid steak” and “the bartenders knew their way around a martini and didn’t ask you too many questions if you just wanted to nurse your drink alone.” For a long time it was hard to get a table on a Friday night because movie stars and rock bands ate there; models picked at their fried catfish, moving it around on their plates. It was the mid-90s, and to open a restaurant with a $14 burger west of West Broadway was still a bold move – a “just so crazy it might work,” maneuver. New York Magazine covered us extensively. Drew was a regular. Sigourney. The band Anthrax. We easily cleared $250 a night on a Friday, even toward the end, and without having to deliver anything remarkable, service-wise. To be fair, the food was very good, but the great thing about waiting tables at a hot but “off-the-beaten-path” New York restaurant serving trumped up comfort food at trumped up prices was that you didn’t have to be nice or even good to contribute to the vibe.

But by the time I got my job there, the restaurant was past its prime. Blue Ribbon had upped the ante and lines ran out the door there six nights a week, until 4AM, just across the street from where we watched. While Fridays and Saturdays may have still been busy, even then it was no longer impossible to get a table, and our regulars, while still sometimes including Drew and Sigourney and Anthrax, also consisted of the UPS guy named Yuri who delivered our fresh fish every other day and who brought a different lady there each week so that he could act like a big shot with us—by that time in Nick & Eddie’s evolution he kind of was—and gain proximity credits with his dates by pointing out Drew and Sigourney and Anthrax.

Sunday through Thursday nights were straight-up slow. There had grown, since the place opened, a regular clientele of neighborhood people who came in for this or that dish, to chat with the staff, and who were made to feel welcome. They also, as long as there had been enough models and actors and rock bands populating the place, contributed to the vibe. At that time the area west of Soho (it’s now become part of Soho), was still a neighborhood on its own terms, with vestiges of Italian and Portugese populations still opening sawdust strewn butcher shops every morning and giving $10 haircuts and $5 shaves to people on their way home from work. Drew and Sigourney and Anthrax may have made the trip to eat at Nick & Eddie on a Friday night, but on a Wednesday, in July, when the restaurant was closing, usually at 10:30 after serving a few dozen dinners to a few dozen forlorn couples without a lot to say to each other, and single diners with magazines, and old guys who’d rather have been alone anyway, you could still feel like you were in the city the way it was when it was just New York." (c) 2010, all rights reserved.

1 comment:

Gardiner said...

Interesting stuff bro. I like your final comment about being in the New York that always was, or however you exactly said it. I like to think that that New York is always evident in those greasy spoons or overnight cleaning staff employed areas, or just quiet streets when only a few strange people remain. I don't necessarily think that those "gritty" spots are the only places where New York is still alive but I do think it's important to open eyes when one is in those places, especially when there after hours, because you see a place when it isn't mean to be seen. I love finding those incredibly specific little nooks of New York that seem completely useless to everyone else, like the block at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel between Varick and Hudson, where that Church is, or the strange nether area by the Manhattan entrance from the Midtown Tunnel. I'm rambling but these are important things.
G