Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Prelude to Pork Chops

"The New York steak dinner, or "beefsteak," is a form of gluttony as stylized and regional as the riverbank fish fry, the hot-rock clambake, or the Texas barbecue." So begins Joseph Mitchell's "All You Can Hold for Five Bucks" from his classic compendium of New York stories Up in the Old Hotel. Pete has never been to a proper beefsteak, but at Two Toms at the intersection of Third Avenue and Union Street in Brooklyn--across from an Italian social club and catercorner from the Brooklyn Casket Company--where in the surrounding streets the old Italian woman linger the summer nights away in a circle of lawn chairs on the sidewalk and the men still signify success with shiny gold chains, Pete came pretty damn close. Pete joined 20 others at this anachronism of a restaurant that's been owned and operated by the same family, and relatively unchanged (the decor is no decor), since the 1940s. We sat at a 25-foot-long banquet table that had carafes of red and white situated every two to the three feet. The food is served family style; drinks are self-service--there's a cooler full of Bud, seltzer, Pepsi, etc., that you help yourself to (they don't even keep track as far as Pete can tell). First course: a cold seafood salad with shrimp, calamari, and conch; baked clams--breaded and drenched in a garlic butter sauce--and garlic bread. Second course: Penne pasta with red sauce and cheese ravioli. The first two courses are really just a warmup--and, to be honest, not necessarily all that great--to the third course, aka the meat course. The steak and mushrooms is okay, but the real reason to eat here is the Fred Flintstone-sized pork chops with roasted red peppers (pictures don't do them justice). Fourth course: chocolate cake, coffee, and a bottle of Anisette that's plopped down on the table by the owner Anthony. Pete thinks Mr. Wertheimer from Mitchell's story said it best, "When you go to a beefsteak, you got to figure on eating until it comes out your ears. Otherwise it would be bad manners."

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