Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Into the Boroughs: Brooklyn -- Where the Tomatoes and Onions Cost $15

Sizzling Bacon -- Peter Luger
Peter Luger

Maybe -- just maybe -- we are a tad on the over-dramatic side when it comes to going to Brooklyn.  After all, we have made it all the way across the country and up and down the east coast for eating purposes, and we have not murmured so much as a peep about travel inconvenience and our sudden onset of "There's no place like home"-itis.

But you ask us to cross the East River, and we turn into whiny brats.
A BRIDGE?!  What Do You Mean We Have to Go Over a BRIDGE?!
It's just that we don't really "get" Brooklyn -- we like a borough where the streets are gridded and the subway stays mostly underground and the word "hipster" isn't graffitied across every available surface.  That's just us.  When we get to Brooklyn, we are out of our element, because in the words of Ginger, "Our element is at home on our couches."
This = Not Us
Anyway, against all odds, we decide to venture to Brooklyn for the first time on this eating tour in order to go to Peter Luger for Michael Psilakis's Best Thing I Ever Ate HIDDEN TREASURES dish, the sizzling bacon.
Do They Not Serve Pig Anywhere in Manhattan?
After an extremely detailed email exchange concerning our travel itinerary that would make one think that we are venturing to the southern-most tip of South America, rather than on the M train, we manage to meet in the first car of the same subway train and make it one stop deep within the heart of Brooklyn.
Cut To: Frantic Whisper-Yelling "Where Do We Go? Where Do We Go? Where Do We Go?"
Naturally, our first instinct upon exiting the train is to start complaining ("I am not comfortable with how narrow this subway platform is!  No wonder people are always falling on the tracks!"), and thanks to the massive billboards that Peter Luger has plastered across the neighborhood, we find the place without much incident.
This Would Be a Bad Time to Experience a Case of Vertigo
Much to our astonishment, the place is packed -- PACKED -- at our 4:45pm reservation time.  Apparently, Brooklyn is the place to be if you want to eat dinner four hours before the sun sets.
Peter Luger: The King of the Early Bird Non-Special
After an entirely too confusing situation of checking in and then loitering aimlessly in the bar area, we are led to our table in one of Peter Luger's back rooms.  In said room, we find a much more varied group of diners than we had expected.  To us, Peter Luger is an "old boys club" -- a place where men like to come to gnaw on steak bones and pretend they live in 1945.  There are, naturally, quite a few tables of such displays of masculinity, but there are just as many tables stuffed with kids.  For once, we are fairly certain we won't be the most annoying patrons in the restaurant (though we'll certainly make a go of it).
Apparently We're Not the Only Ones Trying to Leave Brooklyn Before Dark
We peruse the wine list and settle on the second cheapest bottle on the menu (last of the big time spenders), and for many minutes, we sit twiddling our thumbs and waiting.
Hi, Yes, We're Ready to Drink Now Please
"How do we get a real menu?" Ginger asks no one in particular.

"A menu?  How do we get a WAITER?  Water?  Bread?" Vodka pipes up. 

Clearly, leaving Manhattan has done nothing to curb our intense level of impatience.
Napkin Folding Is Not a Skill Which Is Valued Here
Eventually, a waiter brings over two slightly shredded paper menus that have obviously been around for as long as Peter Luger itself.
Printed on the Same Paper as the Magna Carta
Now, as past grumblings have established, we are not exactly steak people.  It's not that we dislike steak exactly -- we just never, ever crave it.  For this reason, Ginger is trying to start off our waiter's attitude towards us on a hostile note by ordering a Caesar salad, along with our sizzling bacon appetizer.
"I'll Be Eating Two Slices of Fat for Dinner, Thanks!"
"No meat?" the waiter asks.

"I got the bacon," Ginger retorts.  Vodka, for the sole reason that she has no plans to ever come back to Peter Luger and thus wants to go out with a bang, orders the single small steak.  Our waiter gives us the side-eye that quite obviously translates to "cheapskates," and he pours our bargain basement wine into our glasses begrudgingly.
"Hey Bus Boy, Give This Table the Day-Old Bread"
A bread basket is soon deposited on our table, featuring three different kinds of carb-laden goodness.  Ginger is quite pleased by the selections, dunking them in a half gallon of the Peter Luger steak sauce which rests on our table, while Vodka finds them all various degrees of "stale."
At Least They Gave Us Two Each of Everything So We Don't Have to Fight Each Other to the Death
Before we can analyze the bread too much, however, our waiter returns with two strips of the sizzling bacon, along with the tomato and onion slices which Michael Psilakis specified should be ordered along side of it.
One of These Plates...
...Is Not Like the Other
Now, said tomato and onion slices are $15 -- $15! -- which is even more than the bacon itself.  Does produce have an extra tax added for making its way across the river on the M train?  What is the reasoning behind this price gouging?!
We'll Hand It To Them for the Knife Skills Displayed Here, but Really Now....
Luckily for Mr. Luger, the tomatoes and onions, just as Michael Psilakis had promised, prove to be the perfect accompaniment to the bacon, along with the famous steak sauce (which, to be honest, tastes almost exactly like cocktail sauce and makes us long for a cocktail of the shrimp variety).
Where's the Shellfish?
Misleading, If Delicious, "Steak" Sauce
The bacon itself, while tasty enough, is rather fatty and not the crispy texture that we prefer.  But, when combined with the veggies and sauce, it morphs into a perfect bite of food.
Cut Up As If Being Served to a Preschooler
Okay, Brooklyn -- not a bad showing for your first time out.  It doesn't mean we're coming back here, it just means we don't hate you.  Yet.
Though If You'd Like to Offer Us a Discount on Those Tomatoes and Onions, We Won't Object
Plowing on through our meal, Ginger's Caesar salad is also rather excellent -- crunchy and creamy, unlike the greasy and damp varieties that we have tasted as of late.
Note: Apparently When Ginger Is Handed the Camera...
...She Only Likes to Take EXTREME CLOSE-UPS
Vodka's steak, in contrast, is good -- well, when it's dunked in enough "cocktail" sauce -- but it is certainly no better than a steak one could find in multiple locations on the western shore of the East River.
Who Serves Steak with a Spoon?!
It has a slight crispiness to the outer skin, and is tender on the inside, but despite Vodka's request to cook it "medium," the steak seems much more overdone than that.
Allegedly, This Steak Is Medium...
...This Steak Is Not Medium
Considering that these cuts of beef are what Peter Luger is known for -- you know, being that it's a STEAK HOUSE and all -- something is decidedly off.
Ah Well, Hand Over More Cocktail Sauce, We'll Make Do
By this point in the meal, we are decidedly jollier, due more to our bottle of wine being empty than any of the food on our table.  Therefore, when our waiter returns (albeit reluctantly), Vodka asks if we can just have a bowl of the homemade "schlag" (whipped cream) for dessert.

"You need to get a dessert to get the schlag," he answers.

"Well, how much are the desserts?"  (The undertone being "If it's more than those $15 tomato slices, we're high-tailing it back to Manhattan").


"Fine, we'll take the sundae."
Truth Be Told, We Probably Would Have Paid $11 for JUST Whipped Cream
Minutes later, the "Holy Cow" Hot Fudge Sundae arrives, and it is a thing of beauty.  The glass itself is draped in chocolate sauce, stuffed with vanilla ice cream, and topped by a gigantic mound of "schlag."  The creation is really so stupendous that on its own, it might warrant a return to Brooklyn.

By other people.  Not by us, but by other people.
An Impressive Amount of Sugar
Along with the sundae comes a dark chocolate cow and four gold chocolate medallions.  We stuff them in our purse for sustenance on our journey home, and in a show of goodwill, our waiter loads us down with four more on our way out the door.
All of Peter's Steak Fortune Is Being Pilfered Into Personalized Chocolates
So THIS Is What the High-End Produce Pays For!
And so it seems we have made it quite obvious to all that when it comes to Brooklyn, we need to be bribed with free treats in order to make our way off of our own little island.

Treats, and a whole day''s pay worth of tomatoes.  

Peter Luger's Sizzling Bacon: 4 stars

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