So you’ve just seen the latest Boo-Hooray show and now want to go somewhere and talk about it. Or, you’re thinking: I’m hungry!
Boo-Hooray is fortunate enough to be located at the juncture of several distinct neighborhoods noted for both good eating and fine dining (we’ll stick to the former, for now): Chinatown, NoLita, and what remains of Little Italy.
(Above: crime scene following murder of Joe Gallo described below, 1972)
Little Italy has shrunk considerably in the last three decades. Today it consists, roughly, of four blocks on two streets. Mulberry north of Canal is the main drag, lined with Italian restaurants, each with its own over-assertive tout or maitre’d attempting to lure you in. Walk faster. Touristification is near-complete along here, and there’s no longer much to see: Rossi & Co. moved from the corner where it was located for a century, and the metal side door of the former Umberto’s Clam House is no longer ridden with bullet holes left after Crazy Joe Gallo was gunned down back in the considerably livelier 1970s.
But, just across Mulberry at the corner of Grand is ALLEVA, the oldest cheese shop in Manhattan (established 1892), looking the same as it has for years and still offering Italian groceries, a friendly staff, and, best of all, extremely affordable, non-artisanal sandwiches. You won’t go wrong, and Alleva offers some of the best fresh mozzarella in Manhattan (though we do know where the best mozzarella in New York City, and possibly the entire Northeast, is to be found; sadly, it’s not in walking distance).
Head down Canal as far as Eldridge Street into the midst of Chinatown to CUP AND SAUCER, a distinctly non-Chinese short order diner, and step directly into New York’s gone world for that real Travis Bickle feel. An unchanging menu, counter stools which no longer spin, chocolate milk shakes like those served nowhere else. It wasn’t that long ago every other block downtown seemed to have its own diner (Boo-Hooray is close to the former location of one of the well-remembered All-Time Greats, mentioned by name in Lou Reed’s “Egg Cream”); go to this one, while you can.
Looking for a classic red sauce Italian restaurant? Go to EMILIO’S BALLATO, the best one downtown. Puts Carbone to shame. Classic decor: tacky photos of celebs on the walls, tacky celebs at the tables. Emilio holds court in the corner keeping an eye on things, usually in the company of old-school locals. What should you order? Answers Michael P. Daley, “Caesar salad, baked clams, tomato foccacia, grilled octopus, spag and meatballs, and any specials.”
The official Boo-Hooray coffee shop is KAM HING. The coffee will wash away any lingering memories of Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or the latest hepcat joint where the barista will take ten minutes to get you an espresso suffering from third-degree burns. You are not living as happily as you think you are unless you have tried their immensely affordable sponge cakes, so good as to be “baffling,” in the words of Johan Kugelberg. (We should warn you: according to a sign recently posted, the price of these cakes will shoot up to seventy-five cents per in February.)
While the Chinese restaurants of Manhattan’s Chinatown are on the whole not as good as they were twenty years ago, GREAT NEW YORK NOODLETOWN remains ever reliable, a Cantonese place popular with chefs, bartenders, and others who know their food and who also get off work at four in the morning. “Pork Noodle Soup is phenomenal, as is roast baby pig and baby bok choi. Roast meats are the specialty. Great decor, there being none.”
When it comes to other Asian cuisines Chinatown still holds its own. There’s longstanding debate as to whether NHA TRANG CENTRE, on Centre Street, is better than Nha Trang Baxter, on — guessed it! Baxter Street. Here at Boo-Hooray we come down on the side of Nha Trang Centre, which we’d call the best Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown: the staff is more personable, there’s vaseline-smooth jazz on the speakers, the food is better, and they will customize your noodle-to-soup ratio if requested. The classic order is Pho with BBQ Pork Chop, Extra Pork Chop, but you’ll be safe ordering pretty much anything.
Turning to Malaysian spots in Chinatown we’d recommend NYONYA, specifically for Famous Shredded Chicken Noodles, simple yet sublime. If you’re under the weather, Nonya — like Nha Trang — will provide considerable healing assistance.
Some middle distance from the office is PARISI, about which much good has been said for many years; we are far from alone in our fondness for the place, one of the oldest bakeries in Manhattan. Specifies Daley: “When we don’t want to get anything done for the rest of the day, we get chicken parm sandwiches with hot peppers. The fresh-baked bread and the size of the sandwich allows you to eat one half and then use the other as a pillow for your desk.”
MILANO’S can be extremely old school (one of our Boo-Hoorayers was once dragged out in a headlock by one of the bartenders for a crime he didn’t commit). The late night scene includes appearances by garbage men and other New York heroes who only come out at night, to enjoy good Irish offerings both liquid and solid. Narrow, dark; great knick-knacks on the wall.
Pretty much every mob movie shot in New York has a scene set at the MULBERRY STREET BAR. Enormous atmosphere without that all-so-annoying feel of spiritual desolation. Serviceable bar pizza. Considerable history, as all old bars in New York possess: here, the bar was once parallel to the street, until someone walked in back in the 1930s and shot a customer in the head. After that, the bar was moved, and made perpendicular.
TROPICAL 128 is a bar and billiard hall with a tropical theme. It is dark. Very dark. We mean both literal dark, and metaphorical dark.
(Not remotely as dark, however, as Little Finland, a Finnish bar which once stood on East 86th Street near Second, which made the setting of The Iceman Cometh seem like a sports bar that hadn’t yet hired waitresses.)
So come down and see us! And then go get something to eat.