May 13, 2019 | BITE: My Journal
My Crush on Fairway
It’s easy to me to meet my niece Dana at Fairway Café for an easy supper on a night with nothing else planned.
Wikipedia says Fairway Market and I were born about the same time in the 1930s. But I was born in Detroit and Fairway was a modest store selling produce on Broadway and 74th Street. Our destinies were joined when I moved into Don Forst’s fifth floor walkup two blocks away, when he worked the nightside and I worked the dayside on the rewrite desk of the New York Post.
Here is how the store front looked in 2010. I contemplated moving to Soho but was afraid to leave Fairway.
Of course, I adored Donnie, but that left room for an innocent crush on Fairway’s David Sneddon. I tried to get his attention by asking him to choose a ripe melon for me. A lot of women had crushes on David. He married one of them. It’s not only women who come and go speaking of Michelangelo. Men do, too. David moved to Florida. Don moved to the Village when we split, and then to Newsday.
For a while the Café has this poster and a duo of television screens running movies.
Fairway was sold and incorporated and went bankrupt and emerged from bankruptcy. Steven Richter arrived from Aspen and moved into my pad at West End Avenue. As a restaurant critic, I reserved and hoped to eat anonymously around town… but often on Sunday night, the two of us would have dinner in the Fairway Café/Steakhouse. Now sadly, Don is gone and Steven is gone too.
This poster used to hang on a wall over locked supply cupboards.
I sometimes do breakfast meetings for Citymeals on Wheels at Fairway, too. Or an early lunch. Since my normal wakeup is boring, no-fat yogurt and Bran Buds, the store’s breakfast menu is a roller coaster of thrills. Scrambled eggs with chorizo and jalapeno. Sour cream waffles. And flourless buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. Breakfast runs from 8 am to 3 pm. What indulgence. Like a Mother who can’t say no. I recall persuading a waiter to bring me egg salad sandwich on pumpernickel.
Even though we met for dinner at 6 pm, the window tables were already claimed.
When Trader Joe’s opened a few blocks away in 2010, Fairway decided to close the café to ease crowding and sell more groceries. But loyalists started a Save Fairway Café petition and collected 1,200 signatures. The protesters prevailed.
They’re trying to get regulars to call it 74th Street Café, but old dogs, new tricks, forget it.
Here’s how the crab cake looked banked with fresh corn in the summer. My friend Diane and I each took one.
Recently Fairway gave the second floor checkout a new look, expanded the take-out offerings, and redid the place, now the 74St Café, it says on the menu I stole. I weigh the option of French onion soup. I am tempted by the Doppelganger pizza with hot sausage, capers, gorgonzola dolce and chili flakes. Would my companion like to share colossal lump crab cakes, spaghetti carbonara or lamb chops?
The cheeseburger with bacon and a side of crisp fries.
In late fall, Dana had a squash salad plate with hummus, a fried egg and salad greens.
On Friday, my niece Dana and I had dinner there as we sometimes do on weekends. Usually she orders the squash salad and after all my considerations, playing with the idea of Monty’s Mac & Cheese for just $7, I get a burger with extra crispy fries.
We met for a late lunch and could choose a seat anywhere we liked.
I like to sit at a two-top next to the window and look out at whatever’s happening across Broadway at the Beacon Theatre. But all the window seats were taken Friday. That made me cranky. But it’s hard to be cranky across from Dana. She’s so totally agreeable.
My Truffle Shuffle is prime beef with truffle cheese, wild mushrooms and truffle garlic aioli on a brioche bun.
The server brought pizza bread, hummus, and two little saucers of excellent coleslaw. My Truffle Shuffle burger, “a blend of prime beef and dry-aged trimmings” according to the menu, includes the slaw, a spear of pickle, and house fries or a salad. I buy coleslaw to go at Fairway often, but it’s not as good as the café slaw. Burgers are rarely as rare as I mean when I say rare, but this one is. Definitely.
I asked our waitress to bring me a refill of the coleslaw. And, much to my amazement, she did. No charge.
Order Mary’s lamb burger on naan with yogurt sauce or “create your own lamb burger” with assorted toppings.
The house salad was meant to keep me from overdosing on fries. It wasn’t very appealing. But I spilled a little vinaigrette on it and Dana used it to wrap her lamb burger with grilled onion, chosen from the “Create Your Own Burger” option, discarding the brioche bun. Greens are good for you. We shared her sweet potato fries.
I just noticed the menu promises “best onion rings in NYC.” If I’d seen that earlier I would have ordered those too.
If you’re not too lazy, you can get up from the table and choose your own dessert from the display.
Normally I would start with a Caesar salad and be too full for anything more. But last night I wanted dessert. I specifically wanted cherry pie. “What kind of pie do you have?” I asked Sharilyn. “Do you have something with cherries? Or berries?”
The café rehab includes another refrigerated display, carry out or eat in.
“We have apple pie and raspberry or blueberry tart,” she offered. “How is it?” she asked as I tackled the tough crust of the raspberry tart.
“It’s a lot of very boring crust,” I told her.
Marilynn sometimes disappears but when you get her attention, she’ll do anything to please. Free coleslaw?
“Maybe you’d like the apple pie better. We make it here. I’ll bring you some.”
What a sweetheart. I felt like family. But I’d already finished off the perverse little tart. I left her an extra tip.
2127 Broadway, 2nd Floor. 866 392 2837. Sunday through Thursday 8 am to 9:30 pm. Friday and Saturday 8 am to 10 pm.
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