About the Author | Jesse & GregWe earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.
It was a lucky day when our paths crossed with the legendary Red Hook photographer, Craig LaCourt, and luckier still was the fact he signed on to shoot every guest we’ve had on our podcast, Radio On the Real. But if you’ve ever taken a look at any of Craig’s work, then you know that luck has nothing to do with the incredible portraits Craig creates. The man is a truly amazing talent. And luck was also in short supply recently on a snowy evening in Detroit when thieves broke into his car and stole over $20,000 of Craig’s precious cameras, lenses and lights. All the equipment that he uses to take his incredible photos…gone. If there’s a silver lining, they didn’t get their scummy mitts on any of the drives containing his life’s work.
Red Hook, a community that takes care of its own, has rallied around Craig LaCourt and his family and have put together an evening of music, food, and photography Thursday, February 27th from 7PM until the lights go down at one of Brooklyn’s hottest new restaurants, Hometown Bar-B-Que. Let’s all rally together to help this amazing family get back on their feet and Craig continue his work. “THIS TOWN: Portraits of Red Hook” will showcase a selection of Craig’s work for sale chronicling the changing face of his neighborhood and the residents—both long term and newly arrived—who make up the fabric of this tiny village within our incredible city.The event will also feature a live performance by Josh Flagg, DJ Spencer Bewley will be spinning, and there will be a raffle with chances to win numerous prizes, including original photography and portrait services by Craig. Every print in the show is available for $50 or you can custom order prints in any size for a price that fits your budget all the way up to massive larger-than-life prints for $750. If every picture tells a story, then Craig LaCourt is one of the very best storytellers around. Come join us and show your support. It’s going to be a great night!
In our first ever completely naked and mostly tattooed Radio on the Real, music and ramen impresario Jordy Trachtenberg spends a chuckle-filled hour with us covering everything from growing up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania to making it his mission to stop The Poo Bandit of St. Mark’s Place from crapping on his stoop to the future of the music business. When Jordy walked in to the studio, we were frankly wondering if he was going to kick our asses. He’s a big dude with a Paul Bunyan beard and a web of tats covering most of his body. He looks like he belongs in the Hell’s Angel’s headquarters on East 3rd Street rather than a recording studio on Spring Street chatting with a couple of dads. But as we got into it, Jordy proved to be a complete sweetheart with a deep knowledge and passion for our town’s music scene, the digital revolution, street art and where to get the best underground ramen. Since the interview and photo shoot, we have stayed in touch with Jordy and his friendship has added a welcome addition to the fabric of our lives. Have a listen to this one, folks. It’s a good one!
And we have to give a special shout out to our amazingly talented Craig LaCourt for creating these two very different and utterly fantastic portraits of Sir Trachtenberg in his Red Hook photo studio. The rats made Jordy so nervous that he downed an entire skull of Kah Tequila….with a little help, of course!
It’s cold. It’s snowy. The troops are antsy. The ages old question arises, “What do you want to do today?” Well, you could go… bowling? Sure, bowling, why not? But trouble is, Brooklyn Bowl is a shitshow. So is Bowlmor on University and those lanes near the West Side Highway. Time to dig a little deeper. Consider Sunset Park. Only 28 minutes from Union Square on the N train. There’s a fantastic bowling alley there called Melody Lanes and its retro as hell, but not by design.More like one of those ancient mosquitos trapped in amber, in the best sense of prehistory. It reminded me of the suburban birthday party bowling alleys of my youth, just without the square pizza. If you’re a stickler for details, I suppose you could BYOSP. And apparently there’s a legendary bar scene at night there, although we went at 11am with the kids so sadly the bar wasn’t open. But I’d go back at night, sure, why not? Because bowling is one of those games that is wholesome with the family, but also favors the drunk athlete of the evening. $9 per person, per game. Not bad. So next time you’re down for bowling but prefer a hipster free experience, make it Melody Lanes. Tell them On the Real sent you.
When we booked Amy Sohn to come on Radio On The Real, we had no idea what to expect. Here is a writer who has spent the last 20 years giving us a weekly (sometimes less) blow-by-blow of her mating, dating and breeding life. She’s got four novels published with Simon & Schuster and another one called The Actress set to come out next summer. Two movies. A TV show. Some pilots. She’s written for Playboy, The New York Times, Men’s Journal, The Nation, The New York Post and Harper’s Bazaar to name a few. And she royally pissed of half of her borough (that would be Brooklyn) with a satirical piece she wrote for The Awl called The 40-Year-Old Reversion. In it, she details the monthly antics of a group of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens moms who dub themselves Hookers, Sluts and Drug Addicts. It’s a romp of a read, but maybe hit too close to home for one too many. What we found in Amy was a quick, brutally honest and candid woman who isn’t afraid to talk about mean girls, relationships, the blur between life and art and why marriage is hard work. She managed to flip the script on us a couple of times and we all managed to laugh our asses off over a fantastic bottle of Rioja. So, download this one and let it act as your Xanax for your Thanksgiving traffic jam or flight delay. Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you Amy Sohn…unedited.
For today’s edition of the Street Name Game, we’re going to zero in on Delancey Street. Delancey Street was named after the patrician Loyalist and acting colonial governor of New York in the 1750s, James DeLancey. DeLancey was born into a rich landowning family who had the good fortune to own a sprawling farm downtown which stretched all the way from the East River to the Hudson. The pride and joy of the DeLancey farm was a spectacular cherry orchard, which was located on the site of present day Orchard Street.Suffice it to say, old DeLancey chose sides poorly (spoiler alert: the British lose the War for American Independence) and so after the redcoats were sent packing the farm was forcibly confiscated and divided up among smaller (and decidedly not British sympathizing) landowners. Presumably his prize cherry trees were plowed under, seeing as how the last time I was on Orchard Street there were none to be found. Today all that remains of the legendary DeLancey cherries can be found on the uptown side of the F train subway platform in the form of several beautiful mosaics.
A sexy little machine has been catching my eye on East 6th Street for the past few mornings on my way to work. She’s black and sassy with incredibly spicy and petite curves. Her top’s on now, but comes off easily when it’s warm. And as fast as she looks, she’s kind of slow by today’s standards. That’s okay because she’s almost a half a century old. She’s a 1969 Triumph Spitfire. A bad-ass little snake of a drop-top built two generations ago in Coventry, England. And bad-ass she was…for the late ‘60’s. Made for swingers, she got to 60 in 13 ½ seconds and topped out at 95 mph. Her voluptuous rack-and-pinion steering let her turn a tight 24 foot circle and her deep cushiony cockpit made her the easiest and most comfortable little dame to drive around town as hard as you could. And at $2,199, a Triumph Spitfire could be purring lustily in your driveway for the about the same price as a MacBook Pro and an internet connection today. Suck it, Craigslist! You’ve got nothin’ on this bird. Dig?
This week we had a fascinating talk with educator/entrepreneur, Jordyn Lexton. You might remember your high school years being tough, but as Jordyn explains, attending class in prison is whole different ball of wax. You see, Jordyn’s niche was teaching kids within the New York City criminal justice system and after an eye-opening stint at Riker’s, Jordyn was inspired to invent a business from the ground up called Drive Change. Drive Change addresses the persistent issue of recidivism and it’s an outstanding concept. It builds and operates state-of-the-art, locally sourced food trucks that hire and train kids returning to the community from prison. Drive Change provides real, transferable and life-changing skills for these young adults… as well as delectable pork buns for your lunch hour. It’s billed as food with a side of social justice, and we love it. It’s impossible to not root for Jordyn Lexton! We dare you to try.Portrait of Jordyn Lexton by Craig LaCourt for On The Real.
Happy Election Day! The mere mention of city politics these days is enough to elicit a chorus of groans. But here’s the thing: our politicians today are total wimps when it comes to serious graft and scandal. You want to go back to the glory days of corruption? Hop in the DeLorean, set the clock to 1929 and pay a visit to Tammany Hall.Tammany Hall was a New York City political organization founded in 1786 and very quickly became the dominant political machine in New York City. Sensing an opportunity in the unending waves of immigration, they created a brand as the “working man’s party” which enabled them to draw strength from the city’s newest arrivals. Back then, if you were a fat cat in the Machine, you lived damn well. Quite literally no one was ever appointed, no building was ever built, and no law was ever passed without the proper cash kickbacks to the Tammany politicos. And top Tammany guys like Boss Tweed made millions of dollars this way. Just think about several million dollars… in 1875. And their grass roots party members did more than hand out bumper stickers, too: they hired street toughs tasked with cracking skulls and making sure the popular vote always “went Tammany’s way.” Now that’s some serious political persuasion.The final home of the organization was eventually built at 100 East 17th Street. This Colonial Revival building, finished in 1929 at 100 E. 17th St, housed the party machine at the height of its power. Jimmy Walker was mayor of the city at the time - though within a few years, he was forced out of office over corruption charges, paving the way for the election of “Anti-Machine Man” Fiorello LaGuardia in 1933 and Tammany’s fall from grace.You probably pass by mighty Tammany Hall everyday but now you only know it as the New York Film Academy, or La Soiree, or a pretty crappy liquor store and deli. It was finally landmarked by the city last week, ensuring that its fascinating legacy of patronage and corruption will remain for generations. Will Mayor Mike’s fountain soda bans and luxury condo legacy stand the test of time as well? We will have to wait and see.
A year ago this evening, I was with my family playing a board game at our apartment at the corner of East 8th and C. We had been mentally and physically prepping for Hurricane Sandy to make landfall. Irene had hit us the year before and we basically came through unscathed, so expectations for Sandy were low. How naïve were we until one of us got up off the floor to look out the window. Avenue C was underwater and getting deeper. We walked downstairs to get a closer look and this was the scene.As the water crept up the sides of the parked cars, the cacophony of car alarms was astounding and then slowly, they faded under the water and then ceased entirely. It was dead quiet, but eerily lit by the emergency lights on top of the police precinct across the street. I stood on our stoop with my wife and daughter in complete disbelief that Mother Nature was in the middle of dealing such a devastating blow so peacefully. The family went to bed around midnight, when we were sure the water was on its way out. I stayed up as late as I could to make sure our building wasn’t going to float away, burn down…or both.The next morning, we woke up to a cold and quiet house. Thankfully, one of our neighbors was kind enough to share an extension cord hooked up to a small generator with enough juice to keep the fridge moderately cool and our phones charged. The first order of business for the day would be to procure gasoline. We were in Mad Max mode. We got on our bikes and headed north. What we saw was devastating. Cars turned and toppled upside-down and inside-out. Splintered and scattered lumber and trees piled high onto the Jersey wall and into the FDR. Homeowners, business owners, people on the street standing in utter disbelief.It was too cold for the bikes and still a little damp, so we parked them in Midtown and got a car service. We had to go all the way to 117th and First to wait in line for a gallon of gas. I ended up paying a guy $20 for the privilege of cutting in, so we could start our long journey home. The traffic was awful and we were hungry. After an hour or so, we found ourselves sitting in traffic on 49th Street in front of Wollensky’s Grill. Perfect. We paid our driver and went in. Here we are in Midtown… a beat to shit Carhart, a ratty little blond, a gorgeous yet un-showered mane of red and a gallon of gas. A sight to these faces who didn’t seem to realize that half of their city was under water just 12 hours before. Precious. The food was terrible, but it did the trick and so began our routine for the next couple of weeks with no gas to cook or heat our hot water.Wake up. Walk around. Talk to neighbors. Help where you can. Bike somewhere uptown and ignorant. Meal. Grocery store. Back home. Build a fire. Spaghetti, hot dogs, burgers. A warm reposado. Bed.The two weeks that began one year ago today were rough ones. We saw friends leave, business struggle and nerves fray. But during those two weeks, I was once again shown what it is to be a New Yorker. To participate as a New Yorker. To trust as a New Yorker. In my twenty years here, I have witnessed several events that should have taken this town down. That should have killed the spirit of its motley porridge of beings who choose to call this place home. But the events never win. The people do.
Coming up on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, we thought it was a perfect time to revisit our conversation with our pal, St. John Frizell. If you missed this the first time around, it was one of our earliest Radio on the Real podcasts (recorded guerilla-style in a kid’s bedroom with a USB mic) but remains one of our favorite talks.For the uninitiated, St. John is the owner and proprietor of Red Hook’s homey mainstay, Fort Defiance. Aptly named, Fort Defiance began life as a widely enjoyed café/bar/restaurant on Van Brunt Street, but in the devastation following Hurricane Sandy, it became something even bigger…a leader and champion of the Restore Red Hook movement. A fantastic storyteller with a great life story, St. John raps with us about the restaurant business, why the Third Place matters, and the bright future of Red Hook.Photo courtesy of Red Hook’s other favorite son, Craig LaCourt.
This really happened today. A random guy set up a boxing ring (with duct tape) at Union Square, provided gloves and (optional) headgear, and then loudly challenged all comers to a fight. White Tanktop decided to exercise extremely poor judgment and step into this makeshift ring. Ding, ding. Round One. No headgear against this Pitbull? Are you fucking kidding me? 20 seconds in and White Tanktop is down. A few sips of water, a minute or two later and he’s back up and ready to keep fighting…but, this time with the headgear literally pounded on to his huge noggin. Ding! Round Two.Right about now, the crowd is on fire and seriously debating White Tanktop’s wisdom in making the decision to fight this unknown man built like Bruce Lee. It was like a cock fight on oysters in muddy New Amsterdam. White Tanktop is (I’m sure) shitting himself about now. Let me out! Too late, chum. Fight!Stick and move! Pitbull lets White Tanktop get a lick or two. You know, so he’s got a good story to tell his kids when he wakes up from his coma a week from now. Because sure enough, it’s the old rope-a-dope and Pitbull proceeds to beat the deep fried shrimp salad out of White Tanktop up against the ropes.Except they’re not ropes at all, but a giant granite wall…in Union Square. Only in New York City can you suddenly have a front row seat at a title match when you were just out walking to get a falafel.
Our days are filled with running all over the city, dealing with clients, meeting with vendors, putting out fires and occasionally acting as marriage counselors. And because of this, we often forget to have lunch between the generally accepted hours of noon and three. As a result, we’re rewarded with options of junk. A dirty-water hot dog. A limp doughy slice. Good old-fashioned American fast food. Blech! We live in New York City, folks! There have to be some better options for worker bees who eat outside the generally accepted feeding times.Thankfully, we found one solution for “dunch” or “linner” and it’s at Back Forty West on the corner of Crosby and Prince. Between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00, BFW offers up a slightly abbreviated menu that beats the pants off of most other gray-area offerings in a 20 block radius. Currently, they have some admirable sandwiches on the menu…roast pork, smoked blue fish and a fantastically bloody grass-fed burger served up with hand-cut fries. Grab a seat at the bar, order up an afternoon cocktail (sometimes it’s required) and one of their locally sourced yummies, but you can also go in for a coffee and pastry at that time. Decisions, decisions. And with winter coming, you won’t want to miss that roaring fire they’ve got going on the 2nd floor. So go ahead and skip lunch today. You’ve got a standing reservation at Back Forty West.
In honor of old Columbus, we present an excerpt from the great and silly Ogden Nash:
Columbus said, Somebody show me the sunset and somebody did and he set sail for it,
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it,
And the fetters gave him welts,
And they named America after somebody else,
So the sad fate of Columbus ought to be pointed out to every child and every voter,
Because it has a very important moral, which is,
Don’t be a discoverer, be a promoter.
Happy Friday! Continuing on with our car week theme, today we’d like to bring you an automotive public service message. Before you head out for the weekend, double-check to make sure the spare tire in your car trunk is filled with air. If it is not filled with air, it is not terribly useful.We also suggest that if you happen to get a flat tire at the entrance to the Verrazano Bridge ($15 to cross Staten Island!? WTF) that you determine the viability of this spare before you take the flat off and put the spare on. If you do not, there exists the possibility that when you jack the car down on to a flat spare tire you will feel stupid/frustrated/cosmically thwarted.And when you finally limp your way to your local quik-repair tire shop, take pains to arrive before the dude who shows up to get all four of his purple Nissan Altima’s tires changed out with all new phat rims. Or whatever those are called. If not, chances are you may be sitting there a while. But on the positive side, at least then you’ll have plenty of time to write a lame post for your website.
June 1st of 2014 will be an historic day in motorsport. 22 drivers from all over the world will line up on a grid and race 59 laps equaling 188.8 miles at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour and g forces pushing five in carbon fiber, open wheeled rockets with 800 horses under the lid and hundreds of millions tuning in for this earsplitting, malodorous and exhilarating spectacle. Where, you ask, will this be taking place? Right across the river, friends, in Weehawken, New Jersey. That’s right, Formula 1 is coming to New Jersey and our iconic skyline will serve as its back drop.Now, now, we know that going to a car race isn’t top-of-mind for most New Yorkers and is likely looked down on as a beer-swilling, gut-busting event that most of us will leave to folks to the up, the down or the over there. But, Hipsters, Dilettantes, Intellectuals…this is not NASCAR or sprint car racing….THIS is Formula 1. The pinnacle of money, sport, athleticism and technology wrapped up into nearly two dozen races all over the globe over the course of nine months. From Australia to Bahrain, Germany to Russia and now Brazil to Weehawken. I, for one, cannot wait! I’ve been to four or five of these truly amazing races and can tell you that you will never see cars and their drivers perform quite like they do in F1. The noise, the acceleration. The deceleration. The noise! The noise! The noise!But don’t take my word for it, allow yourself two hours and an open mind to check out the new film Rush from Ron Howard and his continually apt clan. Rush is a ’70′s romp of a story that will give you a little back story and history on this, the world’s second biggest sport and its legends. It’s the account of the rivalry between F1 greats Niki Lauda and James Hunt battling it out for the 1976 World Championship. One of two men clawing their way to the top via severely contrasting paths. It’s an incredible human portrait that digs to the very core of what drives us to succeed. A dude film for sure, Rush is well written, well shot, well directed, damn good and worth seeing. It’s full of thrill, obsession, drive, love, sex, cars, models and fiery crashes. If that’s not enough for you, my hands are in the air. But if it is, go spend the 11 bucks to see Rush and then I’ll meet you in Weehawken on June 1st where we’ll both spend way too much money to see the greatest show on earth. Sorry, Mr. Ringling, but you have been served.
Is there anything that ISN’T made better when sandwiched between a hot flakey buttermilk biscuit? It’s a universal truth, and one the folks at the Orchard Street sandwichery called Cheeky’s are down with. The sandwich artists at this tiny hole-in-the-wall shop slap a perfectly crispy fried chicken breast covered in crunchy, briny red cabbage slaw and luscious brown gravy in between a halved biscuit to make for a freakishly excellent breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night snack.It manages to scratch a deep itch in the soul you didn’t even know you had. It’s like a Southern fried hug. It’s the best sandwich we’ve had in a long time. We’re eager to try some of the other amazing looking sandwiches on offer at Cheeky’s but there’s really no way to not order the damn chicken and biscuit. It’s a culinary tractor beam and we are powerless to resist.
Webster defines scrappy as having an aggressive and determined spirit and there is no shortage example of scrappy in this week’s interview with this dude we’ll call Scrappy T. You see, Scrappy T grew up in the 70’s on Long Island with a hard-ass commercial fisherman for a father. He figured out early on how to have a little fun squarely in the grey areas of illegality and make some money doing it. While we here at On the Real can not, will not, dare not condone the activities mentioned in this rollicking hour of tales from the sort-of-dark side, we did have a devious chuckle or twelve with our buddy, Scrappy T. And in most of the words of the boys from Jackass, “ WARNING: The following show features stunts performed by professionals or under the supervision of professionals. Accordingly, On the Real and the producers must insist that no one attempt to recreate or re-enact any stunt activity performed on this show.” But, please do enjoy it.
Portrait of Scrappy T. by Craig LaCourt for On the Real.
The only reason you should be wearing that spandex outfit with advertisements printed on it on the New York City streets is if you are training for the Tour de France next year. Otherwise, you are a dipshit.
Don’t you dare give me a dirty look as you hurtle towards me going the wrong way down a one-way street. I’m in the right here, you have no moral authority.
Don’t you dare give me a dirty look or tell me I’m going the wrong way as I hurtle towards you going the wrong way down a one-way street. I know. I just have to get to that place on the corner so stop being such a tight ass.
To the food delivery guy downtown who manages to smoke while biking. Well done, sir.
To the a-hole who is texting while biking. While I know it’s wrong to wish you immediate bodily harm, just know that I am debating whether it is wrong to wish you immediate bodily harm.
To the delivery van driving 50 miles per hour down a side street and missing me by and inch. Come on, dude. I have kids.
To the pedestrian standing in the bike lane, kindly step 17 feet forward into the middle of the avenue. Cars and trucks will get the job done far more quickly and with less pain than a 148 pound hipster on a ’58 Raleigh will.
And, finally, to the new mom standing in the aforementioned bike lane with a newborn in a stroller…respect.
My dad is an aficionado of classic greasy spoons, and as sometime happens, some of the parental oddity has worn off on the son. I, too, delight in the simple pleasures of a bottomless cup of black coffee served in a lip-worn chipped mug while sitting counterside to some frying homefries. Back when I first moved to New York, there was a legendary joint I frequented called the Cheyenne Diner at 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue, right near my shitty apartment. Sadly, it has since closed but I’m always on the lookout for that kind of sensory experience.But I accidentally stumbled upon a gem the other day, unironically titled Cup and Saucer. It’s on Canal Street (no, seriously) over on the east side and I had high hopes from all the way across the street. Classic 50’s luncheonette period exterior? Check. Cramped seating, with bar stools? Check. The sounds of a mound of bacon sizzling rising over the din of regulars discussing today’s NY Post headline? Check, check, check.I got a seat at the counter and I asked the patron to my right (clearly a regular) what was good for lunch. Dude didn’t so much as take a breath: “Get the fish onna roll.” Done. One fish on a roll and cup of coffee, please. Five minutes later I was presented with crispy deep-fried cod on a hard Kaiser with lettuce, tomato, side of tartar, and French fries right out of the fryer. Simple, no fanfare. No garlic rémoulade. No port wine reduction. Not friggin’ organic. Just tasty food served well, and fast. My mug was never less than half full the entire time. I was happily vibrating with caffeine by the time I left, and dammit if I don’t have a new favorite greasy spoon in town.
Here at On The Real, we love a good independent bookstore. Small shops like McNally Jackson, BookCourt, or 192 Books are favorite haunts of ours due to the abundance of lovingly curated literature as well as the comfortable friendly book-nerd environments. Recently we stumbled across the “weekend only” shop called Freebird Books on the waterfront in Red Hook, and in so doing, we did a little dance. Billed as “a general used bookstore specializing in New York history and culture,” the only question we had was how the hell did it take us this long to find it?The place is small and densely packed with used titles of all shapes and formats. It’s not dusty but it is certainly redolent of old books, with just the right amount of worn-in couches and reading nooks. Can air be sepia toned? If so, they managed to nail that. The overall effect for me was like walking into the rambling, rent control apartment of your wonderfully eccentric old uncle who is an author (and maybe a swinger in the ‘70s?) on the Upper West Side. It was just awesome. And true to form, there were fantastic titles I’d never seen before on New York City history, culture, architecture, as well as all kinds of pulpy goodness. The proprietors have a solid sense of humor—shelves are organized into quirky collections like “BAD TITLES” and “UNFORTUNATE AUTHOR PHOTOS.”You could easily spend a Sunday morning poking around this place and finding strange and arcane stories about your hometown for your collection. We did just that. Alas, no books for kids, but the place is honestly magical enough that even a person who prefers their books with pictures can find entertainment aplenty.
Had a completely delicious sandwich the other day at a shop called Black Tree on the Lower East Side. A serious winner. It’s called the Summer Pig Sandwich. Shoulda called it the Wilbur, because this is Some Pig. It’s a beer braised pork belly with cheddar, mint and spiced blueberry jam, topped with a farm fresh fried egg on a crusty baguette. Whoa.I partnered this robust bad boy with a delicious Southern Tier Double Milk stout, causing tears of joy to run unchecked down my face. “I’m OK, thank you, I’m just so happy eating this sandwich,” I said to no one in particular. I’m guessing the other patrons probably understood.We suggest you sit belly up to the bar there and chat with the restaurant’s owner/chef Sandy Dee, as we did, because he’s an interesting guy who can chat about the inventory of ingredients like a farmer. Much of the menu availability is, in fact, based upon what’s gathered at the Union Square or Brooklyn Greenmarkets. So you know it’s fresh, and the menu changes all the time as a result. And it’s really tasty. Finish one of their sandwiches off with one of their home-brined pickle pots, too. You must. Because you can smell like homemade pickles, but you can’t go back to work smelling like a stout.
We recently sat down in the studio to talk with a man called Schatzie. He’s a kick-ass, pure butcher by trade and the very definition of a New York character. Schatzie’s been slicing, carving and pleasing discerning palates for 50 years, and by die-hard carnivore standards, is akin to royalty. You see, Schatzie’s father was a butcher. And Schatzie’s father’s father was a meat master in the Old Country. So friends, this is a man who knows everything there is to know about prime meat. And having observed his customers from behind the butcher block for half a century, he also knows a thing or two about psychology. A self-declared old-school New York original, we had a blast rapping with Schatzie about everything from his days growing up on the Grand Concourse to butchering bear legs…the RIGHT way to cook a steak to his appreciation of broads…yeah, them…and don’t get him started on how so-called celebrity butcher “burger blends” are fulla crap …but have some damn genius marketing. Oh, and we also got schooled on the majesty of Sinatra b-sides and why they’re, hands down, the bomb. When Schatzie’s holding court, you definitely want to sit back and shut up. Don’t be a schmuck and miss this one! Press play below, or download on iTunes for free on the go.
Portrait of Schatzie by Craig LaCourt for On the Real.
Eat your heart out, Bob Vila: feast your eyes on The Edward Mooney House. It’s the oldest surviving row house in New York City, located on Pell Street and the Bowery. Built sometime between the British evacuation and New York’s designation as the nation’s capital (1785-1789), in theory it’s entirely possible George Washington could have soaked his wooden teeth here after a tasty supper of squab and ale. In theory, it’s possible and I like to imagine it.It was originally built by a wealthy merchant named Edward Mooney, who was a prominent wholesale meat purveyor and a racehorse breeder. You’d think folks would have been uncomfortable conceptually with a meat salesman who raised horses, but these were ye olden times. Anyway, the story goes that Mr. Mooney bought the land from the forfeiture of James Delancey. Old Delancey was a Loyalist during the American Revolution, and so when the British (spoiler alert) lost the war, Delancey’s assets were seized. Thus Mooney was able to build what would become his enduring legacy: this house. Inside, the building still contains its original hand-hewn timbers—possibly hewn from the same stock that made General Washington’s teeth. Very possibly.Mooney lived in the house until his death c.1800. It was reborn as a tavern in the 1820′s, then a general store and hotel, then a pool parlor, next a brothel, followed by a restaurant and a Chinese club, and most recently and revoltingly, a bank. And now, Edward Mooney would surely be tickled to know it will most likely be turned back into a residence once more. It was purchased just last year by a buyer for just under $5.4 million, which is a whole heckuva lot of Washingtons.
Ever been to the small triangle park at the intersection of Washington Place, West 4th Street, and Barrow Street? Good old Sheridan Square. Even has its own subway stop. So who the hell was Sheridan, and what’s so special about him that he gets his own Square?Well, the year was 1864, and the country was in the throes of the Civil War. A fellow by the name of General Philip Sheridan was appointed by Ulysses S. Grant as commander of the Army of the Shenandoah, where he was successful in routing the Confederate troops. A year later, his cavalry relentlessly pursued General Robert E. Lee and was instrumental in forcing his surrender at Appomattox using a series of scorched earth tactics later disturbingly coined, “The Burning.” In 1888, his career reached its apex when he was appointed General of the Army by President Cleveland. He passed away that same year, and he died a national hero (more so in the North, perhaps). Check out the picture below. Scrappy looking character, right? Check out the posture. Guy looks like he chews thumbtacks for fun.In any event, the decision was announced in 1896 to officially name the aforementioned triangle strip of land “Sheridan Square” after the General. It was not yet a “viewing garden” in the nineteenth century, but rather was used an open public space for political campaign speeches, community gatherings, drilling and marching, and a place for children to play. In 1918, the IRT subway station at Christopher Street/Sheridan Square opened, cementing Sheridan Square as Village fixture. Would Sheridan be happy to have a genteel little viewing garden named after him? We suspect he might spit some tobacco juice in your eye for suggesting it.
No question that Manhattan is a dense place with layers under layers under layers, but no neighborhood is as seemingly bottomless to me as Chinatown. I’ve been wandering around it for years and can still stumble into hidden places and things there that are completely new to me. Case in point: Malaysian jerky. Until recently, I myself was a Malaysian jerky virgin. In truth, I was unaware such a foodstuff even existed. But it exists, it is real, and there’s an unassuming shop called Ling Kee Beef Jerky dedicated to selling it and its various flavor incarnations right on Canal Street.The first order of jerky business is picking your protein: beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. Sanguine in color and cut in exact squares; piles of this stuff sit stacked stickily behind the glass counter. I went with the pork jerky because, well, duh. And it’s not at all what you expect, kids. Like the author here, it’s tender, not tough. I guess that has to do with it being freshly made? The flavor is very rich and surprisingly sweet, smoky, and tangy. It’s friggin’ tasty, is what it is. Despite the shopkeeper advising me it was not sufficient, I tentatively ordered one piece (slice? square?) and walked out to the sidewalk to eat.She was right. A minute later I was holding another two squares in their wax paper and munching happily on my way to the East Broadway subway. I bet this stuff would be great sliced up over a bowl of white sticky rice. Or maybe as an unexpected addition to a crunchy bahn mi sandwich. Or perhaps as an exotic side for your Sunday flapjacks. Anyway, you get the picture. Malaysian jerky! Who knew? Only in Manhattan. And Malaysia, presumably.
Deep within the heart of Madison Square Park, there lurks a growing threat: that of the Super Squirrel. Having feasted off of Danny Meyer’s potent blend of Pat LaFrieda patties and concrete shakes for almost a decade, these steroidal rats in fur coats have quietly been growing strong, fearless and capable. They have been studying human behavior up close and can now effortlessly emulate the characteristics of the stereotypical urban street tough. Don’t believe me? Go eat lunch there.The size of small cats, they clamber up on to your table where you are unwittingly shoving hot crinkle fries into your maw. They rear up and will stare you unblinkingly in the eye. They’ll dare you to blink, bitch. If you raise your hand as if to swat them away… they do not flinch. If you yell at them, these squirrels do not run. They want your goddamn Double Shackburger. They want it now. And having seen the way they can manipulate a packet of mayonnaise open, I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time until they have cultivated the ability to operate an iPhone. And all their Instragram photos will be of Shake Shack cheeseburgers. No joke.
Holy crap, true believers, it’s been over two weeks since our last posting! What on Earth happened to us, you may be wondering? Summer brain melt, for starters. We desperately needed a breather. Then, because we don’t actually know how to “relax,” we concluded that the website needed a cosmetic facelift. This facelift quickly turned into a complete redesign. A total gut job.And we have People working on this hot mess right now as we speak. But now the time has come to let you in on our intention. When we roll out the new design, we will slowly start to incorporate fresh posts and entries from other writers. By other writers, we mean writers who are not Jesse and Greg. They will not even look like Jesse and Greg. But true to form, these other writers will be locals, and they will be from all walks of life. The proverbial butcher, baker and candlestick maker, all duly represented. Worry not, as this site will still be On The Real with Jesse and Greg, and the focus on the first person experiences living in the Big Apple (served up fresh with a side of smart ass) will remain the same. For now, we’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming again. But at least now you know what we’ve been up to (and where we’re going).
With three weeks left until school starts and five until the official end of summer on September 21st, you’re all probably at the beach or on the cape or cruising the Mediterranean on your yacht. Grrrrr. But if you’re stuck in the city, voluntarily or otherwise, here’s an adventure to an irony-free zone you won’t want to miss. Get a bike, head to the southern tip of Manhattan, get sniffed by a bomb-detecting dog and hop on the Staten Island Ferry. That’s right, you’re headed to the forgotten borough for the day and here’s why it’s worth the trip.The 25 minute trip across the Upper Bay is free and filled with glorious sights along the way, but it’s mostly great just to get out onto the water and breathe the salty air. Once you arrive at the St. George Terminal, head south down Bay Street toward the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. There are signs and a bike lane, so pretty easy going through this slightly-suburban, slightly-urban landscape of true and thriving Mom and Pop shops of every ilk. There’s something oddly bucolic about this stretch that we enjoyed in a kind of Tony-Soprano-roamed -these-streets kind of way. And there were more surprises to come.Yeah, that’s a goat right there. At the end of Bay Street, you run into Fort Wadsworth, which despite its green and lush setting today has been a major contributor to New York NOT being invaded since 1783 when the British relinquished control at the end of the American Revolution. Until it closed as a military installation in 1994, Fort Wadsworth was the oldest continually manned fort in the United States. As a green initiative, the National Park Service employs a herd of goats to chomp and manage invasive plant species including poison ivy and recycle food scraps left behind by less than considerate visitors to the park. Goats’ll eat anything!For the next portion of your adventure, head down the hill and out of the park to the south and you’re in for another surprise…a big wide glorious beach with frontage onto New York Harbor’s Lower Bay…or we can just go out on a limb and call it the Atlantic Ocean. Seriously, it’s hard to believe that this beach, 200 yards wide in places, is within the five boroughs. It was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, but the Army Corps of Engineers has done a fantastic job of replenishing the sand. We think you’ll be hard pressed to find any place to take a dip with this much elbow room this close to midtown Manhattan. Our blood pressure just dropped. Ahhhhh. This is a great place to hang out for a while, grab a burger or dog and an ice cream at the food shack a few hundred yards down the boardwalk and head back to the ferry when you’ve had enough relaxation.But if you really want to leave the city behind, we’ve got one more stop for you. This trek is not for the faint of heart…or leg muscles. If you keep on the boardwalk all the way to the end, you’ll hop onto a bike path that will wind you through these amazing waterfront groves until you get to Ebbitts Street. Hang a right on Ebbitts and go about a mile to Hyland Boulevard. A left on Hyland and four miles to Hillside Terrace. We told you it wasn’t for the faint of heart! Another left on Hillside and straight down to the water and The Marina Café. You made it!!! The restaurant was demolished in Sandy, but the Tiki Bar is open and it’s right on a huge marina that’ll make you think you’re hanging out in the Florida Keys. Gentle breezes, reggae, frozen drinks, great food, boats bobbing in the tide…not bad for a day that started in can’t-walk-down-the-street-because-there-are-too-many-tourists Soho.So, back to the top, this is an irony-free day trip. No hipsters. No attitude. No bullshit. Every single person, from the bartender and manager at the Marina Cafe to the dude who put air in my tires was no fuckin’ around salt-of-the-earth real. We were exhausted at the end of our six hour, 30 mile adventure. But it wouldn’t have been complete without the dragonfly that got smashed into my sunglasses on the long ride home. Sorry, poor guy. Rest in peace. The Island of Staten. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
For most of us, when we envision the New York skyline we think about high-flying skyscrapers. But if you look closely at the horizon on any given day in Manhattan, what you’re bound to notice are the iconic water towers dotting the rooftops like so many barnacles. They look like antiques from a bygone era (and in terms of engineering, they are) but your flush in the Big Apple is still completely dependent on them.What’s the point of them? That new Dornbracht SensorySky shower you installed would completely suck without a water tower, because all water towers do one thing: provide pressure. Most buildings in the city taller than six stories need some sort of water tower and pumping system to provide water pressure to tenants. Each foot of height provides 0.43 PSI (pounds per square Inch) of pressure, so the natural place to stick your apartment’s water tower is the rooftop. From up there, good old gravity sends the water with great force down the pipes of the building. The giant barrel is filled to the brim with glorious H2O, and basically works like a giant toilet. As a tenant uses water, the level goes down. A ballcock lets more in, and that water is pumped from the basement. (Next time you brush your teeth, be grateful for that humble ballcock.)I’ve always thought these wood towers were ancient because they look so gnarled, but most of them don’t last more than 25-35 years before they need to be replaced. Turns out even the new ones have an old look because they are made of unfinished wood that isn’t painted or chemically treated (so as not to taint drinking water). And although steel tanks are a potential option, they are four times as expensive (not to mention the issues with steel heating up and freezing, depending on the season.) So for the most part, city buildings still use wood to build their barrels. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Artisanal mayonnaise jokes aside, while some feel the so-called locavore movement has jumped the shark, it is tough to deny the positive environmental, economic and personal health benefits conferred upon the community that strives to support local food producers. With that, it gives us great pleasure to announce the On The Real official wine of the summer (apparently summer has its own song, why the hell not its own wine?) is made by local Long Island family-owned vintner, Paumanok.It’s called Minimalist, a name that exactly describes the wine itself (if not the experience drinking it.) Handpicked select Chardonnay grapes are harvested and put through a filter press, whole cluster, and then transferred to new French Oak puncheons for 17 months. No filtering, no messing about. Just pure, simple, beautiful wine with great depth and brilliant clarity. You can only get yourself a bottle by taking a trip out to the North Fork and visiting the Paumanok tasting room in Aquebogue– but what a perfect way to relieve your parched summer throat.
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