I was talking to my very talented writer and artist friend Wendy Wax today, and she'd read my "sandwich" post and reminded me of my favorite sandwich shop when we used to work as editors at Byron Preiss Visual Publications in
California's great, and there are lots of things I'll never miss about New York City, but that sandwich delivery system was one of the best things ever. If you ordered a tuna on rye bread, the order was shouted out down the line by the old guys who worked there as "tuna on whiskey!" The younger guys behind them assembled the sandwiches and about a minute later there it was in front of me, with a slice of real New York pickle on the side. And by the way, it was REAL rye bread, not a slice of something resembling white or wheat with a couple of caraway seeds pushed half-heartedly into a soft crust and labeled "rye," but the real thing -- a hard crust, soft but substantial middle laced with caraway seeds all the way through. Oh, it makes me want to bite right into it. The loss of good rye bread is one of my few regrets in moving here. New York has better bagels and brick-oven pizza, too, but for me, it's been 13 years in exile from rye bread.
But I digress. The other great thing about Eisenberg's was the really old woman who took orders at the 6 tiny tables shoved against the wall running opposite the counter. A narrow place to walk ran between them, and this ancient woman came to the table and announced the special of the day, which invariably was either meatloaf or pastrami. "The special's meatloaf. You can have it in a sandwich or on a plate. It's very good," she said, order pad in hand. I can still hear the timbre of her voice -- a little shaky but unconcerned, sincere, and on with it. I don't think I ever ate meatloaf any other place. It was banned from my house growing up. My father hated it, and the only time my mother ever served it to him was just after they started dating, the very first time she ever had him over for dinner in college at her parents house. He told her it was "delicious" and hid it in his napkin. From then on, whenever Dad described something as "delicious," we knew it was not so.
But now and then, I did have Eisenberg's meatloaf, in a sandwich, on rye. And it was good.
Meatloaf on "whiskey": this one's for you.