Monday, September 22, 2008

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop

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 New York -- Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, somewhere around Fifth Ave & 21st (thanks for address correx, Wendy!). I used to plan my day around it (well, not really, but I'd think about it a lot) and go there to grab a sandwich two or three times a week. I LOVED that place. It was still there the last time I checked. I hope it's always there.

Sometimes I went with a co-worker, and lots of times I went myself, to just be able to not have to think or talk for 20 minutes, and found a seat at the counter of the old place.

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.


Wendy Wax said...

I love your Eisenberg's blog. I just read it to Jon, who used to eat their all the time and loved it. (His studio was on 20th between 5th and 6th.) He reminded me that it's on Fifth Avenue, not Broadway. His story wasn't nearly as good as yours. He used to go to eat there with his friend Patty. One day she went on her own. As she grabbed the handle of the door, a guy came bursting through it from inside with his hand over his mouth. He was vomiting. So Patty decided to take a day off from tuna on rye. I hope I didn't ruin your sandwich week.

Wendy Wax said...

I spelled "there" wrong...can it be fixed?

Paula McConnell said...

I have been enjoying your blog since early summer. I can't believe you have little kids! My kids, who were little when I knew you, are now into college applications. One is even married.
I'm writing again after being away for 14 years. It feels like I can breathe again. (I never did find a decent ending to the monster story!) I connected with Bruce again this summer as well - it's good to see you are still editing for him.
Lunch is over. Back to work. Enjoy the kids. Childhood goes by fast...