the soul of new york

Two food stops were on my list when we hit New York. The first was one that I’d indulged in before – the notorious pastrami on rye with a pickle on the side, the well-known specialty of the mythical New York Jewish deli. I’d had it the last time we were in New York and was hankering for another. I’ve also had Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches in Montreal (at Schwartz’s, no less) and I do have to say, pastrami on rye may be good, but it’s no Schwartz’s. However, that is a little apple and orange talk, so let’s just concentrate what we’re eating – big, tasty sandwiches.

These were tasty, though not the best I’ve had. We researched recommendations and came up with 2nd Avenue Deli. The coleslaw was delicious, there were two kinds of pickles (and about a dozen of them total), and spicy mustard to accompany it all. We walked out stuff to the gills and happy to have had our New York pastrami.

The other food which blew me away was soul food. Being from Canada, I’d never tried this soul food thing. I was missing out. It’s about as far away from healthy as gasoline is from potable water, but man is it good. Our first experience was with Amy Ruth’s in Harlem, just down the street from our good friends, JB and PJ. They brought us here and I just about died. You sit down and cornbread appears in front of you. Boom. Sweet cornbread, hot, with butter waiting to be spread on it. And that’s just for when you’re deciding what to really eat.

Most dishes come with side dishes. Christine got fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and collard greens, JB got three side dishes – corn, mac and cheese, and collard greens, and PJ got…oh man, I don’t remember, though I remember her getting fried okra, because I ate some. I think collard greens were on her plate as well. They are good, those greens.

My order was chicken and waffles with gravy. You might not think that those two things go well together – I had never put them in juxtaposition before. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat one without thinking of the other again. And the gravy! And syrup! It all just mixes together to create this heavenly salty-sweet-waffly combination that made me moan with each bite. I didn’t want to finish and as soon as I was finished, I was dreaming about having it again. It was that good.

We tried Sylvia’s about a week later, which is also within walking distance of our friends’ place. It was good, but I have to say, Amy Ruth’s outdistanced Sylvia’s quite easily. In the end, however, I was just happy to engage in soul food eatin’ again. Even writing about it now, having just eaten some wonderful fajitas, I’m almost aching for chicken and waffles.

Soul food: Even atheists love it.

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