Long Island Restaurant (in Brooklyn) *long post alert*!
I tried the Long Island Restaurant on Atlantic Ave. at Henry St. a while back, and it's something else (on many levels!). The place is a complete time-warp, with a beautifully-preserved bar area straight out the fifties. Lots gleaming wood paneling and leatherette, etc. I'd gotten a tip that they served the best cheeseburgers, and while I don't eat meat I felt that I couldn't pass on it. So I hauled a burger-loving friend out with me to serve as a proxy. The elderly waitress (also the owner?) came over after we sat down and asked if we wanted food. We said we did, and she said something like, "We have fruit and cottage cheese, meatball heroes, chicken parmesan heroes, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and french fries." We asked for a cheeseburger with two orders of fries, and she went off, I assume to cook our food. It was a longish wait (30 min. or so), but fortunately it's a really pleasant place to spend a Saturday afternoon. The food arrived, and I dug into my french fries. I nearly fainted. I realized what had been a big factor in the wait for our meal: unless I'm way off base, they were pan-fried (which is not fast food)! I'm a total nut over fries cooked that way. I make them myself in a big skillet more often than I should, and it's spoiled me - I kind of view fryers as the devil's handiwork. There's just no comparison in my mind between the two methods. So basically, they've got some of the best fries I've had in recent memory. Score one. About my friend's cheesburger: it was approximately the size of a slightly obese hockey puck, served on standard white bun with nicely-melted Kraft and the requisite lettuce and tomato. He took a bite, started chewing, and stopped. Got a weird look on his face. Smiled like he had seen the Light. I asked if it was good. He just nodded and crammed more of it into his mouth. After a few minutes he said that it was definitely the best cheeseburger he'd had in New York (some half-remembered steakhouse burger from his childhood claims the grand title). Then the really weird thing happened: I haven't (knowingly) had meat in years. I was just at Les Halles and ate salad (got what I deserved for that, too...but that's another story!), for pete's sake. But I had a bite of the burger. Wow. For me, anyway, it was perfect - the kind I would always have in mind when I ordered one at restaurant but sadly never came. So depending on what kind of hamburger you like, you may not find L.I.R.'s to be exceptional. But I think that their burger is a good example of the primacy of ingredients thread. Although it's composed of humble ingredients, the sandwich came together in a marvelous whole. Attempts to change it would no doubt produce something horrific. But I think that for now this has been quite enough out of me. If you want to try Long Island (it's also great just for a afternoon/early evening drink - I'd been several times before I heard about the food), I'd advise calling first. They're definitely closed on Sundays, and they appear to be shut by about 8 or nine during the week. Can't wait to hear about someone else's experience...
Wow. Thanks for the tip. I think I recall hearing the owner of this restaurant calling up Arthur Schwartz and saying that he and his family was from, I think, Spain and implying that his mother and sister might cook you something interesting if you asked for it. Did you see any evidence of this?
Still, just to know there are good fries in the neighborhood...
re: Erica Marcus
"Wow" right back at you! This place keeps getting more and more interesting! I don't know if this counts as evidence, but I was a bit taken aback to see that nearly all of the music on the great old jukebox was Latin. From my experience and from what you may have heard it sounds like it's worth a try to go and - depending on the vibe you get - hint around to the effect that you're up for some non-standard chow. The atmosphere there was such that one would feel comfortable doing that, I think. There wasn't any of the weird (but understandable) "you're not part of this club" energy that you can get in lots of places like that. Whoo. Now I'm all fired up!