Good N Plenty To Go has up and gone
...the end of an era. The end of one of the best, most accommodating, comfortable and interesting outdoor people watching and interacting porticos in New York.
The wonderful take-away prepared foods, soups aside > the best "simple" baked goods baker in the city; responsible for absolutely unequaled Chocolate Chip Cookies with dries cherries and my personal favorite; again, simple; baked good in NY, their perfectly balanced in tastes and textured Maple Cookie, will remain a treasured taste in my memory for some time to come. No one even, to my knowledge, attempts a maple sweet of the type and for my ccc cravings I'll have to depend on my no. 2 > a very very good one at Baked in Red Hook.
What certainly wont be able to be even approximated is what G N P To Go was to the neighborhood / The City > it was the scene of the place.
It was an outdoor meeting hall for the cream of NYs working and hopeful actors, writers, producers and general New York characters. The talk wasn't so much of where the best this or that food stuff could be found (although there was good and plenty of that) but who was mounting what and yes, who was mounting who. Open auditions where? He's doing a showcase when? She sold her book for how much? When does your gig start?
On a single, ordinary but not typical day this past summer while enjoying a coffee and lingering with a maple cookie watching the world > seemingly the entire world, pass by:
A couple sat at a table next to mine and began a conversation while I unapologetically eavesdropped, which began with an older gent saying "when I was working with Huston on that Falcon Picture..."
A bit later that same languid afternoon... 2 woman came out of G&P with soup and salads (one a pristine garden salad and the other with a 1/2 pint container of always exceptional, the precisely perfect amount of Extra Heavy Hellmans added, tuna. Both had clean white cardboard take-out containers of tomato corn bisque. Both women were immaculately groomed, every subtle dyed hair in its perfect place, their pocketbooks shared an unused chair covered with an open paper napkin for protection. You got a sense of care and longevity being required and carried-out by the pair. Their conversation began with one women after tasting her tuna saying, " when I was dating Aldo Ray he made the best tuna salad... he used to put in a small bit of grainy mustard." "It was a spicy mustard". Her friend interjected with "spicy like Aldo"; without missing a beat her friend continued, chuckling "spicy yes, like Aldo, this tuna is so good". Their conversation turnned to the present talking about not Aldo or the Tuna > "did you know that upstairs at Sardi's on Tuesdays your SAG card will get you a $12.00 dinner"? "No?" "And it ain't bad".
The Dunkin Donuts guy; the guy who's got to get up to make the donuts, walked by wearing a Woody Allen all weather floppy rain-hat and waved hello to a guy with a parrot on his shoulder a few tables back from me.
The cutest poppiest pop queen jumped out of a cab; no she actually sort of sprang, spring-loaded out of a cab and jumped into the arms of a girlfriend who'd been patiently preening and making nice to her cell phone while nursing a fresh roast turkey sandwich with a ruby red slice of tomato edging its way out of the sandwich. Jumping in olympic acrobatic precision "I got the commercial, I got the commercial, can you believe it I GOT THE COMMERCIAL?" Everyone within earshot busted into applaudes > people, kindred spirits who'd walked the road were obviously reacting to the joyousness and understanding that she'd got a paying gig. Her Big Break. You know many resumes were updated that night.
As the sky was darkening I was on my last couple of sips of coffee, an hour and a half past since I'd planted my ass; mostly unread Times at my side (all that was going around was much more interesting then the latest politico bashing; being bashed by...) And my fixation on the maple goodness, I was getting ready to call it a day. Yes, by the way; to this point, all I'd related above had taken place in just an hour and a half or so.
...So, as the sky was darkening... I'm getting ready to head home; a guy struts by with a stack of magazines under one arm and a flute under the other and a guy calls him > "Yo Mat, my man Matty; my main man Mr. Mat, what's happenin', how the hell are ya"? Matt > "Cool man, cool man, cool man; got to run". Where are you going? Matt > there's a Bette Lavette show in Madison Square Park. My ears perk at hearing this. Understand, that I really dig Bette Lavette (I won't go into who she is or why anyone / everyone who's the least bit into soul / R&B should know who she is). Although her music is never too far from my machine I've never (in her or my 50 years seen her live) I whip out my smart phone (thrilled I had a purpose to use it other then as a phone or to check my e-mail) Google Bette Lavette + Madison Square Park. Sure nuff > in 20 mins. Bette Lavette is giving a concert in Madison Sq. Park. A FREE concert at that! I run downtown > amazing show... small intimate crowd... met a "swingin" girl from Norway...
...Why so much about a concert; why so much excitement and what does it have to do with the closing of Good N Plenty to Go? Well for me; just matter-of-factly hearing; no overhearing, about a concert; a free concert, in an intimate location, of an artist I really like but have never seen live, from someone on the run; not even speaking to me which started in 20 mins. when I was just getting ready to hit the B Train and head home... well that's New York.
And Good N Plenty To Go was New York. A New York that's quickly becoming Old New York and I for one will miss The Old New York which will be extinct in the blink of an eye; with the combustion of scoring a first tv commercial. "The" Big Break. Every dreamer only has 1 very fast Big Break and then its gone. But like G&P To Go; it should be remembered and savored.
Once upon a time there was the automat at 34th Street and Good N' Plenty To Go on 44th. I remember once a long time ago an assistant director on The Maltese Falcon was talking to a friend. I was eating a maple cookie the likes of which you'll never know...
I have read chowhound daily for the last 8 years, and this is my absolute favorite post ever. As a former actor and forever theatre person who lives right down the street from the sadly departed GNP, you got the vibe down perfectly, preserved here for posterity. So lovely - thank you!
I believe from my depths, that GNP was not only unique but for so many an essential part of their lives. It was the general store, everyone sitting around the cracker barrel, it was the bulletin board outside the local newspaper office where you'd go to to see what was happening in your town. It was the local aid station where one could go and get advise > often too much advise, but better too much then nowhere to turn. It was: Knots Landing, Dark Shadows, I Love Lucy, The CBS Evening News (with Walter Cronkite); it was The Naked City, The Twilight Zone. It was the neighborhood elevated lunch counter where after a long day of: exhilaration, routine boredom, unexpected discovery; conquest or the agony of defeat you could get a Good N Plenty plate of very tasty dinner; sit outside, slow-down, decompress; share your woes and think about, or talk about with familiar faces or new, either everything or nothing; or things in-between > how to attack tomorrow... feel safe around others; your others, communally. Either watching the world go by in chosen solitude or participating in the vaudeville of the goings-on. Or you could take your food home; put it out on a plate or not and in-between comforting mouthfuls, shoes thrown randomly about, stocking feet, give thanks that you've made it through another day.
No matter your means; good food is always something that elevates our humanity, our self perception, our outlook on today / now, and the future. No matter what went-down during the day; whether it was successful or a "back to the drawing-board" what am I going to do now day... ...a good meal with well thought-out, well prepared food, from a familiar kitchen can bring a sort of equilibrium to the world, to life. To the life of an individual. You, me, anyone and everyone: Anna down the hall, Mike in the apartment above who always, although not meaning too, always walks heavy. The guy on the first floor who combs his slick and shiny black hair 40 times a day and wouldn't be caught dead without his 25 cent plastic pocket comb. The guy you smile at in the hall who doesn't know you're alive. All of us unique individuals. GNP; who they were, what they did; seemed inherently to know all this. And what their role was in the play. They knew their audience and gave them what they needed to nourish them in all ways.
Good N Plenty To Go was... the place to go. It was "The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of". And a place where dreams were born and nurtured.
Quite simply > it was the best of New York from a time when New York was New York.
Now that it's gone; where do we now go? Starbucks; Eataly... somewhere where the staff, in their matching uniforms and corporate mandated smiles are instructed to move people along if they linger? Somewhere where their Frank, the stalwart ever present GNP employee in his orange baseball cap doesn't know who you are or have strong felt opinions he's not afraid to and will take the time to spill. < As long as he didn't spill your soup > bring it on Frank > that's part of why we're all here. "But now listen to me Frank, and I'll tell you what's really going on"... and back and forth over our: sandwiches, meatloaf, shrimp dumplings, pulled pork empanadas, moist and crispy (although not quite as moist and crispy as Charles Southern Kitchen) "Southern" Fried Chicken. All lovingly, thoughtfully prepared. GNP knew it's role in all this. in the day to day drama which they catered and maintained with it's staging. The Days Of Our Lives.
Thanks Frank. Thank you all.
What are we supposed to do? Go someplace where the din drowns out the substance and the wonderfully absurd silliness. Where the mundane is to be maintained at all costs. Where La De Da outweighs an over the top > Yes! Yes! Yes! < "of course darling". GNP was a place where movements had started and stars were born and stars came back to for comfort and recognition of past greatness.
I thought GNP needed a goodbye and thanks.
P.S. And think of the effects on our local, national and worldwide: theatre, film and TV industries > where do the aspiring now get "real world" schooled? Where do the aspirations and dreams of the up-and-comers get their nurturing and nourishment? The ones with the 1 way return bus tickets in their sock draws > where do they now get fed? Their pats on the back? Their hard knocks reflected in their tomato bisque? Their pats on the back and kisses on their checks?
What are we supposed to do? Get theatre and movie reviews from The Times or the unthinkable... from Entertainment Weekly?