A New York Deli Experience

oct 31 007

A street food vender kindly pointed us toward a coffee shop on that steamy New York City day; we desperately needed something to eat and drink before embarking on our carriage ride through Central Park. Eating establishments were rare in this commercial, business area so we were relieved when we turned off Central Park South onto Madison Avenue and saw the large coffee sign down the block.

After walking past Barney’s New York department store on the left we navigated two crowded intersections. In my two short days in NYC, I’d learned that it nearly took a college degree to figure out how to avoid collision with the surge of humanity advancing upon us at these busy crosswalks.

Viand Coffee Shop was long and narrow; the cluttered counter allowed just enough space for a plate to sit at the very edge. Bar stools were on the right and very small booths along the wall on the left that could only seat one person on each side. We were a party of three, so sat at the counter in front of the cashier who took our order.

It seems I’d done something wrong asking what kind of bread came with the egg salad plate. The cashier barked an answer.

“No bread,” he growled. Actually he snarled at everyone in every situation. I gave my order and he shouted it out to the kitchen toward the back since there was no partition or door to separate them. Nothing was written down and hung on the circular spindle common to such establishments.

The word viand means food or a place that serves food and is of French derivation but the accents in this noisy establishment seemed harsh and guttural rather than French. Loud voices and heavy accents galore. Greek? Italian? Who knows.

This crowded 1950’s era, run down establishment is touted on the internet as a deli/diner/café/coffee shop. It’s much different from the Viand Café, located farther uptown with a more upscale atmosphere that boasts that its Michael Bloomberg’s favorite coffee shop. The internet says Viand Coffee Shop, where we were, is considered a quickly disappearing NYC deli/diner experience. Woody Allen has been known to frequent this place.

Internet reviews posted by past customers cover the whole spectrum from great to awful. Since arriving in New York City, I’d quickly become accustomed to the twenty dollar hamburger common near Times Square and Broadway, so the prices here were quite reasonable. The food was good and plentiful with little concern for portion control.

A second man behind the counter did nothing but pacing and watching. Perhaps he’s the crabby and bossy manager noted on internet posts. He and the cashier had an ongoing conversation, more like an argument, some of it in a foreign language with a sprinkle of English. Crabby manager seemed to be eyeing the movements of various diners and keeping the kitchen staff in line.

A steady stream of customers who were on a first name basis with the cashier picked up to-go orders; their playful banter signaled familiarity. A soup-Nazi-like heated argument ensued between the cahier and the crabby manager when we asked for our checks. It seemed the cashier thought it was the waiter’s job to write out our checks and the waiter was nowhere to be found. In all this chaos, I didn’t remember even seeing a waiter. So let’s get this straight: the cashier who’d given us menus, taken our orders and delivered our food was insistent it was not his job to write up our checks.

I was about to jokingly ask if this meant that our lunch was free but didn’t want to risk being yelled at again. The a waiter showed up with a note pad, asked each of us, with a grumble, what we’d had, scratched a number on the check and stomped off. Then, cashier then took our money which I guess was indeed his job.

As we got ready to leave, I asked where the restroom was. The cashier said it was across the street on the second floor of Barney’s New York. So we crossed the two busy intersections once again, checked out $500.00 dresses as we entered Barney’s and took an escalator to the second floor. The large, public restroom in this high end department store was complete with black and white tiled floors, large mirrors and a sitting room scattered with upholstered settees. I thought I’d been transported back to the 1920’s. My travel companion, Phyllis, grinned and commented: “that’s New York.”


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Diana Schramer
    Sep 15, 2015 @ 21:54:40

    Hilarious! Sounds like a Seinfeld episode. But tell me, did you like NYC?



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