Monday, February 28, 2011

Progress? So Long Friend

When I first decided to write a blog it was really for two different purposes.
First and foremost, to call attention to the independent restaurants, eateries, joints, shops, greasy spoons, et al I’ve happened upon. To let people know that there are alternatives, both delicious and interesting to the big chains that dominate the highways and cities. That it’s not just a place to eat but a destination. That the meal, the setting, the characters are all part of the experience.
The second was simply as a journal. A reminder to myself of some of the terrific meals I’ve had. There is some wonderful food in some great places prior to starting this that are mere memories now. Fading as the years pass. My online diary would be a way to go back and refresh my memory. Relive experiences that I would eventually forget about.

While this particular post falls into the second category, it’s also to pay tribute and keep the memory alive of one of Toronto’s little hidden gems. New York Subway. Perhaps lost for ever.
Neither a sub joint nor in New York, NYS closed it’s doors for the final time on Saturday, February 26, 2011. A victim of the progress machine the 15 year old snack shop in Queen Street West’s Alexandra Park neighbourhood provided a good, inexpensive food option in a less fortunate part of town. Let’s face it, every city has the high rent district and everything on down to the seedy underbelly. While Alex. Pk. isn’t the bottom of the barrel its best days are both behind and (for some anyway) ahead of it. 

The disheveled storefront with the unkempt interior is just one of a number of stores in a block that’s to be leveled to make room for condos. At the time of this post there seems to be no plan for relocation. So without further adieu I will share with you some of the thoughts and pictures I have as I was working on a review when the news of this story crossed my path.

New York Subway

The sign out front is fading and the fa├žade does nothing to invite one in. Inside the lighting is dim and the walls are painted horribly. The floors are greasy and the tables are  sticky. Much like some of the dives seen on Triple D, it too wears those unfortunate traits with pride. They’re a badge of honour. For some they’re a discouragement. To me they scream credibility.
The food is of course first rate. They do sell subs but this is a burrito place to be sure. It’s not your every day burrito place either. It’s fusion at it’s best. Too often, again in the name of progress, “Fusion” becomes “Confusion.” Keeping it fairly simple allows the different flavours and textures to shine and yet mingle.

I will admit to not being particularly impressed on my first visit. Subsequent visits have been better and better. It has become a (sentimental) favourite and a place I feel every city needs. 

I had planned of future visits and a wider array of samplings to review however that is no longer possible. On this particular (and last) visit I opted for the Lamb Satay and Beef Burritos.

The lamb was excellent. Marinated, skewered and cooked on the flat top it was nice and tender. The lettuce, tomato and onion are fresh tasting but the mayonnaise and “Secret sauce” are what make it. I’m also a big fan of grilling burritos after being stuffed. The crispiness is a perfect contrast to the tenderness.
The beef burrito was even better. You’d think it would have a Tex-Mex kinda flavour but it was more Mediterranean in it’s roots. It kinda reminded me of the beef component in moussaka. Hints of cinnamon and all spice were certainly there. The accompaniments were the same. Again, the secret sauce was what elevated it to a higher level. My only complaint was that where the sauce didn’t insulate the lettuce from the tortilla, the grill gave it that cooked lettuce taste that is terrible. However it was only the first bite where that was a problem and I can overlook it.
Usually I would put a put a map here on where you could find New York Subway and even a link to a website. Sadly, the store will be torn down and there is no website. It looks destined to fade away into Toronto’s collective memory. Hopefully history books will see this chapter in the middle and not at the end. 

Stay tuned as I will update this should I hear any more news. Especially if there is a rebirth.

Take care everybody and help keep the memory of New York Subway alive and well.