One of my first memories of New York is coming into the city to go to a Knicks game with my dad. The actual game isn’t the memory, but the dinner beforehand.
My dad took me to my first pay-by-the-pound deli. Imagine being 8, and deciding how much macaroni and cheese, chicken wings and lo mein you wanted for dinner. It was an incredible experience. I don’t remember the actual dinner as much I remember choosing what I wanted to eat for it.
I didn’t know then that all the flavors would mix, that all of the food would be kind of bad and that the actual cost of my three quarters of a pound of a food would be so high. But since my ethnic food experience was limited to pizza and Chinese food, it was an exciting night.
Even though I now know how expensive and gross pay-by-the-pound bars are, I still love them. Where else could you get a quarter pound of roast, sesame seed encrusted, winged, and grilled chicken at one place?
The immediacy, extensive variety and ultimate mediocrity of salad bars seems like the perfect metaphor for a fallen New York. But luckily, there are better lo mein options than what you can be found for $7.95 per pound.