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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Score One For The Slab

J. Slab is the Paul Wall of this here Pork game: “The People's Champ” back with another snackfood smackdown.

And this time we have... results!? Straight from Haagen-Daz. Our initial letter and their response scanned below; click to read.Check the technique: that haiku is an original.
What they don't tell you: Haagen-Daz only started selling GT IC in the US of A a few weeks ago. So I stand by the Donkey comment.
And finally: the fruits of our labors.

They also sent two 50-cent coupons (!!!!) which inspired a parting haiku. I call it “From Winter Chills Arise Spring Breezes, Freshness, Health, Prosperity and Vegetables: A Meditation on Cheap Corporate Clowns.”
Spring brings grass and warmth
Pillsbury shares their great wealth
A buck to Slab's health!


Friday, April 18, 2008

Pork Diva, pt. 4

Pork Thespians, pt. 2

Robert Downey Jr. on the pork promotion circuit.


Pork Thespians, pt. 1

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Millburn Delicatessen

I watched Brando's The Wild One last week and – correct me if I'm wrong – learned that “pack of teenagers”=“nothin' but trouble.” Yet not long after, I happened across a gang of kids loitering... peacefully. No drag racing, no monkey knife fights, no festive leather, no Excessively Loud Music: just bashful stammers and polite manners. Whence the rebelliousness? What tamed the teen beast? Why so calm?

Two words, good reader: Millburn Delicatessen.
The Millburn Deli isn't far from NYC but it feels worlds away: peaceful and old-tymey, Cheers-without-beer, a neighborhood destination with warmth to spare. This is the sort of place that names its sandwiches, and if you order the right combo – a Thanksgiving-esque “Gobbler,” say – they might ring a bell or let out a yell. Personalized license plates and “Murphy's Law”-style jokes adorn the bright checkered walls, along with goofy paintings, bumper stickers, and random mementos. And to be honest, this aggressively homey style usually rubs me wrong. But nothing about Millburn feels pushy or contrived. It's all from the heart, and their lack of slickness is utterly refreshing.
Neat counters make for...
Sloppy Joe(s)

As for Millburn's most popular offering? The mighty Sloppy Joe. They use normal rye loaves (as opposed to a long Pullman), so expect some crust. And don't look for butter; years ago they stopped “stroking their loaves” to lessen the “mush” factor. Not that this is a neat and clean affair; our Joe arrived living up to its name. We tried, and thoroughly enjoyed, the ham and turkey combo ($7.75): mounds of moist house-roasted turkey, Boar's Head ham and fresh Swiss slices held together by an unabashedly creamy slaw and tangy Russian dressing. Served with a nice thick sour dill slice, the finished product exhibits both restraint (it's half the size – and price – of Town Hall's Joe) and devil-may-care abandon (read: memorably messy). Grab a bag of Mama Zappa's spicy chips, and wash the whole affair down with some of Millburn's famous sweet lemon iced tea.
Andrew Morgan offers some of Millburn's finest

We didn't make it during rush hour and can't vouch for the service during “lines-out-the-door” time, but Millburn Deli exudes some serious late afternoon hospitality. This attitude starts at the top with the Morgan family, who grabbed the reins in 1991 from the Jacobs (owners since 1946). They modernized the old school German menu and surroundings, and added a few newfangled items to the menu. But the Sloppy Joe was, and remains, the biggest draw. Rightly so. It's worth the quick jaunt from Midtown, especially if you're craving some double-decker action. And don't sweat the locals; in these parts, the Power of the Sandwich tames all.

Millburn Delicatessen
328 Millburn Avenue
Millburn, NJ 07041
(973) 379-5800

Open daily from 8am-6pm. Regular Joes run about $8; “double meat” is $10 if you roll like that. And, as always, the helpful NJ Transit site provides directions from Manhattan.

Note: they don't seem to have seats, so plan on eating outside or taking yours to go. If you're a complete pile, they can FedEx a Joe anywhere in the US of A.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Town Hall Deli

The sign outside Town Hall Delicatessen reads “Birthplace of the Sloppy Joe,” and it's not entirely accurate. Said honor goes to Havana, and the swinging 1930s hotspot run by José García Río. Which is to say, the Joe is almost as old as Castro... and its Cuban.

But Town Hall holds a different distinction in this messy double-decker's history: First in Translation. At the behest of an enthusiastic sandwich-eating card-playing mayor, TH made the first New Jersey Joe back in 1936. So on our Sloppy pilgrimage, it seemed only right to begin here.
Tony Wonski talks messy sandwiches with hygienic gloves

Town Hall has been around over 80 years, but all you need to know is that Tony Wonski took over in 2003 – and then promptly shut down for renovations. He saved an old phone booth and black iron railing (which now guards the sandwich station), then gutted the place. He also asked anxious locals to voice their priorities online – more parking, new menu, s/m dungeon, etc. – but the top request was simple: bring back the Sloppy Joe.
Don't Front: new brick building houses old school flavor

This is, after all, a sandwich with a devout following... and Town Hall makes one of the best. They start with a unique loaf of pullman-style rye, cut lengthwise. Three long thin slices are buttered, and carefully stacked with Swiss cheese and two different deli meats. Healthy heaps of homemade slaw (crisp, acidic, lightly fermented) and Russian Dressing (made with the terrific house mayo) top things off. Stack, cut in eight neat squares, then get to eating.
Make it Sloppy: tongue-folding and knife-stabbing are key

Each Joe has a name, and we started with “The Favorite” (Turkey and Roast Beef, $15.99; add $2 for house-roasted turkey). The first words that came to mind were “freakin' sweet.” This is a quality sandwich, harmonious (crisp slaw, creamy dressing, tangy cheese, savory meats) yet also surprisingly light. No mean feat for a massive double-decker that weighs in at over 2½ pounds.
“The Original”: Sloppy Joe made with sliced ham and tongue

“The Original” – ham and tongue – was a bit saltier, but we liked biting into some history. Sliced tongue also brought back memories of my Grandad pressuring me to eat stuff that seemed intuitively nasty. So live a little, grab a grip of people (each sandwich feeds 2-3), try a few combos, and see what moves you. Because something will.

Far be it from me to send people out to Jersey, but this is a sandwich that merits the short stint from Manhattan. A Sloppy Joe sounds simple enough, but something about the preparation and execution - the ritual and tradition, the thoughtfulness and care, the squares wrapped up in a large cake box – makes the trip wholly satisfying. It's something you want to savor at least once, for flavor and uniqueness alike.

And who knows, you might even find yourself like us: stuck a few weeks later, looking at the pictures and awash with the urge to eat again. We feel like ex-smokers who quit but still hunger. The Joe hooked us in, and – logic be damned – still has us fiending for more.

Town Hall Deli
60 Valley Street
South Orange, NJ 07079
(973) 762-4900

Sloppy Joes run from $16-$18, depending on ingredients. Half-sized available for $9.

Nervous in New Jersey? Check out the NJ Transit Trip Planner link for door-to-door directions. Plan on a 30 minute journey from Penn Station.