Scummy little diners aren’t what they used to be. Take Eisenberg’s for example.
Situated in the heart of the Flatiron district, actually across the street from the Flatiron building, it now occupies prime real estate. Case in point, Andrew’s Coffee Shop, a larger diner cousin, and a classic, was driven out last year after a long run.
I hadn’t been to E’s since I left publishing last spring. As I was with an agent and had a grilled cheese, it must have been over a year ago--where coincidently I bumped into Heather, who was there with another editor. E’s has become a pub hang out for a quick lunch as it’s across from SMP. But if you’re not in the ‘hood or in publishing, there’s no reason to go in, especially for anyone whose diet has become intolerant to dairy, wheat, sugar, soy or incompetence.
Yesterday, when Michael suggested it, I was having one of those moments where I didn’t feel like making a deal out if it. I figured I could probably get breakfast, eggs and home fries, or a soup and all would be well. And one could argue that since Eisenberg’s has retained its Olde New York charm, read it’s still scummy, and is a charming piece of culinary history, one should support it.
Well, lunch was disaster, culinarily speaking. Everything was a sandwich, everything. Fried egg sandwich, tuna salad sandwich, cottage cheese sandwich. I would have had some meat and a side salad but none of the meat was ho-made. My egg idea went out the window as they only serve french fries, no home fries, after 11am, and in a joint like this, I wouldn’t trust the frying oil to grease my car. The vegetable soup and the chicken soup had pasta already mixed in, so no good for a wheat-free gal.
After some deep soul and menu searching, I opted for the pea soup. This was only after the waitress, poor thing, first told me it was creamy and had cream, only to double check and be told no cream, just pureed. I don’t know what they did to those poor peas but something terrible happened to them on the way to my table. The soup was an odd Kermit green, thin and oily and had an odd, almost metallic taste. Could they have possibly pureed canned peas and warmed them up?
Now I know there are those of you who will defend dear old Eisenberg’s to the death—it’s still cheap, kinda; it’s convenient, sorta; and it’s has lunchy type things—not really. And please don’t think I’m such a food snob that I think diners are beneath me. Far from it. I love diners precisely because you can get everything; if you go in twice, they already know you; usually it is home-made; and for a thousand other reasons.
I think my rant is about the destruction of the sort of places that John Belushi paid homage to when he yelled “chee-burger, chee-burger, chee-burger” [although Viand on Madison and 61st does them some justice]. My grade school was steps away from Neil’s, the best diner in the world as far as we were concerned—we all wanted a toasted blue with butter.
But it's also a rant about Eisenberg’s itself. The food was just bad, the place dirty and the menu limited and a shadow of what it could be. There’s no reason for it or to ever go back. So it’s going on the list of restos to avoid. The great NYC diners may be a dying breed [impossible rents, changing tastes] but that’s no reason to patronize one that's a shell of what it could be and what it should be.