Finding a good, cheap place to eat near the theater district is a challenge I often undertake. Sure there’s 9th avenue, but there are more doozies than dazzlers there, I’m afraid. The one exception, of course, is Esca–a restaurant that plays an important part in my book–but a restaurant that can be prohibitively expensive. So where to eat when Mark, your theater critic friend and music blogger, takes you to see a play at Playwrights Horizons? Why Turkish Cuisine, of course:
This is one of the dazzlers on 9th ave. From the moment we walked in, I knew we were in good hands: the people eating there looked like they knew a secret, and the hostess was incredibly warm and welcoming. We sat at a table for two and began to study the menu.
I learned about this place on Chowhound and remembered one of its champions said to order the sour cherry juice, so when the waitress came to ask if we wanted anything to drink, I ordered that. Here it is, arrived moments later:
I liked it–it was a dark red and tart but not overwhelmingly so. It reminded me a bit of those little aluminum drink bags I used to take to school when I was a kid. Wow, I haven’t thought about those in a long time. Remember those bags? How you’d have to punch the straw through them to make a hole, but you didn’t want the straw to go all the way through? That brings back a rush of memories.
For my entree, I ordered the Kasarli Kofte: “Chopped lamb blended with turkish spices served with casseri cheese.”
As you can see, this is a generous plate. The lamb is served on pita (and a basket of pita is brought along with this) in addition to the rice and the salad and the roasted tomato. The lamb was extremely flavorful and the rice was perfectly cooked. This is the kind of food you’re grateful for when you’re hungry: it fills you up but in a complex, interesting way.
Mark had some kind of fried eggplant dish which he models here:
This was an appetizer because Mark had a lunch around three. Still, he savored his food and exclaimed, several times, how good it was.
Me being me, of course, I made an argument for dessert. Not here, though, but at The Little Pie Company close by. Mark suggested we see the play first and then go after: I assented to his wishes.
The play was “Floyd and Clea Under The Western Skies” and you can read Mark’s Variety review here. He actually enjoyed the play more than I did. But we had an excellent conversation about taste in which he declared that he could mindlessly eat a plate of food and didn’t care if it was subtle as long as it was tasty and I realized that I feel the same way about theater. I tend to prefer big brash plays and musicals that first and foremost entertain, rather than edify. Interesting how you can draw parallels like this with food and art.
But enough about food and art: let’s talk about pie. Specifically, the pie at The Little Pie Company:
It’s right next door to Esca on 43rd street between 9th and 10th (so right near the Turkish place.) We got there just as it was closing. I’d been there once before and had the sour cream apple pie which was dynamite, so I let Mark order that:
The sour cream is the real magical ingredient there: giving the pie a depth that assures this pie a place in the museum of interesting apple pies.
I ordered the cherry pie because I wanted to give the night unity after my cherry juice earlier:
The cherries were very fresh tasting and the pie crust had a nice balance of crustiness and butteriness. Is it as good as making your own pie at home? Not really. But is it easier? Yes, definitely yes.
And thus we reached the end of our evening of Turkey, play and pie.