By Eileen Katz

You may recognize Chicago native, Joey Slotnick, from his numerous roles in film (“A League of Their Own”, “Twister”, etc.) and television (“Nip/Tuck”, “The Good Wife”, etc.), or possibly just from running into him on line in any number of his favorite grocery stores here on the Upper West Side, which he now calls home. He is currently on Broadway in “Front Page” which opens October 20th.

Why the West side, Joey?

I love New York! When I first came here, it was for a play and I lived here for about 5 or 6 months in the Village. I went back to Chicago, where I’m from originally, and then came back for more work and lived at a friends house in Tribeca, then the edge of Soho, then downtown Wall Street area and finally the East Village.

You’re like a serial New York neighborhood dweller!

I have done my diligence! We’ve lived up here now for about 5 years and absolutely love it. We love the parks. I love Central Park. My wife loves Riverside.

Oh no! Has this caused a big rift in your marriage?

Thankfully, no. I love Central Park because I’m a runner and it’s just the best for that. I prefer running when it’s cold out. I love that. And they do such a great job maintaining it all winter long. They plow it out faster than the snow can fall it seems sometimes! But whenever we go to Riverside, it’s like being in France! That promenade is not like anything anywhere else. It’s just spectacular…especially when the flowers are all open.

Now, do you consider Central Park part of the Upper West Side?

Of course.

Because the Upper East Siders think it’s theirs too.

I’m sure they do, but they get to look at the Upper West Side. That’s their view. It explains why prices are so much higher up there. Because they get to see us!

What else appeals to you about living up here?

Well, I have a Vespa and we can just Vespa everywhere. You can be downtown in like 15 minutes but know you’re coming back to live up here where it feels so open and there’s such great light in most places. It’s also really convenient to get to the theater district. I love it also because it still feels like it’s a neighborhood about to change. We don’t live in the fancy part of the Upper West Side and we’re not far up enough to be considered Columbia. But we’re in that netherworld neighborhood where there are still a lot of vacant stores, which is a real bummer, we’d love to have more ma & pop stuff, but it’s so hard for them to survive. It makes us feel like we get to be a part of what the neighborhood grows up to be, in a way!

What are some of your favorite places up there?

I love Plowshares Coffee and Silver Moon Bakery…

Have you ever had the Matzo they make at Passover? You have to treat yourself! I mean, I’m not really a Matzo fan…

I mean, is anyone really a Matzo fan? I mean c’mon.

True. But this is as good as it gets.

I’m going to try that for sure. And that also reminds me that being on the Upper West Side, like a lot of New York City, but certainly on the Upper West Side, during the Jewish holidays is just lovely. Being in Chicago or L.A. it’s very different. You would barely know it. I remember growing up in Chicago, the grocery stores would just take all the “Jewish” foods, and put them out. Oh it’s Passover! Let’s put out the latke mix! Whatever the holiday, it would just all be out there on the shelves. But here, it’s just so nice cause you really know which holiday it is. It’s nice. And we’re not even hardcore but it just feels so nice.

Are there other places you like to check out?

Well, I’m a sucker for grocery stores and I’m starting to have this love-hate relationship with this place (Fairway). I don’t know if it’s because of the bankruptcy thing, but something has affected it. But there’s still certain things I love about it. I like to get fish from Citarella. I enjoy a walk to the Whole Foods on Columbus. I won’t go to Gristedes though cause it’s really expensive. I love that they opened Bird Bath, the City Bakery satellite, up here because I love their pretzel croissants. I get my coffee from Zabar’s. They make a really good lentil soup too. That’s usually a staple. And they have this great Thai chicken soup that is fantastic.

Lovely transition to the million dollar question: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one thing from Zabar’s what would it be?

It would have to be the coffee. The Royal blend is solid. I also like the Italian French Roast mix, their espresso mix. All good.

What’s not so great about living up here?

I hate all the vacant stores. Like there’s this stretch of two blocks by me where stores have been empty for over two years. That’s a bummer. I wish there were some better restaurants up by us, but a new place just opened, on 106th and Broadway called Macchina that’s really good. Really lovely inside, great food. The same owners own Harry’s Bar way downtown. We go to Henry’s.

You’ve heard Motorino just opened up here.

Of course! I read about in the West Side Rag, I’ll have you know. And Numero 28 on Amsterdam is incredible too. True Italian. And, of course, Barney Greengrass. They have this horseradish cheddar omelet that is great. I’m a big fan of the sturgeon on a bialy with butter and red onion. I’ve been going there for a long time so I’ve gotten to know the owners and people who work there which makes it an even nicer experience. Gary, and before when Moe was still there. I started in ’95 and never looked back. I also like Mermaid Inn and that new place next to it Sirenetta is good too.

This is a nice list! There are some good places to eat up here after all maybe?

Seems like there definitely is when you start listing them!

Can you describe for me what makes someone an Upper West Sider?

Someone who’s lived up here a long time who still has a rent-controlled or stabilized apartment. They really enjoy the parks. They carry around like a Zabar’s grocery bag but from a long time ago that’s plastic. They look for bargains…good shoppers. What I also love about the Upper West is it’s so diverse. Certainly up by us which is so nice. The building that we live in has been there for 100 years and reflects the changing neighborhood.

Ever experience the quintessential Upper West Side moment?

The wait on a Sunday for Barney Greengrass. We were there once and it was packed with a long wait, and they try to do their best to turn tables, but you just have to be patient. There were these two little kids who came in whose parents probably also grew up going to Barney Greengrass who were having a really hard time making it through the wait and Gary came with this little side table and set it up for them which immediately calmed them down and it was just great cause everyone else on line, who were still waiting, just let them be and didn’t complain or anything. It was a really nice moment. That feels like it can only happen here.

When “Joey Slotnick Day” is declared on the Upper West Side, how would you like people to celebrate?

I would like everyone on the west side to get some food to go. Maybe a sandwich from Barney Greengrass, some pizza from Numero 28 or Sirenetta, and go in to Central Park by the pond around 101st and maybe hang out there with a picnic, then maybe go for a run. Everyone on the Upper West Side. Going for a run at the same time. That’s “Joey Slotnick Day”!

To read all of our “Why the West Side” columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 12 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      “But whenever we go to Riverside, it’s like being in France!”

      i’m just the opposite. In the last decade, or so, I have really spent a lot of time in Riverside Park, so much, that on my most recent visit to Paris, I spent some days in their parks.

      I came away knowing the Riverside is my fav.

    2. Josie Estella says:

      I love silver moon bakery too! And now will have to try the matzoh! And I love this column and the glimpse it gives us into what our nieghbors uws experiences are!

    3. jeremy says:

      Enjoyed your Front Page performance!

    4. Stephanie says:

      I love this series!

    5. Jane says:

      Waaaahh! I miss living on the UWS! I am in North Carolina now. Yeah, there’s more room here, but . . .

    6. uwsmom says:

      What a great guy!

    7. Lyri Clark says:

      I just noticed today that since the food in Fairway is no longer very good (sadly) the prices in Citarella have gone up up up. As of Friday, I was told all prepared food prices have increased. Not only that, if you get there too late, nothing is left. Oh no!! Fairway must pay attention. They have to bring back the kitchen and start preparing edible and “regular” food. Oxtail everyday will not keep them in business. I’m unhappy ….I bought their grilled chicken all the time and now…never. I returned it twice ….it isn’t right.

      • B.B. says:

        Seems many places are selling out of prepared foods early. Not sure if it is a commentary on how few persons cook/prepare meals anymore, and or certain retailers wanting to avoid a surplus that will only have to be thrown out.

      • Sean says:

        It’s like no other market. You have to remember that.

    8. Jony says:

      He is the essence of the UWS. And nice call by the author on the matzoh at Silver Moon! I want to come to her Seder.

    9. UWSHebrew says:

      I see this guy so often I think he lives near me. Always jogging. Glad he’s working, he seems sad when I pass by him.

    10. Walter Jacobsen says:

      Love the West Side Rag! I’ve lived on the UWS my whole time in New York City, and I have no intention of ever leaving it!
      I like being reminded of what a great neighborhood it is, and getting to know the people who love it as much as I do. And there always seems to be something new for me, something I didn’t know before! So, heartfelt thanks, West Side Rag!