By Robert Beck
I agree with Art Stamford’s recent poetic lamentation in the Rag about the ebb of Broadway, and the solace he found in a Gray’s hot dog at the end. E Pluribus Frankus.
I did a Weekend Column on Gray’s Papaya back in January. That was about the sustenance, the passion, the nights lying awake dreaming of two with mustard and a papaya. The acknowledgment that there are many more like me, and possibly you, who pine—yes, that’s the word—pine for that climax of New York culinary moments: biting into a Gray’s hot dog. My column was accompanied by an image of Gray’s storefront at night. This time, the dogs are the subject of my painting.
In keeping with my continuing examination of the treasures and pleasures of the Upper West Side, I brought a couple of Grays hot dogs back to the studio for a double portrait. There is a bit of Sunset Boulevard in this, as once they get their Norma Desmond closeup, it’s off to the post-production party, and we know what they are serving.
That’s what was missing from my first column’s painting. The Broadway stars themselves. Once they had been wrapped in foil, paper-bagged, and carried to my studio in the accessory pouch of my computer bag, they were looking a little scrunchy, but lordy, they smelled good. The flavor kept well, and the snap was still there. Pardon me while I wipe the drool off the keyboard.
This brings me to a question I’d like to ask the Rag readers who have made it this far in my carnivorous ramble. I know a place a hundred miles from here that consistently makes the best hamburger on the planet, so I’m familiar with the higher reaches in that culinary category, too. I’ve been in eateries on the UWS that serve hamburgers that are trendy, quirky, and covered with extras, but I have yet to find something extraordinary in the meat and preparation department that keeps me coming back. If you have any positive thoughts, write them below. I don’t want to hear about some joint that serves a blah burger just because it has your favorite beer on tap, or it’s where you meet your friends, or it serves a multiple-patty cheesy bacon sloppy burger bigger than your head—I’m looking for the best tasting ground beef burger on the UWS. Moist and delicious, on a soft roll.
Speaking of which, if the patty doesn’t stick out beyond the roll, don’t even bring it out of the kitchen. We can talk about putting stuff on it later, but for now, tell me about a burger that beats all the others, straight up with no cheese, nothing other than a dab of ketchup. Or catsup, if you must. This isn’t a contest; it’s a quest. Your comments are invited, but please stay on task. Where on the UWS can it be found?
See more of Robert Beck’s work and his UWS studio by visiting www.robertbeck.net And let Robert know if you have a connection to an archetypal UWS place or event that would make a good West Side Canvas subject. Thanks!
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