Manhattan Three-Decker Sandwich
695 Manhattan Avenue (at Norman)
G to Nassau/L to Lorimer; B48
Reviewed by Sars
The Order: Tuna melt (tomato substituted for bacon); coffee
The Food: I love tuna melts, but they never have a good presentation; it's just kind of a frumpy dish. So, when I say that this particular melt looked especially shleppy, understand that I've already taken the essential dowdiness of the dish into account. The tuna contained wide streaks of unintegrated mayo, and parts of it looked crusty in a way that the heating of the dish couldn't really explain away…just kind of prison-food-y and not inviting close examination.
But sometimes it's the ugliest dishes that taste the best, and this one hit the spot -- good tuna/muffin ratio, good amount of cheese, and a good tomato. Tomato quality is, if I may take a brief sidebar here, a leading indicator of general value in a diner. You know the expression that you can tell everything you need to know about a man by his shoes? Same goes for diners and garnishes, or auxiliary foods like tomato and lettuce: if the place doesn't care to select out the demi-slices or the grainy tomatoes, it's seldom a good sign. I haven't really held any restaurants or sandwich shops to the tomato standard this winter, the worst I've ever seen tomato-wise -- everywhere you go, you pay four bucks a pound, at best, for these gritty, rheumy, tasteless, caved-in little tubercules, so when a restaurant gets its hands on a decent slicing tomato and is nice enough to share it with me, I've got to give props.
Props also to perfectly cooked steak fries, which came off the line hot. The melt itself could have been hotter, which is a common complaint of mine but not a huge deal; the fries, however, were flawless.
Also good: the complimentary slaw and pickles. I didn't touch the slaw, which was watery and looked, um, recycled, but the pickle selection included both dill and garlic. I heartily approve.
The ketchup was watered severely. I can forgive this practice, up to a point, because I know it's done for a reason, but when the ketchup is separating on my plate, it's gone too far.
But the 3D gets some seasoning points back with the pepper, which was, mirabile dictu, not overfilled to the point of pepperiosclerosis. Dear food service industry: I hate that. Quit filling the shakers beyond the lip.
The food arrived in about 15 minutes, not super-speedy but a good plating time.
The Drinks: Above-average coffee for that hour of the day, tasted like a fresh pot. Ditto the half-and-half, which is usually looking a little rough after sunset but didn't flake out in the coffee at all. Sweeteners came in packet form.
The Service: When your waitress looks like she's a walking three-volume memoir entitled Slinging Hash: My Life and Times, it's usually a good sign. Our server was exactly such a personage, that tired-aunt type who can turn on a dime from a gently weary "you want mustard too, hon?" to screaming at the dishwashers to get her some friggin' spoons. She took kind of a while to give us the check, though.
The Surroundings: Rando! Real plants, which I liked, and they were healthy and well watered and cared for, which I also liked -- it indicates that the diner isn't just a job to the owners. The rest of the décor was divided between the occasional nautical sign and weird Brooklyn-star-maps-y stuff. The place has a dining room in the back, denoted by an etched-glass "Dining Room" sign set off by crooked sconces. What that means: discrete tables. Not a big whoop, but it is a spacious place. The counter is good and long, and had a TV on above it, which I always enjoy.
Miscellany: I'm not a Jell-O fan, but an order came to the table next to ours in the old-style begonia-shaped bowl with a big old pile of Cool Whip on it, and it was really pretty; I was tempted, but not enough to order it.
Overall, I'm giving this bad boy an A-minus. The ketchup is an issue, and they could stand to work on the front-door climate control, which on a cold night was a little breezy for my taste, but the food was just the thing for a sub-zero night in Greenpoint, and my companion's to-order egg sandwich looked delicious (not to mention the pillow-sized kaiser roll it came on). Good portions, good service, good pickles.