Happy New Year! An annual holiday treat is going to Minetta Tavern. On the outside it looks like a speakeasy, a private, illegal club harkening back to prohibition. It’s a stage set, of course. Having just returned from New Mexico where restaurants seat two people at a table that would hold four in NYC and there’s plenty of room between the tables, I was struck by the tiny public spaces we squeeze ourselves into. Is it part of that incomparable NYC buzz? Why is it that dining in NYC is magical?
Yesterday we went to the venerable Veselka Restaurant on Ninth Street and Second Avenue. It’s been in business since 1954 and is run by Ukrainian-Americans. It’s one of Steve Kulchek’s hangouts. He and his Uncle Con eat there when Con is in town. A week ago I had several meals at the oldest restaurant in Santa Fe, the Plaza Cafe, founded in 1905 and run by a Greek-American family since 1947. Both are lively diners that reflect their native origins and those of the people who own them. In the southwest it’s red and green chilis with your souvlaki. In the northeast it’s sour cream with the pierogis. Both restaurants are colorful and packed. Even by American standards, the Plaza Cafe has gigantic portions.The Veselka’s are merely enormous.
Some one asked me where I find characters. I think they present themselves.Since I write mysteries, there’s a subplot connected with characters. For instance, on my block there’s a dusty Oldsmobile Cutlass. A man in his seventies sits in it with his blond retriever, a dog of the same vintage as its owner. Sometimes, a woman – the wife? sits in the passenger seat. Then the dog sits in the back seat. I’m assuming the driver smokes. Maybe he’s a retired cop. There are stickers supporting the troops and the NYPD. It intrigues me that the car is home for this guy. Plot point: The dog could pick up a piece of evidence and bring it back to the car. The guy is a pack rat and throws it under the seat. Plot point: the couple’s son was killed in Afghanistan and the father mourns the son in the car and the mother mourns the physical loss of her son and the psychological loss of her husband. The son was taught to drive in the Oldsmobile. The dog, of course, was the son’s.To be continued.