C Train Uptown

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C is for Cock-a-doodle-doo

Conceived & Hatched by: Bonnie

Okay, so, we cheated a little. And there are multiple layers of cheating within this adventure, but what’s a group of cool chicks to do when all they really want is a real brunch and a real brunch cocktail to wash that down? It’s best not to go into these End of the Line rides (or life really, am I right?) with any preconceived notions, but let’s face it, sometimes we know exactly what we want. And this particular Sunday was no exception.

Before I begin the tale of our journey, I will confess our sins. They are twofold:

  1. When we got to the end of the line, we realized we were but 20 short and very walk-able blocks from Harlem, and isn’t the Red Rooster somewhere down there? And wouldn’t it be nice to leave this neighborhood and eat a real brunch? With a real cocktail? Oh the Red Rooster? Never been there before! Rules are rules: we can walk as much as we want once we get off the train, just no googling. So it’s really only a partial cheat ditching the neighborhood.
  2. And I swear I didn’t even realize this until much later in the day, buuuuutttttt… The C train ACTUALLY ends at 165th street (FOURTY blocks from the real brunch) and it was a service interruption that caused the subway line to cease at 145th on the day we rode to the end of the line. Normally, we look at the MTA maps. I guess we had our eyes on the prize. And varying degrees of hangovers, I would imagine.

I feel so much lighter now that I’ve made that confession! I haven’t even told our special guests that we didn’t make it to the end of the line. I didn’t want to spoil it for them. Sorry, Amanda and Dawn, but this was a Cock-a-doodle-doo trip on the C train. Perhaps the next time Amanda is in town, we should take it all the way. We are four birds that like to go all the way, after all.

But I will still recount and regale, for a journey was made and it deserves my attention. Allow me to introduce Tania’s and my companions for this ride uptown on the C train. Two old skool peeps from Roberta’s. These girls were the O.G. theme nighters, fierce competitors in sales floor competitions, champion shotgunners, late night Narrows bathroom shenanigans and shots of fernet comrades, my esteemed rabble rousers: Amanda Zug-Moore and Dawn Mauberret. None of us work there anymore, but our legacy lives on. And I betcha no one has as much fun as we used to have after hours in that Bushwick concrete bunker playland. As such, they are two of my favorite girls to share a meal and a drink with—they have sophisticated palates, but they are not afraid of the down and dirty. Great combo for an End of the Line Adventure.

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Amanda moved to New Orleans about a year ago, and was back for a short visit to her old stomping ground. Dawn hadn’t seen Amanda yet, so it was all kismet for this afternoon ride.

Realization: I’m really missing an opportunity here to make cock jokes, aren’t I? I mean chicken and bird allusions are one thing (and there are many more to come, trust me) but all roads lead to the Red Rooster, after all. Don’t be a chicken! Besides, one of my other favorite things to do with Amanda and Dawn (and Tania too, obviously) is to gossip. Or as Dawn says… to DISH! And what do we dish most about? You know it. We get down to every last detail, gentlemen. No holds barred. But that isn’t polite blog conversation. We leave that to the dinner table. Or the brunch table. Cock-a-doodle-doo!

We headed uptown on the C train at 11:26am from 14th Street, and as this trip is full of inconsistencies, I see now that I didn’t mark the end time. My brain was a little scrambled egg.

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The neighborhood we landed in was a food desert situated between Washington Heights and Harlem. It had its charms. Some beautiful parks. But this was not a commerce-heavy zone. Mostly residential buildings—big and brick and kind of non-descript. There were delis. There were a couple of shabby looking Caribbean flavored buffets. But not a single restaurant to sit down in, much less get our COCKtail on (trying). Was it time to cash in the deli card and take sandwiches to a nearby (and like I said quite beautiful) park? It was a lovely summer day.We flew the coop and headed the twenty blocks toward Harlem, with its promises of brunch and cocktails. And who am I kidding with the lovely summer day? We were sweating bullets. It was HUMID!

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Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the Red Rooster!

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The famed, the acclaimed, Red Rooster. From their own mission statement: “Located in the heart of Harlem, Red Rooster serves comfort food celebrating the roots of American cuisine and the diverse culinary traditions of the neighborhood. Named in honor of the legendary speakeasy, Chef Marcus Samuelsson brings his passion for food to the neighborhood he calls home.” I waited on Marcus Samuelsson once at Roberta’s. He tweeted about his fine service. Considering that came shortly after my bad yelp review when I told a customer that her egg was cooked just like we do it (and it actually wasn’t cooked at all), I felt some redemption. Those were back in the days when we defended the food at all costs. There was a time when the customer wasn’t always right at Roberta’s (Does it still feel that way? You forget the old days). Things shifted throughout the years though. That was one of the amazing aspects of working at that restaurant. From day one, where we were thrown on the floor and told to go take orders (without order), through waiting tables wrapped in scarves during the winters without heat, through the establishment of a managerial system and a wine program, through the first NY Times review, through it all. Well, there are tales for days of this progression, but this isn’t my forum for that. Dawn, Amanda and I could cobble together quite a saga. The stuff of legends.

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At the Red Rooster, we were sat right next to the band which is why we were seated so quickly I believe, but actually it was perfect timing. A soulful crooner (sitting in a chair) and her guitar and trumpet player accompaniment provided the backdrop to the first part of our dining experience. Her tunes were mellow enough we could still chat and eat, and hopping enough to add to the liveliness and jazziness of brunch in Harlem. Plus there was a break before the next act, so we could just take it all in and enjoy our meal.  Are we such old hens that we’re happy when the live music quiets down a little? Well, for brunch yes. There is a time and a place for everything, right

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We shared our meal, and here’s what we had:

            *Watermelon Tomato Salad with cucumber, marinated feta, pickled red onions, cilantro

             and mint

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            *Crab Salad Ssam with daikon, mint, chilies, peanuts

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            *Brioche French Toast with strawberry compote and lemon cream

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            *Beaten Biscuits and Red Eye Gravy with a fried egg

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            *Grilled Shrimp & Grits with cheddar grits, green garlic and tomato sauce

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I don’t know about you guys but I like my biscuits beaten from time to time. Ladies? Brunch!

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I’m going to be the jerk that says I thought the portions of the salads were a little wimpy, but maybe Amanda and Dawn would tell me differently. They were always better defenders of small portion sizes than me. But still there’s something magical that happens when you put feta next to watermelon. And crab? Well, even a little nugget makes me happy.

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The brunch fare was classic and tasty. The ingredients fresh and delicious. We feasted and sipped on our much-anticipated mimosas, rosé wines, bloody marys and sangrias. The French toast was a little underdone, like kinda doughy, but I liked it. Dawn, not so much. The Shrimp & Grits were pretty heavenly though. I’d say we mostly caught up on where Amanda is at these days in her new life in New Orleans. I visited her once in the past year, and ate and drank and paraded my way through that city with her. We also crashed a Cure concert by camping out on the bayou with her babies and hubby. That was a magical night.

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I hate how little we see even our friends that ARE in town all the time. There are certainly friends I only see every couple of months. Hell, Tania and I were falling dangerously into that pattern before we started this project up. That’s the nature of New York; you almost need a project to work on as an excuse to get together. But Sundays shouldn’t be like that. You should always get together with a friend just for the hell of it on a Sunday. And if you end up cheating a little and not playing by the rules, well then who gives a fuck? Friendship is what this blog is about. Sure it’s about food and it’s about adventure, but ultimately it’s about the company we keep. And doing and living just for the sake of it. Our lives get busy. Sometimes it takes an out of town visitor to have a get together with all your old pals from the restaurant you used to work at together. Sometimes it shouldn’t though. What are we doing working so much? I mean, I know what I’m doing and I love what I’m doing, but what came first? The chicken or the egg? No, I’m stretching it with my chicken metaphors.

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Okay, so, at the very end of our meal, a full Brazilian band had set up right behind us (actually trapping me in my seat) and had started some high-energy, the-sky-is-falling, super percussive and big brassy tunes. The crowd gathered and threw their arms up and filled the whole bar area, snapping pictures and shaking their hips.

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Apparently we were still kind of in brunch mode, and the lead singer looked straight at Dawn and mouthed: STOP TALKING. Well! That was a little embarrassing. I’m not one to try to disrespect the musician. But there is a time and a place, as I said, and we wanted to get on that train back to Brooklyn. Some of us to catch the final world cup match, some of us to just catch up on life before the week started.

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And since I’ve failed miserably to make cock jokes during this account of our trip to the Red Rooster, I leave you with a blatant one:

Why doesn’t a chicken wear pants?

Why?

Oh, you want to know?

Because his pecker is on his head!

folks

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