My second diner meal in New York took place in Murray Hill Diner, a fairly large establishment which looked busy (good), affordable (yay) and with a free table available (get in!).
One dining companion ordered the spaghetti marinara but was crestfallen to receive this:
Spaghetti with marinara sauce US$5.95 / AU$7.90
(with free soup or salad)
In Australia, spaghetti marinara entails a medley of cooked seafood in a tomato sauce. I've since discovered that this is a curiously Australian assumption, and everywhere else a marinara simply means a simple tomato sauce.
So in hindsight our tableside indignation and sorrowful pouting was actually without cause, but after visions of mussels, octopus, prawns and fish fillet, the huddled squelch of tart tinned tomatoes could do little but disappoint.
Salad with Russing dressing on the side
(free with spaghetti marinara)
It's true that in America, the relentless decision-making from a wealth of choices can indeed be taxing. A simple meal unleashes a barrage of questions: What type of bread? Did you want any mustard? French fries or salad? What type of dressing? Would you like any sides?
Even worse is not knowing the options. Asking "what type of dressings do you have" elicits a huff of "the usual". Further naive wide-eyed prompting causes the eyes to roll skyward, the shoulders to drop and a sigh of exhaustion before a succession of options is rattled off with a robotic drone.
We were intrigued by the sounds of the Russian dressing but it tasted much like sweet tomato sauce with mayo, which, in fact, it is. It used to incorporate caviar (yes, that makes it Russian) but these days it's a mix of mayonnaise or yoghurt, with tomato sauce (ketchup), pimentos and chives.
Stuffed peppers US$8.50 / AU$11.25
(served with free cup of soup)
My other dining companion chose the stuffed peppers which were a little greasy on the tongue for her liking. The puddle of seeping oil did little to allay her fears and the mashed potatoes tasted of a high-quality cardboard (buff white or beige, we couldn't be sure).
Chicken soup with crackers
(free with stuffed peppers)
I, on the other hand, went for the safest option: a burger with chips. And look, they have buffalo as well. Novelty value and low in fat!
There more than a few envious glances as I tucked in with gusto. The patty was thick and tasted much like beef, really. Coleslaw arrived in a small paper cup and the fries were fresh from the fryer, hot and crisp.
Deluxe Canadian Northfork buffalo (bison) burger US$7.25 / AU$9.60
Served with coleslaw, salad and fries
Sometimes the simplest things are often the best.
Murray Hill Diner
222 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Tel: +1 (212) 686 6667
Cross street: at 33rd Street
Subway: 6 to 33 Street
Open: Mon-Fri 6am-10pm, Sat-Sun 6am-8pm
Note: Add about 8% for sales tax
Expected tipping in New York is 15-20%
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12/06/2005 11:59:00 p.m.