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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Murray Hill Diner, New York

I'm always up for a bit of gastronomic experimenting, but when I'm tired and hungry after a hard day's sightseeing, the adage "When in Rome..." is the one I stick to in a new and unfamiliar eatery.

Thank goodness.

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!).

Murray Hill Diner interior

One dining companion ordered the spaghetti marinara but was crestfallen to receive this:

Spaghetti marinara or napolitana?
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 Russian dressing
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
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
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!

Nutrition panel for bison (buffalo) vs beef, chicken and turkey

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.

Bison burger with pickle, salad and fries
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 menu

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%

Start from the first New York entry Read the next New York entry

4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 12/06/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 1/17/2006 7:10 am, Blogger Rose said…

    I never have russian dressing on salads--too sweet for me, but I love them on pastrami, corned beef sandwiches with jewish rye bread!!!

    It's too bad the 2nd ave deli closed because they were the masters of this very NY sandwich. I guess i'll have to go to Katz's Deli from now on (not too shabby 2nd option).

  • At 1/17/2006 8:37 am, Blogger Rose said…


    I've tagged you for the Too Much Information Meme. I hope you have the time to write it and of course, I look forward to reading it :-)



  • At 11/19/2007 4:28 pm, Blogger Cinzia said…

    I'm Italian and I want to say that only the Americans call the simple tomato sauce marinara .
    In Italy marinara is something with seafood, in fact the word MArinara means " Sailor man style or Marine style".
    The simple tomato sauce is called "Salsa al pomodoro".

  • At 11/20/2007 9:12 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Cinzia - I should've guessed Wikipedia might have an American slant to it :) Thanks for the input, and good to hear that Aussies aren't alone. A marina without seafood just seems like false advertising. lol


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