For most of my life I've been going to an out of the way restaurant in a secluded corner of Manhattan, under the elevated IRT tracks on the fringe between Morningside Heights and Harlem. For a large portion of that time the neighborhood around the restaurant was downright frightening--scary enough to keep the casual diner away, but now as the neighborhood has bloomed (a la there is a rose in Spanish Harlem), the restaurant's popularity has gone through the roof.
Fortunately, most of the staff know me, and I can almost always get in with only a short wait. One of the advantages of going to a place for over 30 years.
I went this weekend, solo (my wife hates the place) and talked to Gil Altman, the founder and owner of a joint called "Mr. Veal Chop."
Ad Aged: Tell me about starting Mr. Veal Chop.
Gil: I woke up one morning in the 60s and realized New York didn't have a really great Veal Chop restaurant. There were places that specialized in Mutton Chops and Lamb Chops but no place that lived and breathed veal chops.
Ad Aged: So, in a sense, you willed yourself to become Mr. Veal Chop.
Gil: That's right. And Mr. Veal Chop became the only place in New York you could get a bucket of veal chops for a reasonable price. We make each veal chop by hand and serve them, proudly by the bucket.
Ad Aged: What's changed over the years?
Gil: Not a lot. Today we still make every chop individually and sell them by the bucket. Now we have original and extra crispy and back in the 80s we added Brussels Sprouts as a side dish, served by the flagon full.
Ad Aged: I think your flagons of sprouts are the best I've ever had. Though sometimes the Brussels Sprouts get trapped in the spout.
Gil: Last year, we added pitchers of Kale as an alternate side. But the demand just wasn't there and we dropped the item. We're testing Swiss Chard as we speak. Would you like a gourd of chard, on the house.
Ad Aged: No, I'm stuffed. I had the hungry-man bucket of veal chops and two flagons of sprouts. Thanks for your time today, Gil. I'll see you soon.
I paid my bill (which has just about quadrupled since I began eating at Mr. Veal Chop) and waddled my way home.