[Pigging by Wilfrid: July 26, 2010]
I wish I could assert a cunning plan here, a decision to boldly go and add a Staten Island restaurant review to the Pink Pig's formidable canon. But no, it was dumb luck.
The main objective of crossing the water was to pay homage to one of the city's oldest bars, the century old Liedy's Shore Inn. It just so happens, the expeditionary force collided with some good food on the way.
So Cargo, or Cargo Cafe to be more formal. A long, low-slung building on Bay Street, no more than a few minutes walk from the Ferry Terminal. Inside, plenty of tables, a long bar, art works on the walls, '70s soul playing, and a crowd skewed somewhat young for the neighborhood, most of whom were either eating or making out with gusto.
At this point, it was about lining the stomach in preparation for Liedy's suds, having already enjoyed refreshment at another old, local place, The Rosebank Tavern. The menu, trendily pinned to a clipboard, was goofy. Pages, it seemed, of oddball takes on finger foods and sandwiches, and a few entrees at the end. The beer selection was promising - Mother's Milk on tap, a blackboard list of featured beers. And then I noticed what the kitchen was sending out.
Gargantuan plates of food. Sandwiches the citizens of Bedrock would not have disdained. Mounds of fried delicacies. This was, at least, going to be a generous meal. Encouraged, I looked at some of the cheekier menu entries. A turkey Sloppy Joe? Cheeseburger quesadillas? Jamaican jerk wrap? Was this the work of some budding, unknown neighborhood Shopsin?
Chicken fried chicken for me. Sic.
So, why isn't it just a fried chicken sandwich? You skeptics. What they have done is taken a chicken breast, encased it in just the kind of crisply brittle batter you hope to find on a good chicken fried steak, then bathed it in sausage gravy. I have my reservations about chicken fried steak; it is easy to find a bad one. This, however, worked: the batter was good, the chicken remained miraculously juicy and tender, and the velvety white gravy was studded with serious pieces of sweet sausage.
If the photo doesn't convey the message adequately, let me assure you this was a two-handed sandwich. Massive. Mashed potatoes were nothing special until soaked in the gravy. Then they were just what you wanted.
Now I didn't follow that up with a hot roast beef on rye with horseradish mayo. I left that to someone else to tackle; but I did eat plenty of the fries, which were freshly cooked and of the soft-interior variety. Sufficient evidence in all this that what appeared to be a two-person kitchen knew exactly what it was doing.
This is a review I never expected to write, but having endured in recent months some terribly pedestrian casual food in Manhattan cafes - thanks to an upswing in breakfast and lunch meetings - I was overjoyed to find an entertaining comfort food menu, well and generously executed.
That word generous again. I believe these sandwiches were around nine or ten bucks each, with a choice of sides (fries or mash, obviously, but also salad). I really would come out here again to investigate the apple-glazed pork chops, the hanger steak over noodles, the open-faced Cubanos.
In fact, can we do a trade? Send Kenny Shopsin to S.I. and bring these guys to Essex Street Market?
The website is here, although the menu is slightly different.