Fish heads pop up in many New York restaurants. Duck heads, too, are not so uncommon; just nose around Flushing. But to face down "old mom's rabbit head at Chengdu Airport" ($4 each), you must brave the Theater District — indeed, Restaurant Row itself. (Though Grand Sichuan 46 is one of a loose-knit chain of restaurants, it seems that only the Jersey City location has also included rabbit head on the menu.) The head is split lengthwise, so you and a tablemate can more easily pick at the dark meat inside the tiny jowls, suck on the peppery sauce trapped in nooks and crannies, and scoop out the tiny yolklike brain. It's one of your messier appetizers, if you're still willing to call it appetizing.
Owing to the rabbit head's infamy — on the menu, it's billed as "Travel Channel's Bizarre Food featuring Chengdu specialty for adventurous eaters and fans" — on occasion it sells out for two or three days at a time. Best to call in advance. Grand Sichuan 46 also delivers, with a $10 minimum; three heads will do the trick.
I tracked down this rabbit for a small sidebar to another writer's article on whole-head dining in Beijing, which appears in the April 17, 2013 edition of The New York Times.
Once also a purveyor of "beef veal lamb poultry," according to faint silhouettes between the two lamps. A 1932 newspaper ad listed a dozen Merkel's locations, all in Queens; this Brooklyn shop may date from some later decade. The chain seems not to have outlived the 1960s.
Merkel Pork Store Surviving signage at 415 Myrtle Ave. (Vanderbilt-Clinton Aves.), Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
This recently uncovered signage marks a long-gone butcher shop — think of it as a child of the '50s. Karl Ehmer, who opened his first store in Manhattan, in 1932, relocated during WWII into what was then a thriving German-American neighborhood straddling Glendale and Ridgewood, Queens. In 1950, having outgrown that snug storefront, Ehmer moved a block east to the premises shown here; in 1958 he moved on to the much larger manufacturing plant, with an adjoining retail shop, on Fresh Pond Rd. That facility closed its doors, after a half-century, in 2010.
Karl Ehmer Pork Store Surviving signage at 62-10 Myrtle Ave. (at 62nd St.), Glendale, Queens
The fries are skinny; my steakburger, "made with cuts of rib eye and New York strip," was fattened with melted American cheese, lettuce, pickle, tomato, and onion, plus ketchup and mustard (combo, $5.99). Good, even if the patties all must be cooked medium well.
In durian-loving Singapore, the fresh fruit is famously banned from mass transportation, most hotels, and many other public accommodations; confected durian knows no such restrictions. Top: durian salat (S$1, about 75 U.S. cents at the time), blended with the coconut jam called kaya, on sticky rice. Below: a durian-filled pukis (Poo-kiss, 90 Singapore cents), a molded cake native to Indonesia, childhood home of the founder of the Bengawan Solo chain.
Bengawan Solo International Plaza, 01-17 10
Anson Rd., Singapore 65-6221-0638 (One of many locations) www.BengawanSolo.com.sg (From a summer 2010 visit)
At chili parlors in and around Cincinnati, "coney" is a nod to a Coney Island hot dog, though more in name than in presentation. The default version includes mustard, chili, and diced onions on a very soft steamed bun; a cheese coney ($1.65) hides any trace of the wiener under shredded cheddar. Once a month you can find them in Manhattan, too, priced accordingly.
Skyline Chili 1 East High St., Oxford, Ohio (one of many locations) 513-523-3330 www.SkylineChili.com
To the proposition that "takeout can eat up your savings," a drive-through counterexample. This Long Island-based chain raised its first barn-and-silo convenience store in 1961. In preceding years, the founder and his milk business had faced declining interest in home delivery, but he was savvy enough to capitalize on what was, even then, a hunger for a quaint rural past.
Dairy Barn 938 Hillside Ave. (Franklin Ave.-Lakeville Rd.), New Hyde Park, New York (one of many locations) www.DairyBarn.com