"Dragged through the garden," an epithet for the Chicago-style hot dog, takes note of toppings that customarily include onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and sport peppers. This faded sign, seen from across Bruckner Blvd., marks what seems to have been an early attempt to transplant the Chicago dog to New York. In this case, it didn't take root.
Chicago Styles Surviving signage at 918 Hunts Point Ave. (at Bruckner Blvd.), Hunts Point, Bronx
Picture menus can be hard to fathom. Much like the "serving suggestion" for supermarket goods, a disclaimer along the lines of "illustration only" can help clarify that the preparation, accompaniments, and plating of a professionally styled photo might outshine what eventually appears at the table. The photo sets the expectations; the fine print gives cover to the management in case of customer complaints.
For silhouetted photos like these, size is an issue, too. A glance at the six plates depicted on this storefront might suggest that the cányǒng (Tsan-Yohng), depicted at upper right, are outstandingly large and plump, given their proportions in relation to the fish at upper left. Only if you'd had your share in the past would you know, instinctively, that these tidbits are only just so big and that the photo must have been enlarged to fit the available space. Without that past experience, you might be disappointed to be served just a small, appetizer-sized portion of silkworm pupae. Or you might not.
Former site of a five-and-dime whose lunch counter was one of many in downtown Savannah targeted by sit-ins and boycotts a half-century ago. Today this corner is occupied by a Subway. As best as I can tell, all trace of the Woolworth's lunch counter itself is long gone; only the terrazzo entryway remains.
Woolworth's Surviving signage at 131 East Broughton St. (at Abercorn St.), Savannah, Georgia
Though much more enticing than another name for the neighborhood, Sandfly, Bacon Park seems to have been named for Augustus Octavius Bacon, a four-term U.S. senator from Georgia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Any association on my part with sizzling breakfast meat was the product of a long walk on short rations.
I can't pin a date on that faded sign for the erstwhile Stapleton Country Store. It's likely the sign isn't all that old; it's even more likely that the store was never all that country. More interesting is the change of name, not for what it says about the goods on the shelves but for what it suggests about the customers, and about the store owner's appreciation of their priorities. Few folks, nowadays, take the time for cracker-barrel philosophizing.
Easy Grab & Go Deli & Grocery 374 Van Duzer St. (at Beach St.), Stapleton, Staten Island 718-727-5446
Evidence of increasing consumer demand from further up the the food chain: a new(ish) sign for an additional product line. Nearby, a hand-printed flyer offering similar "máquinas de guayar para hacer pasteles" — machines to grate plantains, or other root vegetables, for these tamale-like items — appeared in the window of an African market. See also
this flyer posted two years earlier by an earlier adopter.
"Pasteles machine" Seen at Steve's World of Store Fixtures 1168 Southern Blvd. (at Home St.), Longwood, Bronx 718-589-2925
Probably. This building and its surviving signage are visible to the east from Metro-North New Haven Line trains passing through the Bronx. The first part of "Continental" is plain to see along the roofline, and the tail end of "baking company" runs above the doorways, but I have yet to find a single source of documentation that puts it all together.
The final photo shows another building visible from the same side of the train, a little to the south, sporting signage that once promoted "pianos & player pianos."
Continental Baking Company 3362 Park Ave. (165th-166th Sts.), Morrisania, Bronx
Great Western Distributors? Jiffy Foods? New York Loin? Many food-service tenants have occupied this building since its doors first opened for business, in 1904; it's difficult to know which of them might have posted the sign, now embellished by graffiti. Today, of course, there's much less meat in the Meatpacking District. As of 2013 the tenants include a pair of nationally known apparel companies, both of which offer a greater variety of goods to customers with trimmer figures.
"We got beef!" 420-424 West 14th St. (Ninth Ave.-Washington St.), Manhattan
"O.D." as in "overdid it" during the recent holiday weekend, though on many foods other than Chinese. My gut feeling was confirmed, with a decimal point, by today's post-workout digital weigh-in. Time to revisit my favorite farmer's market (to stock up on Arlets) and my local salad bar (hold the dressing).
The three characters in the name of this Chinese establishment (no relation to the Malaysian Taste Good of Elmhurst, Queens) can be loosely rendered as "fine food house." I haven't sampled the fare myself, but I'm charmed by the transformation of the center character, which also appears in the house-shaped logo. One of the character's diagonal strokes has been replaced by a pair of chopsticks, the other, by a spoon, reinforcing the message of homey goodness.
Many dialogues between immigrant populations, it bears repeating, cross language barriers without the mediation of English. On some recent occasion — recent enough that the relevant sign is the only one drawn by hand — this shop's Korean proprietors came to realize that what they sell to their core clientele as "ogsusu" (a transliteration of the three stacked characters) can also be advertised to the local Spanish-speaking community as "elote". The illustration clarifies that this corn comes on the cob. As for appropriate preparation and seasoning, however, that Korean-Spanish conversation is a tale for another day.
Arirang Dumpling House 318 Broad Ave. (Central-Palisades Blvds.), Palisades Park, New Jersey 201-585-1944
This draped enclosure, an experiment by Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (GSAPP), had no takers during my few minutes of observation. Indeed, few passersby even gave it a glance. Like any self-respecting phone booth, however, it had already won the attention of an advertiser — a local restaurant that affixed promotional flyers inside and out.
Pop-up mobile phone booth Broadway near the southwest corner with West 114th St., Manhattan
"Place your orders NOW for Thanksgiving," exhorted the flyer. This seemed to be a matter of course for Canarsie; several other Jamaican food shops in the neighborhood made similar pitches. Across the way, a Grenadian bakery-restaurant advertised a complete turkey dinner. The bird, by the looks of things, would be cooked to a more traditional recipe, but the choices of hors d'oeuvres included beef patties and codfish cakes.
Also shown, from years past: a flyer offering "American turkey with Odessa-style stuffing" (sadly, I came upon it in December) and a series of "Happy Thanksgiving!!!" supermarket banners for provisions including paticas de cerdo. The market supplied the holiday savings; the customers, presumably, supplied their own recipes for pig's feet.
"Jerk turkey" Tasty Delicious Bakery & Restaurant, Canarsie, Brooklyn (2013) "American turkey with Odessa-style stuffing" Brighton Beach, Brooklyn (2012) "Happy Thanksgiving!!! Save on pig's feet" Stamford, Connecticut (2009)
This signboard man is an audio man, too. Like his colleagues in the touristy districts of Manhattan, he's steering customers from the main drag — in this case Fordham Rd., in the Bronx — to an otherwise obscure place of business down a side street. But rather than shout into the wind for hours at a stretch, he's wearing a small loudspeaker from which a female voice beckons, "Merry Land buffet, all you can eat, check it out," cycling from English to Spanish and back again.
The same message plays from a full-sized speaker outside the storefront, which previously was home to an old-school Chino-Latino joint called Haylemon. The current proprietors are Chinese, too, though on this afternoon their customers were exclusively black and Hispanic. The place was packed.
Merry Land 2496 Elm Pl. (East Fordham Rd.-East 188th St.), Fordham, Bronx 718-220-8588
Food mart was just one stage in the life cycle of this corner storefront. Today it's a base of operations for no-frills auto repair, "flat fix" a specialty. And prior to its grocery days, before one could buy soda, beer, and sandwiches, the stock in trade included beepers and records, according to the old text reemerging on the awning.
On the wall in the distance — look above the young lady in the blue hijab — a sign for a seemingly much older and unrelated business proclaims that "We Certainly [something] at the Bronx [something] Store". What was on offer? Your guess is as good as mine.
Romano Grocery Store Surviving signage, Morrisania, Bronx
The owner's stated purpose in life, encapsulated on the awning, is to sell his wares at low prices, a message that has more of a ring in original Spanish: "Su nombre Jose Liberato, su destino vender barato." The helicopter adds an implicit promise to another store policy: Delivery is fast as well as free.
Liberato Food Market 3900 Broadway (at 163rd St.), Manhattan; 212-927-8250 Also, without a copter, at 359 Audubon Ave. (at 183rd St.); 212-923-1112