Like the short-lived original Teacher's, which was swallowed in the early 1980s by a Zabar's expansion one block to the south, Teacher's Too offered "international cuisine specially prepared to your order at moderate prices." By one account, in fact, the fare was "vaguely Oriental." Teacher's Too closed after a fire in 1996.
Teacher's Too Surviving signage, 2271 Broadway (West 81st-West 82nd Sts.), Manhattan
This limestone-clad structure, trimmed in glazed polychrome terra cotta, was built in 1930 for the self-serve restaurant chain. Horn & Hardart occupied the ground floor and mezzanine but rented out the top floor, originally to a "midget golf" course, then to a billiards hall. In the 1940s, a later billiards establishment added ping-pong tables, too.
Horn & Hardart did business here until 1953. Since then the building has been home to many tenants, most recently a Rite-Aid pharmacy at street level, law offices and a Latino arts center above. Renovations in 2014 exposed the tracery of the old Horn & Hardart signage (second photo) as well as that of a long-vanished supermarket, Food-O-Rama (third photo). The new ground-floor tenant is CityMD, an urgent-care facility; no word on any upstairs neighbors.
The designation report of the Landmarks Preservation Commission offers much more about the architecture and the tenants as well as many photos.
Horn & Hardart Automat-Cafeteria Building Surviving signage, 2710-2714 Broadway (at West 104th St.), Manhattan
The most recent business at this address was 103 Grocery & Flower; earlier, according to a onetime resident of the upper Upper West Side, "that place was the Olympia Superette for decades." And earlier than that? The neon lights are long gone, and some of the Art Deco lettering has peeled away, but what remains is strongly suggestive of "Hudes."
Snow on the roof: The top of the "baker's muffin" ($4) is broad and crusty. The bottom is crammed with springy chunks of dough laced with apple and cinnamon; here and there you'll encounter raisins and bits of crushed walnut, too. It's just aching to be pulled apart, by two hands or more.
Also shown below: the bakery's summertime cart on the High Line (to the right of the walkway), which sold squares of crisp "green pizza" ($4) with leeks, scallions, and a little mint; and an even more ephemeral warm-weather birdbath.
Usually the setting is far afield, the server, someone whose best language is not yours. You've settled on an intriguing menu item, but your server is wary that you'll take a taste and make a fuss, and steers you away. "That's only for _____ people" (fill in the blank with the name of the hometown crowd) is a common formulation.
"You know that's salty" is a gentler warning. Though the menu says as much, the servers at Barney Greengrass may reinforce the message when you order lox scrambled with eggs and onions ($15, including a bialy with cream cheese). You won't go wrong by ordering one of the tamer scrambles, with nova or sturgeon, but some mornings, salty is just the kind of sustenance your body needs. Often these are the same mornings that your mouth craves something fizzy; Dr. Brown has a variety of cures, such as Cel-Ray ($2.75).
Many menus don't tell the whole story; some don't tell it in more than one language. Squid with rice (lunch special, $8.50), also called arroz con calamares on La Caridad's English-Spanish menu, does indeed feature those two ingredients, which are brightened by the addition of peas and bell pepper. Though La Caridad still serves "comida China y Criolla" and employs Cantonese-speaking waiters, Chinese isn't employed in print. The menu offers no possibility of a revelation a la McCawley, no characters whose explication would help you uncover the true nature of the dish — no way, that is, to divine that its predominant color will be black.
This is no attempt at deception or shock, of course, simply an instance of information embedded in a culinary culture but not expressed in words. Consider all the breakfast specials you've ordered without thinking to ask if the eggs came from a chicken. The use of squid ink, though not universal, is very common in Caribbean renditions of this dish; many packaged-food companies sell the rice, squid, and other fixings under the rubric "calamares en su tinta," literally "squid in its own ink."
At its best, squid ink adds not only color and brininess but also a deep, subtle, complex murkiness. The black pasta at The Daily Catch, in Boston's North End, is one superb example. La Caridad's dish, served with lunch-special speed (it's on the regular menu, too), is not exquisite, but it's more full-bodied and filling than run-of-the-mill rice. The striking color is a conversation starter, too, when your dining buddies peruse the menu but don't read between the lines.