Zany and I are trapped in a terminal conference call. She mouths, “I’M STARVING!” Mad Me-Shell is desperate to pull the rip-cord for lunch. We’ve GOT to get out of this office!
It is 11:17 in the morning. “Edgy” does not begin to describe our mood. As soon as the conference call appears to be wrapping, we disconnect without pleasantries and make a break for it.
It’s about a thousand degrees outside, but Mad Me-Shell is on a mission. “Nothing like a hearty, hot meal to cool you off,” she notes cheerfully.
“You’ve been eating way too healthy,” she admonishes me. We’re bored with the food trucks, so we’re back to bricks and mortar. Mad has scoped out our options and we’re heading straight for The Side Door @ Beacon. The Beacon on 56th Street made news a few weeks earlier by offering – for a limited time only – burgers and hot dogs sold from the side door of the restaurant. The side door theme feels a little illicit and we like it. It’s pumping our appetites.
Joe and Katie are staffing The Side Door, and we couldn’t ask for nicer hosts. A few minutes with them and our crankiness evaporates. Katie even gives us a button as a souvenir.
Katie tells us the Side Door was the brainchild of Chef Waldy Malouf who specializes in open fire and wood fire cooking. We can’t decide what we want so we order everything on the menu. Lest you think us extravagant, there are only four items on the menu. We are particularly intrigued by Mr. Pink’s Double Dog, but it’s kind of a toss-up with the Wood Grilled Burger.
Joe explains that an amiable beagle named Mr. Pink was the inspiration for the Double Dog - two special grilled 100 percent beef hot dogs with parmesan, grilled onions, a Po-Boy roll and sweet pepper relish. Mr. Pink’s portrait is prominently posted on The Side Door:
After some debate, we decide to each get a Double Dog (that’s six dogs total) and one burger and a serving of Chilled Roast Tomato Salsa Soup to share. Don’t let me forget the four chocolate chip cookies.
Zany is adamant that we try the burger. She’s still pining for the Burger Truck which has been scrupulously avoiding midtown this summer.
We haul our eats about a half-block to dine at the base of a disco ball fountain on Sixth Avenue. It appears to be a pigeon-free zone, which is a plus. As the wind shifts, we get sprayed by the fountain. It’s refreshing.
“It’s like having a picnic by the ocean,” notes Zany.
First we tackle the dogs. Mad Me-Shell opens one of the wrapped dogs and cries, “Oh, Sweet Mama!”
Two dogs in one bun is like Christmas in July. The parmesan is the good stuff, the sweet pepper relish is perky and the massive dogs and grilled buns have a sensual smoky flavor. There’s a good balance of spices, and the cheese and relish imparts a nice tang.
I point out that we are – in fact – enjoying a healthy meal. “You save on carbs combining two dogs in one roll.”
“You keep telling yourself that, T.W.,” says Mad.
Beacon’s specialty drink is “Tiger Tea.” They say it’s a quart of lemonade ice tea, but it looks more like a gallon. Good when you’re dehydrated.
We share a container of chilled, roasted tomato soup to cleanse our palate between courses.
The soup is thick and chunky with a sunny color and a touch of heat. The combination of chilled soup and salsa evokes summer with a little bit of sizzle.
We have barely finished the soup when Mad Me-Shell is reaching for the burger.
“Let’s go, Mad. Carve it up,” says Zany.
It’s not easy to split a burger three ways. “Many people consider carving turkey an art,” says Zany. “Mad Me-Shell considers carving a burger as summer art.”
If it’s possible that anything could top the Double Dog, Beacon’s Famous Wood Grilled Burger does it. The charred, smoky flavor, the melted cheddar, and the cool tomatoes and pickles on a grilled onion roll rocks our world. It’s like a country campfire on a bun.
“It tastes like it was cooked in the backyard,” says Mad who is close to swooning. In fact, I think I’m going to have to peel her off the pavement.
“It’s dripping down my hand,” she practically squeals. “Always a good sign.”
Zany wants to take a vote. Which do we like better? We can’t decide. Why is she trying to force us to commit? It’s like apples and oranges. Or burgers and hot dogs. How can you pick?
“This might be the best picnic I’ve been to so far this year.” says Zany. “Now if only we could spike the Tiger Tea.”
As we leave the plaza, we pass a likable-looking man who is sitting at the edge of the fountain enjoying his lunch. Zany, who is normally the nicest person in the world sneers, “That guy’s eating a salad!”
“Sucker!” chimes in Mad Me-Shell.
They are obviously suffering from an overdose of 100 percent beef Double Dog and it’s making them aggressive.
The walk back to the office is just enough to re-invigorate our appetites, so there we break into the chocolate chip cookies. The girls agree that they have that unique combination of chewy, crisp and chocolaty.