Arghh! Was going to submit this to the Gothamist website (as a friend of mine urged), but I kept procrastinating and fiddling with it, and then yesterday they published someone else’s article on the topic! So I figure, what the heck, even though I already posted something else here today, this steak piece will work just fine on my blog…
TAD’S STEAKS: NYC TIME TRAVEL PORTAL!
About ten days ago I felt the most urgent desire to travel back into the past. The combined stresses of the holidays, freelance life, and the usual financial demands of living in NYC just got to me and I felt an almost visceral wish to leave my apartment on the edge of the Theater District and walk into 1970s Times Square—long-lost land of cheap movies, food, porn, and sex.
Absurd, I know—yet there was one way I could do it. Not by going to one of the few remaining Eighth Avenue porn shops or strip clubs—these are all firmly rooted in the present. The shrink-wrapped magazines in today’s smut shops discourage the pleasurable browsing which made porn emporiums fun in the past, and jiggle joints are just too expensive between their ten dollar beers, twenty dollar lapdances, and obligatory coat-checks to feel very casual to the cash-vigilant visitor.
But the one place I could think of that retains its 70s vibe is Tad’s Broiled Steaks on 50th Street off Seventh Avenue. True, the prices have kept pace with 2015, but the lovely faux elegant red-walled ambiance, the glasses of wine sealed with clear wrap, the constantly broiling steaks near the window, the baked potatoes and slabs of garlic bread slathered with butter, the bowls of salad slapped with the dressing of your choice—all these things felt mercifully the same.
Even the tall red plastic water glasses harkened to a fabled past recalling nights of triple kung-fu and horror features on the Deuce; cheap drinks at the Club 44 topless joint on Eighth Avenue with its gigantic bar and friendly barmaids and dancers of many nations; and bargain walk-in massage parlors behind impossibly crude yet alluring hand-painted signage.
It took about fifteen minutes of waiting online to get my New York sirloin steak with bread, potato, and salad accompanied by a Bud Lite. The tab came to almost $25, far more than I usually pay for dinner—but definitely worth the wait. It wasn’t a great steak—the one I had the week before at a Christmas/Hanukkah dinner at Gallaghers courtesy of a writer/personal trainer friend, was terrific (I didn’t even want to eat the next day so that I could retain the sense memory of that dinner); but my Tad’s repast was tasty, maybe a “tad” (haha) more well-done than I would have wished, but still good enough.
I sat in the back in the corner, listening not to the details of my fellow diners’ conversations, but simply enjoying the convivial murmur around me as I heartily consumed a decent meal in a place which, with unintentional heroism, preserves the exact glory of its past. There were two chrome-domed middle-aged guys who might’ve been twins, chatting with a lady and her smartphone; a pair of Asian men having a one-way conversation (one guy talked non-stop, the other just listened); and a Hispanic family with fussy grandma, little girl with bright pink Disney purse, calm and collected young mother, and a tall father with a white-and-pink stuffed animal dangling out of his coat pocket as he maneuvered his tray of steaks and clear-wrapped wine over to the table. Above us all in the fairly low-ceiling dining room was a symmetrical forest of Christmas decorations. Usually I like to read when I eat alone, and I did have a book in my pocket (the excellent 1947 novel The Blank Wall which became the terrific 1949 Joan Bennett/James Mason movie The Reckless Moment), but I didn’t open it.
Instead I was, for once, very much into the moment and place in which I found myself, not daydreaming or escaping into someone else’s daydreams via their fiction. I savored my steak, devoured my salad, wolfed down my potato and mopped up with the garlic bread any last lovely residue of butter or Italian dressing. Then I settled in to nurse my Bud Lite as I continued to marinate myself in this little excursion back to the honky-tonk New York of the 70s.
Afterward I was tempted to check out a strip club too, but hitting the street again I felt my own pleasurably “reckless moment” of time-travel urges had been satisfied. And anyway, no modern “gentlemen’s club” (at least in Manhattan that I know of) can bring back the 70s since these current joints all have lap dancing now, which didn’t exist forty years ago and thoroughly changed the feeling of the clubs. So I decided it was time to go home to continue reading The Blank Wall and enjoy the memory of my brief but happy foray into one of the last-standing remnants of Times Square’s lost tawdry sparkle.
As far as I’m concerned, the city should confer landmark status on Tad’s Broiled Steaks!