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Posts Tagged ‘Ratso’

La Bonbonniere July 2008 (photo by Paul & Shand)

La Bonbonniere July 2008 (photo by Paul & Shand)

“Charles the cook and proprieter took our order. Charles was one of the few Frenchmen I liked, and that was because he was probably a Greek. Charles is a French name and La Bonbonniere is a French name but the cusiine and ambiance of the place is more like a Greek Coffee shop than a French restaurant. I like Greek Coffee shops more than French restuarants. They’re more American.” (“Frequent Flyer,” 1989).

La Labotomy is Kinky’s pet name for La Bonbonniere his local diner or as we would call it, cafe, in England.

The good news is that La Bonbonniere is still going strong today and of course Kinky was correct when he said its owner was Greek despite its French sounding name. It is located at 28 8th Avenue and by all accounts does a mean hamburger. Be warned however, it does not open in the evenings.

Interior of La Labotomy by NY Mag

Interior of La Labotomy by NY Mag

Here is a recent  review from Yelp: 

Ok, this place is a dump. And I mean that in only the most loving way. When I first moved to New York, dives like this were everywhere. But with the mall-ing of Soho and the proliferation of Starbucks, they slowly and silently died out. I hope this one never does. La Bonbonniere is, essentially, the quintessential mom-and-pop diner and the formica in there is older than I am. They have at least one cat that roams around cozying up to you as you read the newspaper waiting for quite possibly the best blueberry pancakes on the planet, served on heavy diner crockery with a steaming cup-o-java. The windows are plastered with yellowing love letters to the place that echo my opinion. It’s damn good, cheap food. Try to score a table outside on the sidewalk.

La Bonbonniere is at 28th 8th Avenue  New York NY 10014 212-741-9266

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Big Wong's July 2008 (photo by Paul-Shand)

Big Wong

“Roast pork I’d observed in the past, was so killer bee at Big Wong’s that it often ran out before anything else on the menu.”(Blast from the Past, 1998)

In his novels, the Kinkster and Ratso regularly ate at Big Wong’s Chinese restaurant  in China Town where they were greeted by the waiters with cries of: “Ooh la la, Kee-Kee, Chee –Chee”. (Kinky never worked out if this greeting was praise or mockery.)

Ratso always orders his favourite meal, “pawk” over eggs, although he doesn’t always get it, as Big Wong’s roast pork is so popular it often sells out.

“I ordered the soy sauce chicken, chopped Chinese style and a bowl of wonton mein soup, the best soup in the world I had to admit, including the matzo-ball soup at the Carnegie Deli. Ratso was enormously disappointed to learn that the restaurant had run out of roast pork. He took it well however and made do with three other dishes including the ever popular squid with sour Chinese vegetables. “(“The Love Song of J Edgar Hoover”, 1996 ).

The good news for Kinky fans is that Big Wong’s is still there today. It changes its name every so often, usually with variations on a Wong theme but remains universally known as Big Wong’s. It is located in Mott Street in the old Chinese Quarter of Manhattan. Historically Canal Street marked the divide between Little Italy (to the North) and China Town (to the south.) .

And despite Kinky’s misgivings that:

“Big Wong’s would continue to be a killer-bee restaurant until some nerd from the New York Times walked in with a bow tie and an umbrella and gave it a couple of stars and soon they’d be serving sweet-and-sour veal and giving fortune cookies and no one would ever say  Kee-kee or Chee-chee again”, “(The Love Song of J Edgar Hoover, 1996 ).

the critics’acclaim does not seem to have dented Big Wong’s essential quality or its continuing appeal.

“Rarely do you find as deep a chasm between style and sustenance as at Chinatown’s Big Wong King, a Cantonese stalwart where the cuisine is as inviting as the furnishings are unremarkable.” New York Magazine Restaurant Critic Stephen Weiss, 2008.

Big Wong’s is at 67 Mott Street, just south of Canal Street  in the heart of China Town, about 13 blocks due east of Vandam Street.

Interior of Big Wong's in 2007

Interior of Big Wong

Mott Street takes its name from an English family, who lived there in the 17th century. It is thought to have been named after Joseph Mott, a butcher who owned a tavern at what is now 143rd and 8th Avenue, that served as an hq for General Washington during the Revolutionary War. Here is an early postcard showing it as the heart of the Chinese quarter in the early 20th century.

Mott Street NY 1900s

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