Sun-Wed, 8:30am-10pm; Thu-Sat, 8:30am-3am
N, R at 8th St.-NYU; 6 at Astor Pl.; L at Third Ave.
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
In this supercharged culinary wonderland of Cronuts and Umami Burgers, is there room for an old-fashioned tuna melt? That is the question posed by Archie & Sons, a throwback luncheonette recently sprouted just off St. Marks Place. Here, the bacon is not artisanal, the bread is not house-baked, and nothing is vaguely seasonal. (The Horman’s Best pickles are local, though—they come from Glen Cove, Long Island.) In the grand but waning tradition of New York landmarks like B & H Dairy and Eisenberg’s, Archie & Sons offers no-frills comfort in unfussy surroundings and arrives in the East Village via Hewlett and Flushing, the prior locations of owner Howie Cohen’s now-shuttered lunch counters. (Archie, in case you’re wondering, was what everyone called Cohen’s father-in-law, and the sons in question are Cohen’s own.)
The modern-day incarnation of a fading archetype is a tough thing to pull off without lapsing into kitsch. But other than a movie-house marquee trumpeting NEW YORK’S #1 TUNA MELT and some obligatory vintage Coke ads, Archie’s actual premises are rather modest and true to type: the open kitchen where a single cook mans the griddle and burners; the counter with its row of stools; a handful of Formica-topped tables, each equipped with a napkin dispenser and bottle of Heinz. The menu is as streamlined as the space and has as its core a selection of cold salads, a specialty that in these food-crazed times seems rather quaint. There is shrimp salad, salmon salad, tuna salad, egg-white-and-spinach salad, and three kinds of chicken salad (we recommend the one with peas), all unfailingly fresh, deftly but not unduly mayo’ed, and perfectly satisfying either in a sampler plate or on toasted Pechter’s rye. In another distinctive twist, every salad sandwich, wrap, or plate comes with a choice of side salad—potato, macaroni, or coleslaw—which are equally fresh and tasty, in a homey, ungussied-up fashion. It seems brave in this day and age to hitch your fate to what diners might associate with the contents of a supermarket deli case, but Archie & Sons believes so strongly in its product that it stations a worker on the sidewalk out front to tempt passerby with samples of macaroni salad as if it were barbecued brisket or fro-yo.
Whether that ploy has garnered much clientele, we can’t say, but we applaud the effort, and the macaroni salad. It’s subtly sweet, faintly herby, and made with ridged elbows cooked soft but not to death. It also stars in an unusual concoction called the mac salad melt, which is listed on the menu under “Classics,” but who ever heard of such a thing? It’s open-faced, as are all the melts, and cooked under the broiler rather than on the flattop. This curiosity consists of macaroni salad spooned on top of lightly toasted bread, under a blanket of melted cheese, and in its carb-on-carb construction is reminiscent of another rarity, the baked-ziti pizza slice. Bizarrely, it works.
Don’t neglect the soups, including a hearty mushroom barley and a chunky spinach and egg. (Skip the chicken noodle, with its limp noodles and wan broth.) And if you’re looking for a textbook BLT or bacon, egg, and cheese, you’re in the right place. It would be nice if the grilled cheese were crisper; finished in the broiler, it never gets a chance to pick up that crunchy sheen one looks for in a grilled cheese. In sum, though, Archie & Sons is a welcome anomaly: an old-school luncheonette with its own quirky personality, a tribute to the places that fueled the pre-Smorgasburg masses. With some tweaks in the kitchen and maybe a few more hits on its roster, it could become a neighborhood institution.Note
Breakfast served all day.Ideal Meal
Tuna melt or chicken salad on rye; mushroom-barley soup