Donny can tell you, I’ve been talking about going to Arthur Avenue for a long time now. A few weeks ago I decided to take a trip up to the Bronx Zoo, and when I looked up places to eat near the zoo what should pop up but Arthur Avenue, just a few blocks away. I passed up the bakeries and the fish markets selling live eels for the Arthur Avenue Market, specifically for the eggplant parm at Mike’s Deli. Long-time readers may remember that I had the sandwich at the Mike’s franchise at Yankee Stadium, which was pretty good but way over-priced. Since then I’ve seen the episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay in which Bobby loses the eggplant parmigiana challenge to David Greco of Mike’s, so I wanted to get it at the source.
Although David Greco wasn’t there to take my order, he ended up ringing me up. “Did you see us kick Bobby Flay’s ass with this sandwich?” he asked. I took my sandwich to one of the dirty tables nearby and dug in. The sandwich was good. Very good, certainly better than the one I’d gotten at Yankee Stadium. But it wasn’t transcendent in anyway. Sure, I’ve eaten some lousy eggplant parm sandwiches in my life, and this one was probably the best eggplant parm I’ve eaten, but at the end of the day it was still just an eggplant parm sandwich. The pasta salad on the side was slightly bland, though it was dotted with cubes of smoked mozzarella.
The market itself was interesting — I almost expected it to be a tourist trap, but it’s a little too far from public transportation for that. It really is the kind of place where locals can get together and share a plate of antipasti while complaining about politics (and yes, I did see this while I was there). Plus, they had produce that I’d only seen at Eataly, like uncured olives and puntarella. I picked up some freshly made ricotta and mozzarella while I was there, and made a pretty good baked ziti with them. I don’t know when I’ll be traveling up to Arthur Avenue again, but I’d be happy to stop by if I’m in the neighborhood.