The loneliest number

Pub date July 15, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink

It does strike me as odd that New York’s best deli is in San Rafael. But I am willing to believe anything, at least for a minute and a half. To date, this capacity has served me pretty well.

I don’t know about New York by the Bay. Their logo is a white on black drawing of the Statue of Liberty holding a tray of bagels in her other arm, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. A sign on the window says "New York’s Best Deli." That’s where I got the idea.

But when I asked for matzo ball soup, which was also advertised on the window, the guy behind the counter looked confused and pointed at something on the specials board with mozzarella in it.

"Um," I said.

They have a cooler advertising New York Egg Creams, but it’s hard to tell from looking inside it what New York Egg Creams are. Unless they are Snapple, or Coke, or Pepsi. Or Dr. Brown’s cream soda. Which they are not and not and not. And not.

I did wind up with a bowl of matzo ball soup, and without having to go in the kitchen and cook it, which was nice. One big matzo ball in the middle of it. You know the old song, "One Meatball"? I’m sure I’ve sung it before in this column. Anyway, the reason I love that song so much is because I am 100 percent certain it will not be the song that is playing on the radio, or in my mind, at my moment of death. So I figure, as long as I am hearing, or humming "One Meatball," then I am very much alive. And not going anywhere.

If you want in on this, just look it up and learn it off of YouTube. I’m sure it’s there. And it’s a pretty simple one to learn.

The little man walked up and down /He found an eating place in town /He read the menu through and through /to see what 15 cents could do … One meatball /one meatball /he could afford but one meatball.

That should be enough to guarantee any non-tone-deaf person immortality, but for the curious, and because it fits the Cheap Eats theme, and because one can easily substitute matzo balls for meatballs, and while we’re at it, waitresspersons for waiters:

He told the waitressperson near at hand /the simple dinner he had planned /The guests were startled one and all to hear that waitressperson loudly call … One matzo ball /one matzo ball /This here gent wants one matzo ball.

The little man felt ill at ease /He said, "a bagel, if you please" /The waitressperson hollered, down the hall: You gets no bagel with one matzo ball. Repeat chorus, and so on.

Did I mention I was in love?

Well, yeah, and I am learning to distinguish between anxiety attacks and heart attacks, but still when I get this way I prefer to eat in hospital cafeterias, just in case.

So I was getting this way. I was in my car, driving from Occidental to Berkeley, and even though I knew for sure I wasn’t having a heart attack, I didn’t know about strokes. I’ve had a headache now for three or four weeks, and I’d started to feel weak and shaky. I held my hand out and it was making like an old lady. So it was lunchtime, so I decided to look for a hospital cafeteria to have lunch at.

I got off the freeway.

And that was when I saw the matzo ball sign at New York’s best deli, next to a gas station across the road from Kaiser in San Rafael. Immediately I felt better.

Even though the soup was pretty lame. And it only came with one matzo ball. And it didn’t come with any bread, or bagels. And, well, anyway it just generally wasn’t to die for.

The little restaurant reviewer felt very bad /One matzo ball was all she had /and in her dreams she hears that call: You gets neither bread nor bagel, nor butter, with one … matzo … ball.


Mon.–Fri.: 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun.: 8 a.m.–3 p.m.

1005 Northgate Dr., San Rafael

(415) 472-6674

No alcohol


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.