Seaport Report, Week of August 21, 2012

Photo courtesy of Grandma’s House

Finger lickin’ delish…
A couple of weeks ago, a new, kid-friendly restaurant called Grandma’s House opened its doors on construction-heavy Peck Slip. It’s a daring move, considering the state of disrepair outside the inviting front door. But behind the white picket fence window boxes is another world — an oasis from the dust, noise and bustle of the city to a quaint, comfy world in a country kitchen.

The inspiration comes from owner Kevin Barry, a longtime Downtown businessman and BBQ rib specialist. The décor is straight out of, well, a grandma’s house, complete with denim-covered stools and chairs, calico curtains and milk can and steam heaters table legs. A long counter lines the south wall, radiating a “soda fountain of the ’50s” ambience. While the look is fun, the food is the real draw. There, you can sip a fizzy drink from Brooklyn Soda Works, Lime Rickey or Ben’s Brooklyn Egg Cream by Fox’s U-Bet.

When was the last time you were in a Manhattan deli or coffee shop that still makes real egg creams? Quite a while, we guess.

While the look and drinks are fun, the food is the real draw. Barry brags about his super slow-cooked ribs, from the Original Grandma’s Baby Back Ribs (which are registered!) through the sassy, Key West Tropical Ribs (peach, mango, pineapple and more fruits with shaved coconut) to Italian-style (tomato gravy with caramelized Grana Padano cheese). The full menu debuts Labor Day.

Other staples on the summer preview menu include Hambiggers with a selection of eight-ounce Angus, chicken, turkey or veggie burgers; the original New York Chopped Steak Hero smothered in cheese, onions, mushrooms and peppers; and breakfast all day. Another surefire hit is the homemade sweet potato fries. I  tried the super creamy mac-and-cheese that is served in a little individual cast iron frying pan and gave it a tummy-pleasing thumbs up. “We call it food that hugs you,” Barry said. And he’s right!

Heart & soul…
All last week, strollers along Fulton Street were wondering about the giant plastic red heart — not the Cupid kind, the one like our real organ — in front of the entrance to “Bodies…The Exhibition.” The 13-foot long, 12-foot high heart statue is part of a campaign, “Have A Heart,” to inspire healthy lifestyle choices and educate visitors to the wonderful workings of the human heart.

It was moved on Fri., Aug. 17 to Pier 17, where it was weighed as part of a Facebook contest that people around the country entered. The person who most accurately estimated the actual weight of the statue won a $500 travel voucher to New York City, a two-night hotel stay and two tickets to — what else? — “Bodies…The Exhibition” and “Dialog in the Dark.” The winner will be announced this week.

Meanwhile, did you know that your heart beats more than 100,000 times a day and that your heart rate rises when you yawn? That information just wears out my little heart!

Losing another piece OF history…
For 29 years, South Street Seaport Museum volunteer and master woodcarver Sal Polisi chiseled, carved, sawed, hammered, painted and polished wooden maidenheads, model ships and signs for the Seaport Museum and others around the country. He worked six days a week, with little heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the steamy summer months, in the crowded carving house made of two shipping containers.

Jam-packed with new projects and restorations, Polisi’s shop drew curious visitors like the Sirens wooed ancient mariners. Sal happily greeted guests and answered questions. Now, New York City wants him out. Officials say his small workshop, perched between the ships and sidewalk on Pier 15 (at John St.), will block a proposed bike path and sidewalk.

This has me and other longtime Seaport residents and advocates up in arms! Sal donates his time, never charging for his beautiful work. The Seaport Museum gives him his materials and recently offered him space on Water Street near Bowne & Co. Stationers — but this won’t do. Sal needs to stay where the boats are, in an open space where he can meet and greet locals and tourists alike, where one of the few authentic and living history nods to our nautical past should remain proudly in public view. Please call City Hall and fight to keep Sal, a former U.S. Navy sailor, and his shop on South Street.

— by Janel Bladow