Roast pork, docile elephants

After reading a stellar write-up of this joint in The New Yorker, I had to try Tony Luke's. Headed up towards Central Park, I stopped in along the way for a sandwich. It's most well-known for importing its cheesesteak ingredients (and a chef who apprenticed with Tony Luke himself) from Philly, but I opted for its other claim to fame, the Roast Pork Italian sandwich. With variations of just three basic sandwiches on the menu, Tony Luke's sticks to its specialties.

The restaurant itself is nothing to speak of, though people who know give it props for an authentic Philly atmostphere. White tile floor, fluorescent lights, and a counter and bar stools on the right and left lead to an ordering window at the rear of the shop. The woman behind it slid the window open, took my order, and slid the window shut. I felt like I was at a Western Union waiting for money to be wired over from family on another continent. A short while later, a different window opened, and a pair of arms passed me my sandwich.

The roast pork Italian is $7.95 and offers roast pork, provolone cheese, and broccoli rabe on foot long, soft-baked bread. They don't cheat on the length--I think mine may have been a foot and a half long--and they also don't cut the sandwich in half or offer any utensils. If there's an elegant way to eat the sandwich, it's likely limited to people with Michael Jordan-sized hands. I just stuffed my face with it, pork and rabe and provolone and grease spilling out in all directions.

Simple, and effective. The bitterness of the rabe, the sharpness of the provolone, and the saltiness of the pork form a beautiful love triangle, delivered on a plush bed of dough whose starchy taste stays out of the way. My one grips is that the restaurant offers only napkins. You need a sink with soap or at a minimum three wet naps to clean the grease off your hands afterwards.

Tony Luke's is on 9th Ave. between 41st and 42nd St. Next time I visit (after my arteries clear)? Cheesesteak.

Before stopping for a sandwich, I stopped at the Ashes and Snow photography exhibition (at Hudson River Park's Pier 54 until June 6). The exhibition is housed in a "nomadic museum" building designed by Shigeru Ban and built out of shipping containers and paper tubing (Ban is famous for building all sorts of structures out of cardboard tubing).

The photographs and 35mm film by Gregory Colbert reveal elephants, whales, cheetahs, falcons, and other animals living in peace and harmony with humans. In many of the photos, man and animal seem to be meditating together. Having lived without pets and in cities most of my life, the photos seemed fantastic, even artificial in the empathy depicted, but nothing I read at the exhibit indicated that the animals were anything but wild, or that the photos were manipulated in any way. In fact, one text said that the man free diving with the humpback whales was Colbert himself.

The 35mm film featured slow motion footage of the same subjects, but in motion they're even more mysterious. One shot showed a young girl lying asleep in a canoe, drifting down the river. The shot was from overhead and followed as the canoe passed below an elephant standing in the river. Was the elephant wild? How did they film some of these scenes? The large crowd of onlookers stood in rapt attention, like pilgrims in a temple.

If you're in NYC and looking for a peaceful way to spend an hour or two, Ashes and Snow is well worth a visit. If you're not in NYC, perhaps the nomadic museum will stop near you in the future, or you can check out more of the photos online or purchase some of the work here. A few more Colbert pics after the jump.