Even though Tommy Habetz has been busy opening his new restaurant, Pizza Jerk in Portland, and a new Bunk Sandwiches location in Brooklyn, he found time to enjoy a lot of great food in 2015. We asked Habetz to give us his favourite meals of the year, and here’s what he had to say:
1. The last meal I had at Laurelhurst Market with my friend, Josh Ozersky, his wife Danit and my wife Brooke. Josh passed away at the beginning of May. He was the smartest, funniest bastard I’ve ever known and one of the best writers I’ve ever read. Every meal with him was memorable, and that was a fantastic meal, as usual, at Laurelhurst Market with the greatest of company. I just wish there were more.
2. Mae PDX. Maya Lovelace, Shauna Galante and Zach Lefler are making some of the best southern soul food that I’ve ever had. Dreamy fried chicken, biscuits with Duke’s mayo, cornbread with sorghum butter and sea island red peas. Right now they’re doing weekly popups across the street from Pizza Jerk, in the back room of Old Salt Supperhouse (also amazing). With Pollo Norte, Old Salt, Red Sauce Pizza, Little Axe Records and Fire & Stone, Northeast 42 Avenue is pretty much the best street ever.
3. The chef’s tasting at Kachka. Bonnie Morales and her husband, Israel, have done the near impossible: They’ve made me crave Russian food. My upbringing is part Polish and Ukranian. I thought I was pretty over Russian food, except on Easter, or maybe if I was at a Russian bar in Bensonhurst or something. Kachka captures the best of all things Russian: tradition, smoked fish, caviar, vodka, and all on Grand Avenue in Portland, Oregon.
4. Bagel with really good lox and horseradish-dill cream cheese at Russ and Daughters on Houston Street in Manhattan. Okay, I swear I don’t eat this way all the time, but every once in a while I need tradition. This top 5 list is taking a decidedly Fiddler on the Roof turn (you know the song “Tradition” from the musical).
5. Pizza, lots and lots of pizza. I’d be lying if I didn’t put Pizza Jerk on this list. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to work and obsess at something your whole life until you nearly break. To be able to make a really good pizza is one of the most satisfying, soul-searching and hardest quests I’ve ever been on. It’s left me changed. I’m a different man than I was 40 years ago. I have mad respect for all brothers and sisters of the pizza peel.
Also, favourite karaoke moment: singing “Thrash Unreal” with piano accompaniment at Sid Gold’s Request Room in Chelsea.