PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Crazy Legs Conti”
As I mentioned at the very end of the day yesterday, Crazy Legs Conti and Tim “Eater X” Janus will be squaring off in a watermelon eating contest at the Ninetendo Store in Rockefeller Center today from Noon to 3pm. Most people know Crazy Legs Conti as a hero of the competitive eating circuit (he’s always at the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest), but did you know he is also a Midtown Lunch’er? That’s right, when he is not stuffing his face, Crazy Legs has a day job at The Penthouse Executive Club in the outer reaches of Midtown West. Situated around the corner from the actual Daisy May’s BBQ (the restaurant where the cart comes from), Crazy Legs knows his way around food, and was kind enough to give us an inside glimpse into his unique Midtown Lunch’ing experience.
Name: Crazy Legs
Occupation: Purchasing Director of the Penthouse Executive Club & Competitve Eater
Where in Midtown do you Work?: 45th & 11th Ave. As purchasing director, I order everything from demitasse spoons to demi sec champagne. Everything, but the food for Robert’s Steakhouse, which is the high end restaurant inside our swanky gentleman’s club. The food is impeccable, and as strip club menus go, this is usually not the case (years ago, the chicken nuggets and baked ziti at Shenanigans were considered haute cuisine). I have a janitor’s ring of keys, but as the 11th ranked Major League Eater they don’t allow me access to the meat aging vault or any of the refrigerators. Probably, very wise. Despite the world class restaurant, the Penthouse Executive Club’s scenery of seventy five topless women each night, gets the most attention. Evening gowns precede the topless part — it’s a very classy place. The enthusiastic ecdysiasts are not known as “Strippers” but as “Entertainers” and the PEC is anything but a run-of-mill peeler joint. But, here’s the disappointing part for Midtown Lunchers — Robert’s is only open for dinner and the PEC is a night time place. For me, it’s doubly disappointing, because even though my office, a giant warehouse of liquor, shares an air vent with the Entertainers’ Locker Room, my workday finishes long before the women show up. In some ways, I feel like a modern day Tantalus — so close, yet so far. During the day, the place is as quiet as the public library. Granted, instead of books, we have a light-up wall of naked 1970s Penthouse Pets so there are some perks to the day shift. Often when college kids ask for advice, I tell them to study harder; otherwise they will end up commuting to a strip club at 9 am every weekday.
Favorite Kind of Food: As a competitive eater, one has to be a cross disciplined athlete — eating whatever foodstuff is on the plate. During my seven year pro eating career, I have in short time consumed voluminous amounts of esoteric fare such as pelemeni and posole and more common foods such as Krystal hamburgers and Nathan’s hot dogs. However, if it wasn’t financial untenable for me, I would probably eat sushi every day. There has not been a US sushi eating contest in the modern era of pro-eating. Taped while I was still a casual diner, Fox’s 2002 Glutton Bowl featured a fire hose of poorly made sushi that caused one gurgitator to suffer, “an urge contrary to swallowing.” Recently Tim “Eater X” Janus, in exhibition, ate 141 pieces in six minutes. If Major League Eating holds a sushi eating contest in 2008, I wouldn’t even care about the trophy, just the free food. Hungry Charles Hardy (who once had the opportunity to eat fifteen feet of sushi in Japan) and I have been thrown out of two all-you-can eat sushi places. I believe our pictures are still under the counter in the right-to-refuse section. If I can swing the bucks, I will order from Oyishi, a tiny place on 46th btw. 8+9th. Instead of ordering rolls, I usually just point to the party catering platter menu. Options A and C make for an enjoyable lunch for myself, but if I am going to share, we have to order deeper into the alphabet. I also love Japanese noodle soup. It’s a great time for ramen and noodle soups in NYC. I could watch “Tampopo” for lunch and be just as satiated without eating a bite.
What even Crazy Legs refuses to eat, plus his favorite carts in Midtown, after the jump…
Least Favorite Kind of Food: I consider myself a gourmet and a gourmand; I like good food in large quantities. There is nothing I don’t like to eat, however, I am generally anti-condiment. As good as Heinz ketchup is on a hot dog, I am purist and prefer to taste simply the food (no soy sauce or wasabi on my sushi either). For the documentary “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating” (now on DVD in Taste-O-Vision!) I ate three sticks of butter as fast as I could. I wouldn’t recommend that for a pro-eater or a casual diner. Don “Moses” Lerman, the fastest hands in competitive eating, is now retired, however his butter record (7 ½ sticks in five minutes) will never be broken. I also ate my way out of an eight foot box of popcorn, the Popcorn Sarcophagus, which earned me the moniker, “The Houdini of Cuisini”. I found it wasn’t the pop or the corn that did me in, but the butter. Butter is seems, is my kryptonite. I love greasy spoon diners, but I order my whole wheat toast plain.
Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: I am west of midtown, eating on the fringes of the island, and somehow that has dictated my eating style. I love interactive food, meaning, one is going to wear it as much as they eat it. Moshe’s Falafel on 46th & 6th is the perfect example. I wear shorts and a Hawaiian shirt year round because I am weather immune, and tzatziki and hot sauce blends perfectly in Hawaiian polyester patterns. I am partial to street carts, which one can see from “Street Cart Named Desire“. The Daisy May’s cart (on 50th btw. 6+7th) or the main restaurant (on 46th & 11th) is another messy food place I enjoy. With full disclosure, I should mention that I get free ribs as long as I eat them in under a minute and get out of the restaurant for paying customers. I have been shown the door at Virgils and Spanky’s too. Generally, asking for a bib instead of napkins is a tip off to the staff, that a gustatory gladiator is preparing for BBQ battle.
The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: The marketing staff at The PEC often orders lunch on Fridays and picks up the tab. Even though the staff is comprised of very slight women, they seem to gravitate towards the pastrami and knishes of Ben’s Kosher Deli on 38th & 7th Ave. As the site of the former Matzo Ball Eating Circuit (floaters in the prelims, sinkers in the finals) I wax nostalgic for the long gone days of matzo meal glory. I often order just three balls, no soup which is a long way from my personal best of fourteen in two minutes, fifty seconds. The Marketing women can never understand my odd Friday lunch order, but each bite, like an impressionist’s painting, takes me back to a moment in time — Hungry Charles on my left and Badlands Booker on my right in a showdown of mealy matzo supremacy. Next Friday, I have to remember to use utensils, otherwise The Marketing Staff is going to 86 me from the lunch order.
Place you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch: Back to sushi — I relied on Midtown Lunch to give me the rundown on how fast the conveyer belt moved at Sakae Sushi (not fast enough for me) and the crowd at the Todai buffet. Regarding Todai, pickle eating champ Beautiful Brian Seiken is planning an outing to Todai’s plentiful buffet. You need a sizable guy like Beautiful Brian to anchor himself front and center at the sushi bar, then other NYC gurgiators like Nasty Nate Biller and me can form a wedge and really get behind the sneeze guard to take the buffet down. If the head chef isn’t crying into the steam table in an hour, we haven’t done justice to Midtown Lunch!
If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? If Dom De Marco of DiFara’s pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn needs a mop boy, I’d gladly take the job to sweep up the leftovers. And no, the leftovers wouldn’t be going in the trash — my five hour kitchen rule would replace the more traditional five second one. If you could get the dribble runoff the holy grail chalice, you wouldn’t complain.
Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers?: I was a short order cook for two years, simply because I love working a flat top grill. It seems that the greasy spoon diner is as rare as an order of “Adam and Eve on a Raft.” Like the Intrepid, most of the great hash joints (corned beef, that is) have sailed away. By my workplace, the Munson, Cheyenne, Market Diner and the one in the Film Center Building are all digested memories. Anybody know a Midtown place I could eat, where the eggs are as runny as the service is surly?
Oh, and I would love to invite the midtown lunch readers to lunch today from 12 — 3 Pm at the Nintendo Store in Rockefeller Center. To celebrate the release of the Nintendo WiiWare video game, Major League Eating: The Game www.mlegame.com I will be eating watermelon against Tim “Eater X” Janus and then play each other (as our avatars) in the video world – eating metaphysically enough -watermelon. Eater X is ranked 4th in the world, so I may have a better chance beating him virtually in watermelon than in reality. You are all invited, but I don’t think there will be any leftovers. However, take solace in the fact that you can play the video game during your lunch hour and achieve a high score, while I’ll simply be left with an upset stomach.
Got a diner recommendation for Crazy Legs? Post it in the comments below. And as always, if you want to be the next Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er, or you’d like to nominate somebody in your office, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org