I could tell there was something fishy going on. Everyone told me to stay away from Junior’s. As far back as Master Cabbie Taxi Academy, my classmate told me that Junior’s wasn’t as good as it used to be. So many of my frequent fares out to Park Slope treated me like I was some sort of stupid Midwestern tourist for even showing interest in Junior’s. And now that Junior’s has opened another location in Times Square, people act like going there would be the equivalent of doing business with Saddam during the embargo.
So I avoided Junior’s like Bubble Boy does the sun. No matter how hungry I was or how convenient it was, I never sat down for a meal. I was always drawn to it – the lights seemed so inviting -- but I’d just heard too many bad things.
I stopped in to pick up their famed cheesecake a couple times, and it left me sorely disappointed. I’ve never been crazy about cheesecake, but I have tasted amazing ones. There was a genius woman named Helen who sold cheesecake out of a kitchen on Union Street. Helen’s cheesecakes were so creamy and rich. My favorite variety was pistachio. Helen made me into a lover of cheesecake sheerly by the skill and love she put into every slice. Junior’s cheesecake is crumbly and dry, and it only serves to make me miss Helen terribly.
But I’ve got to trust my own eyes over what the strangers in the back of my cab tell me. I’ve witnessed countless Brooklynites pouring through Junior’s doors for food. And the ones walking back out always seem to have big smiles on their faces. When I see that at an amusement park ride or a movie theater, I get in line. So I decided to throw caution to the wind, and I sat down for a meal at Junior’s.
The menu is ambitious to say the least. It’s got everything you’d ever want out of a classic diner plus a bunch of gourmet choices like “Broiled Flounder Stuffed with Crabmeat Stuffing” and “Fresh Salmon Cakes with Dijon Hollandaise Sauce.” But the option for barbeque fried chicken caught my eye. I’ve gone great distances for honey fried chicken, but this variation intrigued me so I ordered it.
While I waited for it to come out, I feasted on a delicious beets and onion salad along with some high quality sour pickles. I was already happy. So when the bread plate arrived I was ecstatic. The corn bread, which can be bad even at great soul food restaurants, was some the best I’d ever tasted. It was warm and sticky, buttery before I even put the butter on it.
When the chicken arrived I was already glad I’d come. And the barbeque fried chicken was a taste sensation. The tangy barbeque sauce must have been slathered on just moments before it hit the table, because the chicken beneath it was still undeniably crispy. And the meat stayed tender and moist.
I was beyond satisfied with the meal. I don’t know if I’ll ever trust my fares again.
386 Flatbush Avenue at DeKalb, Downtown Brooklyn 718-852-5257