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When I was a boy, I lived in an old-fashioned small-town neighborhood, the kind where your house is close enough to the school you attend that you can see the playground from your front door. From then on, though, I was forced to make do with an ever-changing string of dorm rooms and anonymous apartments. Only once did I stay in the same place long enough to feel that I had a neighborhood again. That was in Manhattan, where I spent two decades on the Upper West Side. I’d never expected to feel at home in an urban environment, and it took me by surprise when I realized that I’d come to feel much the same way about my part of New York City that I had about my part of Smalltown, U.S.A.
Throughout most of that time, I lived a block and a half away from Good Enough to Eat, the Upper West Side’s best-loved comfort-food emporium, where you could always be sure of getting a tasty, unpretentious, and wholly satisfying meal. In due course it evolved willy-nilly into my hangout, the only one I’ve ever had. Never before–or since–has there been a restaurant where I was recognized by the staff whenever I walked through the door….