Times Square is the new Five Corners. Huddled masses from around the world descend on this global crossroads every day, packing crowded hostels and soiled sidewalks. Our ancestors who immigrated to New York generations ago had to endure a much bloodier wrath, under the thumb of political machines like Tammany Hall and ferocious crime-bosses like Daniel Day-Lewis.
Despite the Code Orange warning prominently displayed on the Fox News Jumbotron, today's visitors march around with a false sense of security and a camcorder.
But there is a growing threat to the good people of Times Square that rivals the devastation seen in Gangs of New York. Look around. They're everywhere. Tad's Broiled Steaks rules the neighborhood.
I can imagine Tad presiding over his empire, steak knife in hand. There are five Tad's locations in Times Square. Each of his restaurants is a finger; when he closes it, his hand becomes a fist.
As I approached one of these eateries, a screaming swarm of people gathered outside. Was it a rival gang trying to topple the Tad's empire? Although a few of them were waving posters for the rapper 50 Cent, the mob was not a gang but a bunch of teenyboppers trying to catch a glimpse of Carson Daly upstairs. None of them tried to combat the real enemy downstairs, probably because they had just had their braces tightened.
A sign in Spaghetti Western font lures you inside with the promise of "broiled" steaks. For a moment, I doubted the validity of this statement, but then I realized that signs at Tad's display more dubious declarations, such as "This food won't kill you."
I was hoping to discover a homey, wood-paneled steakhouse reminiscent of Middle America. Instead, I found my high school cafeteria crossed with the Port Authority Bus Terminal. One grabs a tray and orders from a large pictorial menu looming overhead. Clearly Tad strengthens his evil regime by catering to the illiterate electorate.
I ordered the questionably-spelled "Famouse T-Bone." The man behind the counter tossed a semi-frozen steak onto the grill and proceeded to pound the ever-loving mercy out of it with a mallet. I hadn't seen such senseless violence inflicted on a cut of meat since I watched my Italian cousin prepare veal scaloppini. The cook didn't ask me how I'd like my steak prepared. I usually go for medium-rare, but from the look of this place I figured well-done would be the safest bet, gastrointestinally speaking.
The steak platter also included a slice of garlic bread and a measly baked potato the size of a Wiffleball.
The coup de grâce arrived when the cook ladled two heaping loads of melted butter and gravy over the entire plate. Although the butter was intended for the bread and potato, while the gravy was intended for the steak, the two solutions flooded the entire platter indiscriminately, swimming together but never mixing.
Watching this tango of cholesterol dance around the plate to the salsa music piped through the restaurant's speakers can hypnotize even the stoutest of steak-eaters. Clearly, it is this effect that fuels the Tad machine.
In addition to the tough, stringy steak, pre-poured wine glasses come sealed with Saran Wrap. The Mac and Cheese was undoubtedly a reheated serving of Kraft, and the cheese powder had not fully dissolved in the cooking process. A complimentary defibrillator would have been a better addition to the meal.
Two Scandinavian tourists seated next to me gorged themselves like they hadn't eaten since boarding the plane to New York City while I gingerly made my way through the meal with only my passion for journalistic integrity as motivation. Didn't they know New York has better food to offer? Didn't they know that New York is so much more than Times Square and the Circle Line Tour? Of course they didn't.
As long as Tad rules the five corners of Times Square like a fist, inhabitants and passersby will remain blissfully ignorant and coronarily challenged.