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Baseball & BBQ - Taste Of America - Mickey Mantle's Restaurant Review
Travel America, by Randy Mink

To some, it's simply a casual sports restaurant conveniently situated across from Central Park. For me, a recent visit to Mickey Mantle's provided a nostalgic glimpse into my boyhood, bringing back those carefree days of summer in the 1950s and '60s, when life in our neighborhood revolved around playing ball, collecting baseball cards, and following our favorite major league teams. The mighty New York Yankees seemed invincible, and Mickey Mantle was their brightest star, leading them to 12 World Series in 18 years of play.

Located on Central Park South, just steps from midtown Manhattan's fashionable Plaza, Park Lane, and Ritz-Carlton hotels, Mickey Mantle's Restaurant is a smart, white-tablecloth place, but comfortable and easy-going. It's hardly a gimmicky theme restaurant or loud sports bar, despite the video monitors scattered around. Many sports celebrities dine there. (The legendary No. 7 and his business partners started the restaurant and bar in 1988, seven years before he died of cancer.)

Like a serious museum-goer, I took time before, during, and after my meal to peruse the artwork and other sports memorabilia adorning the walls, particularly the items relating to Mantle, who, with a career 536 home runs, ranks 10th on the all-time list. It all unleashed a flood of baseball memories from long ago.

The food at Mickey Mantle's, let's quickly add, is hardly an afterthought. In fact, our dinner there was one of the best--and biggest--meals we had in New York.

Coming in with hefty appetites after a busy day of sightseeing on foot and a Gray Line double-decker bus, we feasted on the restaurant's signature "Texas Barbecue," a plate heaped with hickory-smoked ribs and chicken (shipped to Mantle's from a Lufkin, Texas, smokehouse), plus jalapeno baked beans, corn bread, vegetable slaw, and corn on the cob. Devouring every shred of meat on the bones, we were not surprised that a New York Daily News writer called Mantle's ribs the best in New York, an accolade the eatery is not shy about touting.

Other down-home specialties include chicken pot pie ($14.50) and chicken fried steak with mashed new potatoes and cream gravy ($18.95) made from Mother Mantle's Oklahoma recipe.

Also on the menu, which features a 1951 black-and-white photo of Mickey's mother pouring him a glass of milk, are half-pound hamburgers with waffle fried potatoes (from $11.95) and other sandwiches.

Filet mignon and sirloin steak ($25) are served with fresh asparagus and mashed potatoes with cream gravy. Pastas include lobster ravioli with grilled shrimp ($19.95).

Low-calorie "Spring Training Specials" include grilled swordfish on a ragout of fresh corn, asparagus, tomatoes, and orzo ($19.95). The "Little League" menu offers $8.95 kids' meals, such as macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti and meatballs.

Each table has bottles of Mickey Mantle's Home Run Hot Sauce and Grand Slam Jalapeno BBQ Sauce, sold in the gift shop with hats, T-shirts, and other restaurant logo items, plus Yankees and New York Mets souvenirs. Many of the autographed baseballs and other collectibles (some signed by Mantle) fetch hundreds of dollars.

Luscious desserts prove a fitting finale to an all-star meal. Our family of four shared four different sweet treats, digging in to each other's bourbon pecan pie, warm apple-blueberry cobbler a la mode, carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting, and a brownie hot fudge sundae served in an oversized goblet.

While we dined, the big-screen TV in front of our table and smaller screens nearby showed a taped tennis match without sound, then a live Mets-Yankees baseball game with full audio.

The walls are covered with cartoons, magazine covers, and portraits of baseball greats like the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the major leagues. Below portraits of Mantle and fellow Yankee slugger Roger Maris is a Maris-autographed baseball inscribed "To Mickey, the best of them all."

In warm weather, guests may choose to dine alfresco at the sidewalk tables, which offer good views of beloved Central Park and its horse carriage traffic.

Contact: Mickey Mantle's Restaurant (TravelAmerica Magazine), 42 Central Park South (59th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues), New York, NY 10019; (212) 688-7777; www.mickeymantles.com.

COPYRIGHT 2002 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group