For a fan of club soccer, summers can be misery. Even with the season’s bountiful warm-weather distractions, the months between when the Premiership ends in May and revs back up again in August can seem interminable: With no actual games to watch or performances to analyze, the papers are full of little but gossip and speculation. It’s a sad state of affairs when the odd newsy tidbit comes as a welcome relief.
Every two years, though, there’s a respite from the mundane. In 2010, we had the World Cup; this summer, it’s the Euros. (The games might not be as thrilling, but hey, football is football.) As those of you who follow me on Twitter have surely discovered, I’ve been watching the tournament religiously— not, however, without a little bit of guilt over spending perfect June afternoons in a bar instead of in the sunshine. For the addicts among us, there are a few spots that strike a healthy balance between the two with outdoor screenings; last weekend, in lieu of making the trek to Astoria’s beer garden, I found myself in Williamsburg, pulling up a seat in Iona‘s backyard.
This is not your Nevada Smiths experience. On this particular Saturday afternoon, the laid-back fans slowly trickled out (things were more hardcore inside), just as content to sip hefeweizen as they were to follow the match.
I knew Iona served food, but the best surprise of the afternoon was just how good that food was.
My friend and I ordered a burger and a pulled-pork sandwich to share, and we knew we’d be having seconds after the first bite. The pork was garnished with pickles and pickled onions, neatly sidestepping my perennial not-enough-acid complaints, as well as an herbed mayo of some sort—I blame that third cider for my fuzziness on the details. The result, as my friend astutely pointed out, wasn’t horrible at all.
It was the burger, though, that sent us back to the counter for more. A bite of the loosely packed meat, grilled to the ideal shade of pink and topped with American cheese — and, yes, another pickle slice or two — released rivulets of juice; the bun, cut-side charred, held up well to the challenge. Even if the game had been a nail-biter, this burger would’ve stolen the show. It might be one of the best I’ve had in the city, and at $8 a pop, it’s definitely one of the best bargains.
Good atmosphere, great inexpensive food, and a little bit of sunshine is something you don’t find every day — or even every two years — here in New York. I’ll be going back, and I won’t be waiting until the next World Cup to do so.
180 Grand Street