Thursday, April 15, 2010

Theme Thursday - Lunch

I decided to get some pictures of two of Newport's time-honored lunching traditions.

Handy Lunch on at Thames and Pope Streets has been around for a long, long time. I moved to Newport in May of 1974 and Handy Lunch was here. The oldtimers on Lower Thames St. tell me Handy Lunch was around as long as they can remember, and some of those folks are well into their 80s. It used to be the place for breakfast and lunch for the fishermen and lobstermen working on the nearby docks (Brown & Howard Wharf and Parascondolas's are just up Thames St.). But it didn't become Gary's Handy Lunch until Gary Hooks came to Newport in 1977 in Ted Turner's wake; Gary was one of the many Southerners who came up here with TT when he skippered Courageous in the America's Cup trials of that year. Gary decided to stay (most of that crowd did), and he bought Handy Lunch and totally redid it and changed it's image from a typical working-man's greasy spoon to a tourist destination that still survived on a local clientele. He redid the interior to look like a classic '50s diner but kept the menu at typical diner fare - burgers, fries, eggs and bacon, etc. Still cheap, still popular, and still going strong.

The sign may say Blue Rocks Market, but most of us still call this Sig's Deli. Back in the late 1920s Sig and Tilley Margolis opened up in the heart of the old Fifth Ward, Newport's traditional Irish neighborhood. They made a good business out of being a Jewish deli in a Catholic neighborhood, especially on Sundays, when all the Christian businesses were closed. Maurice and Brenda Margolis took over the business in the '60s but kept the name Sig's. By that time Sig's Deli had become the mainstay of lunchtime Newport. In the Summer, if you were heading for Gooseberry or Hazard Beaches on Ocean Drive, or if you were heading out to Brenton Point for a picnic, you stopped at Sig's to get your picnic fare. Lots of area businesses used Sig's for holiday office party goodies. It even served as a grocery store, carrying a lot of everyday food necessities for those Fifth Warders who didn't feel like going "all the way up the hill" to Bellevue Ave. to the A&P or Almacs to do grocery shopping. But most of all, Sig's sandwiches and cold cuts selection were the pride of the city. I still haven't eaten a Reuben as good as the ones I got at Sig's.

After the turn of the current century Maurice and Brenda were looking to retire, but nobody in the family wanted to take it on, so they ended up selling the business a couple of years ago to Ingrid Martin, who owned Blue Rocks Catering, located in Middletown behind Easton's Beach. Ingrid and her crew did some work on the place and reopened, still keeping the Sig's name, but last November they finally changed the name to Blue Rocks. So far the reception has been mixed. Reports say the food is still good, and they've stayed with deli fare and are keeping the prices about the same. But for a lot of Newporters the change has signaled the end of an era, and the place just isn't the same.

Video time! I couldn't do a post on lunch without including the greatest skit in television comedy history - Monty Python's "Spam":

This next one isn't about the meal itself, but rather it's by the singer Lydia Lunch. Lydia came out of the late '70s American punk movement out of New York City, which also gave us Blondie, Television, The New York Dolls, and others, and which pretty much grew out of Andy Warhol's projects, the main inspiration of the movement being The Velvet Underground and, oddly enough, Laurie Anderson. Lydia's music started out very much Punk, but slowly morphed into out-and-out avant garde. This piece, "Touch My Evil", is an example of the latter.

And last but not least, nobody my age can ever forget the Campbell's Soup "Soup and Sandwich" commercial. Admit it; every time you hear Ol' Blue Eyes start to sing "Love and Marriage" you hear the words as "Soup and sandwich, soup and sandwich..." Whoever their ad agency was back then were sheer genius. Enjoy

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Yum ~ I'd eat at Gary's or Sig's any day! Little old time places like that usually have the best food, desserts and coffee...just simple, real stuff. :)

  2. they both sound like wonderful places to visit. when we are taveling i always ask the locals where the best place is. it is often a wonderful surprise....the skit by MP is hillarious.

  3. helpful and informative tips.
    thanks for sharing
    By the way,hope you dont mind if I follow your blog. This is way one way to keep in touch. hope you do the same

  4. Sig's Deli looks like my kinda place. Yummy!

  5. Okay, first you made me crave a Reuben in the worst way, but completely erased it with Spam. So, now I'm good to go...

  6. Lydia Lunch!? Why have i never heard of this chick...the band was rockin'!

  7. i kept waiting for the mmmm mmmm good in the campbell ad....guess that was a separate campaign than the together campaign...hearing their combos all i could think of was oy, the sodium content of those lunches!

    i didn't have to click the vid for mp spam song and i still got the earworm.

    good choice by lydia lunch, who i don't know if i've heard before, but she sounds familiar and definitely it sounds as if she inspired hole & courtney love

    of all the times i went to newport in our ct days never ate at either featured place sad to say....but they sound great.

  8. Thanks folks!

    Baino - Seriously? Aren't there any Jewish delis in Oz? A Reuben is corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese with Russian dressing on rye bread and heated so the cheese melts. Nowadays they use a panini press to heat the sandwich, but in the old days you put it on the grill and put a plate on top to press/hold it down. And an alternative version is hot brown mustard instead of Russian dressing. Best damned sandwich in the world!

  9. gotta make my way up to your area--sounds like you have some seriously good food up there!! Loved the spam episode! Loved Lydia's naughty song too! thanks for a great post --Happy TT

  10. I'd never heard of the singer Lydia Lunch - her real name, or favorite meal? Its food for thought, yes? ;-)

  11. Great post Roy. So filling. Like a very good lunch.

  12. Yummy post. And I'll admit it: I remember the Soup and Sandwich ads.

  13. thoughtful theme Thursday post!
    lovely of everything,


    Best wishes,
    Thank you in advance for looking at mine.
    Sorry for being late.

  15. ....loved everything here. You're so good at putting these together...