The ‘Freakonomics’ of pastrami
Upper West Sider Stephen J. Dubner has spun 2005’s “Freakonomics,” the best-selling book series about the economics of everything, into a media empire that includes a trivia-stumping podcast called “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.” The 54-year-old journalist, whose “Freakonomics” WNYC radio show launches a six-week series, “The Secret Lives of CEOs” starting Jan. 18, tells HANA R. ALBERTS about weekends with wife Ellen Binder, son Solomon, 17, daughter Anya, 15, and their Havanese, Fifi.
I start by sleeping in until about 6:30 or 6:45. Then I take the dog to the park. I take a big nature walk and listen to something: a book on tape, a podcast or music.
I love to eat, but I’m lazy— places I love always end up being very close to where I live or work. At Jin Ramen on Amsterdam [Avenue], I get shishito peppers, the most amazing potato salad and the kani salad with crab sticks. Pretty near where we live is an expensive, but amazingly delicious, sushi restaurant called Sushi of Gari. There’s a beautiful dish of just mushrooms called kinoko, shumai with fried cream cheese and anchovies, and beef short ribs. About once a year, I’ll have the omakase. I just have to give [them] my credit card and not look at the amount.
I don’t want to denigrate Katz’s, but I think Pastrami Queen is the best I’ve ever had. I never knew about it before because it’s on the East Side, and you know, you need a visa to go there. But my family had a Super Bowl party, and a friend of mine brought this big greasy paper bag of pastrami. From then on, my son and I get our hair cut at Delta on Lexington Avenue. It’s where my wife’s dad used to get his hair cut. We walk up Lex and get pastrami. We get the sandwich, but then end up abandoning some of the bread.
We have special feelings for the Robert, [the restaurant] on top of the Museum of Arts and Design in Columbus Circle. My son and daughter had their bar and bat mitzvah parties there. Once, my family took me out to dinner on my birthday, and Mike Bloomberg sat at a table right next to us. Then in walked Henry Kissinger.
I was a Tony voter and used to go every night, but now I probably see three to five Broadway shows a year. Solomon will go on TodayTix to get $30 tickets and sit in the back of the mezzanine. My son is also a soccer fanatic. We make a podcast together, so often we record that over the weekend. He’s a big Barcelona fan, and we are proud members of the official NYC Barcelona fan club, otherwise known as a penya. We go to a pub in Chelsea called Smithfield Hall; they show a lot of European soccer. He drinks Cokes and I drink beer, and we have a really good time.
That’s one of my favorite things about raising a family in New York — that the kids can be really self-sufficient. And no matter what they are into, it’s big and diverse enough that they can find a cohort. If we were in Duanesburg — in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York where I grew up — you’d be a frustrated soccer fan or not a fan at all.