If you’re ever in Erie, Pennsylvania, a visit to New York Lunch (922 East Ave.) is a must. The nondescript diner is the place to get a local favorite culinary concoction known simply as Greek sauce. You can’t find it anywhere else in the world.
While the recipe has been a closely guarded secret for more than 80 years, owner Stephen Paliouras (pictured at right) says there are 10 different spices combined with ground beef to create the unique flavor, plus paprika, which gives it a red color. You can order just about anything smothered in the sauce, whether a hot dog, hamburger or omelets that are served all day.
The sauce also makes a great souvenir. Guests can take it home by the cup, pint or quart for $3.25, $6.50 and $14 respectively. Paliouras has even shipped cases of his Greek sauces to fans in Florida and California.
While I mentioned the Greek sauce in the Lake Erie Living Travel Guide this year, I had personally never tried it, so I went to New York Lunch this week to get a taste of the sauce that Erieites rave about. After trying the sauce for the first time, I received an extra special treat from the owner: a souvenir paper holder from his home country, which I immediately donated to the Souvenir Museum collection.
The vintage enamel-covered bronze clip features the bust of Eniochos, the charioteer of Delphi. Eniochos in Greek refers to the “man who holds the reins.” On the back side is Parthenon, one of the temples in the Athenian Acropolis.
I’ve never been to Greece, but the souvenir will always symbolize Greek hospitality, friendliness, openness, and . . . Erie’s famous Greek sauce.
Sue Venir store at the Houston airport.
As the curator of the Souvenir Museum, I am most in my element when I’m out in the world discovering the things that make us different.
On a layover in Houston this week, I had time to peruse the travel trinkets at Sue Venir (located in terminal B). I spied a crossword puzzle tie for the business traveler, jewelry for the ladies, NASA snow globes for the kids and the classic “Don’t Mess with Texas” t-shirt.
Texas Sweat hot sauce
But it was the Texas Sweat — a five-ounce bottle of hot pepper sauce — that got me thinking about how the offbeat souvenir hunter is attracted to the yuck factor. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t want to eat or drink a product that is labeled as “sweat.” And yet, this is the second time during my travels that I would be willing to pay for it.
Japan's energy drink Pocari Sweat.
Japan produces a soft drink called Pocari Sweat, which I picked up on a layover at Tokyo’s Narita airport a few years back. The beverage admittedly tastes pretty good, but I definitely would not have purchased the product if it had a more mundane name. It’s either marketing genius or a cross-cultural language snafu (which is an entire blog post in and of itself).
Texas Sweat, on the other hand, is aptly named. I imagine the beads of sweat that might form on my upper lip and forehead after biting into a morsel of food coated with the spicy sauce. The name makes sense and helps it stand out among the other competition in the hot sauce field.
Hot sauce is a highly collected commodity. My ex-brother-in-law’s collection included brands like Colon Cleaner, Lawyer’s Breath and Pain is Good.
The Texas Sweat would make a great addition to his collection, or a good starting point for the Souvenir Museum’s own.