Meet Joe Armstrong. He’s a New York City publisher whose name has graced the top of mastheads such as Rolling Stone (in it’s '70’s hey day), New York Magazine, New West, Worth and Talk. He was also the founding publisher of Saveur, which under his leadership was the first independent magazine to win Ad Age’s prestigious honor of magazine of the year, not to mention became the must-read for food lovers everywhere.
Quite the character, he was best friends with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and has the ability to gather an interesting mix of people such as Bill Clinton, Liz Smith, Billy Crystal, Diane Sawyer, Robin Williams and the dearly missed Ann Richards at one table, as he famously did a few years ago at Michael’s (see above photo—that’s Joe grinning in the middle). Matter of fact, his luncheon catapulted him to the rank of Mayor of Michael’s, no small feat at this de facto cafeteria for powerful media types in New York City. He also consults for ABC and does good work for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Gang Camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses and Habitat for Humanity in the rebuilding of New Orleans.
But while known as a New York City publishing legend, this Trinity undergrad and UT law grad stays close to his Texan roots, rumored to always wear cowboy boots and more prone to say howdy than hello. I reckon you can take the man away from Texas, but you can’t take Texas away from the man. Here’s what Joe misses.
Where are you from? I was born in Fort Worth and raised on Buffalo Gap Road in Abilene. I have a sister in Plano and another sis and my great mother live in Abilene. I have five nieces and nephews in Dallas and Temple.
When and why did you leave? People have always asked: "How'd you get to New York?" Well, it was easy---I went to Ohio and turned right. I came in 1968 to stay two years, and now I have been here longer than I ever lived in Texas. However, I am always a Texan first and it is what truly defines me and that is where my heart will always be. Why did I leave? Well I wanted to be in magazines and television and the big leagues were always in New York.
What do you miss most? Big sky, big history, big humor, big hair, big burgers, and Texans that have very big personalities. Love funny folks and none make me laugh more than big Texans.
The least? People who think there is just one way to do things.
What’s your favorite Tex-Mex in Texas and what do you order? El Rancho in Austin always made me happy as did La Fonda in San Antonio. My absolute favorite for everything else was The Dixie Pig in Abilene where I was a bus boy all through high school (there was nothing we didn't fry! The neon out front said "Eatin' Out is Fun" and the sign in the kitchen was "The Customer is Always Right." I order several baskets of chips and salsa then crispy tacos.
What’s your favorite BBQ in Texas and what do you order? Underwoods in Brownwood and Betty Rose in Abilene. I eat everything.
Your chili: beans or not? Yep, with the beans and especially since doctors say it is a miracle food!
What’s the first thing you buy at a Texas grocery when home? Green chow chow for sure. A few Moon Pies for gifts (also make a nice exploding whoppi cushion). And boxes of Texas pecans for my friends. In my early days in NYC we had to go to New Jersey to buy Dr Peppers (50 cents) and some New York Texans put peanuts in the bottle like they did as kids back home. No great Mex food up here in the early days; best we could do was El Patio TV dinners.
What is the best Texas food where you live now? How does it compare to the real deal? There are no great Tex-Mex finds in NYC that I am aware of today. Readers of Homesick Texans are my hope (send in your discoveries and free all of us to live fully yet again. HELP!!!!). But long ago I discovered a motto I could live with: “Bad Mexican Food is Better Than No Mexican Food.”
Thanks, Joe! Sakes alive! I’m glad we don’t have to go to all the way to Jersey to find Dr. Pepper any more, but it's sad you still haven't discovered terrific Tex-Mex in the City. That said, I think you’ve adopted the right attitude with your motto.
So, dear readers, have any Tex-Mex finds for Joe? Let me know!
Monday, December 11, 2006
Posted by Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) at 9:38 AM