First of all, when did they fancy it up? [Sucelt Coffee Shop, 14th St. & 7th Ave.] OK, it's not "fancied up" exactly, but there's a new coat of paint, a shiny new steam table, a new counter, and printed, laminated menus (just in English) serving as placemats (placemats!). I also think the menu up on the back wall is not the one I remember, though it is (as they said of Beatlemania) an incredible simulation.
I never thought this place was -great-, but there was a time a while back when I had a great affection for it. (Possibly because it was one of the few non-felafel places in Manhattan I could afford.) Anyway, I went today for the first time in a couple years. All I'd ever had there was rice and beans, empanadas and cafe con leche, and that's what I had today.
I'm not sure how much of my reaction to the food was colored by my reaction to the decor, but nothing seemed quite right. Nothing except the amazing hot sauce: it's still amazing, but there doesn't seem to be anything worthwhile to put it on. (It's in a fancier jar, too.) The rice and beans (amarillo/rojo) wasn't bad, but it didn't have the soul or complexity I remember. It tasted like a side dish. Back in the old days, when I didn't order meat because I couldn't afford meat, it seemed like it was a plate of rice and beans that didn't need meat. This one needed meat.
The coffee was not good at all--bitter and thin--but I actually don't remember if the coffee at Sucelt was ever notable. The chicken empanada was just plain nasty. Soggy, bland...and not only was the whole thing obviously frozen and thawed, but the chicken inside was itself clearly frozen long prior to assembly. The net effect was an extrordinarily unpleasant double-whammy of freezer taste.
So, in sum: while it's hard for me to separate personal nostalgia from true culinary loss, I do think think is a saddening decline.
(On a more optimistic but totally non-food note: I was in that neck of the woods to get a haircut, and I'm pleased to report that Little Tony Be Good [12th St. & 6th Ave.] is -precisely- what it was: the pictues of Elvis, the combs in the Barbasol, the guys singing along with WCBS...it's all still there. Keep your fingers crossed.)