Date of Trip: September 2006
We had an awesome trip to New York City- there aren’t any crazy stories to tell, so this is more of a review than a blog. If you’re not planning on going to NYC anytime soon, this may be kinda boring. 🙂
A couple of quick tips: 1. Make sure you carry cash with you. You never know when you’re going to need to hail a cab or pay a cover charge. A LOT of restaurants in NYC won’t do separate checks- dining with friends becomes a math lesson 2. If you’re going to be in the city for more than 2 days, just get a 1 week Metro Pass. You do miss a bit being on the subway, but it saves you a lot of money. 3. Don’t book a hotel too far from Midtown, unless money is really an issue. If you stay too far away from everything you want to see, you’re going to end up spending a lot of time traveling on the Subway. And if you’re new to the New York transit system, you’ll probably get lost a little. 4. Pay attention when booking a hotel- there are plenty of places that have SHARED bathrooms. If it doesn’t bother you, go for it.
After a successful and uneventful flight on AirTran from Akron-Canton, we arrived at LaGuardia around 6. I like flying into LaGuardia (LGA) because it’s typically closer to where we stay in NYC. You can also check out service to John F Kennedy Intntl Airport (JFK) or Newark, NJ (EWR). If you’re traveling by yourself, consider the cost of your cab ride from the airport to hotel. Some airports have shuttles- plenty of options!
We accidentally planned our vacation the same time as ‘Fashion Week’ in New York, so we had an extremely difficult time finding a hotel. We didn’t want to spend too much, but we also wanted a good location. We considered some alternative options: a hostel, couch-surfing, shared bathroom hotels… We ended up searching www.craigslist.com for someone offering temporary housing. We found a woman who lived in a one-bedroom on 44th St between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. She was going to be out of town for a week, so she had a friend meet us with the key and to collect our cash. We paid $900 for 6 nights, which only cost us $300 each. Very affordable! Plus, it was nice to have a kitchen, laundry and all the space a hotel would not have been able to provide.
Our first stop….. Muldoons 692 Third Ave (Tudor City, between 43rd and 44th) Since we arrived in the city kinda late, we decided to get a bite to eat and just lay low. We stopped into this Irish bar in our neighborhood (we stayed in an apartment on 44th st between 2nd and 3rd). We walked in and it was quite crowded. Much to my delight, we realized it was karaoke night! Yay! I ordered a burger and fries and it was awesome- hot, juicy, flavorful and a good size, too. The french fries were perfect, as well. I had a beer with dinner, and my bill with tip was around $15.00. I also sang a little karaoke- because I felt so comfortable here! The waitress was super friendly and had an adorable Irish accent. The ‘regulars’ were a lot of fun- they sang and danced with me. (But how can you resist dancing to ‘Faith’ George Michael?) The atmosphere was nothing special, kinda dark and typical, but at least clean and friendly. Highly recommend!
Kellari Taverna 19 W 44th St (Theater District, between 5th and 6th) www.kellari.us We walked a little after dinner and ended up in Times Square. It was Meghan’s first time in NYC, so we had to take her there. On the way back we stopped into this wine bar/ restaurant. As we stepped in the door, a large Greek man sitting at the bar welcomed us in. We must have looked out of place, he said ‘Come on in, have a drink!’. This place was gorgeous- beautiful colors, dramatic draperies and fabrics, warm lighting, minimal but modern decor. The service was a little slow, but friendly. The wine list was interesting- a lot of wines I didn’t recognize. I don’t even remember what I ordered, but my glass was only $8. Not too bad. I’m not sure if I would go back, the menu wasn’t easy to understand or recognize.
Tavern on the Green Central Park West at 67th Street www.tavernonthegreen.com This is the kind of place you need reservations for- we made ours for lunch. It was a beautiful restaurant, we sat in the Crystal room. Several chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and I’m sure if it was sunny out, the light would have caught the crystals beautifully. Lunch was rather expensive, about $50 for each of us. I ordered a special three course meal that included Red and Yellow Tomato Napoleon (red and yellow tomatoes stacked with ricotta salata cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, and a pesto crouton), Roast Chicken Provencale (garlic-mashed potatoes, tomato olive caper sauce, sautéed spinach) and Chocolate Mousse Cake (berry compote and whipped cream). They also bring around a bread basket and little butter rounds. Delicious bread- light, fresh, and chewy. I have read a lot of reviews from people that say Tavern isn’t worth the ‘hype’ but I was happy to pay $50 (including tip) for this meal. It was awesome, down to every side dish, crouton, and iced tea. I am trying feverishly to recreate my meal, especially the Mousse Cake. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I indulged every bit of this creamy confection. I not only recommend, but I insist you visit Tavern on the Green on your next visit!
Piola Pizza 48 E 12th St (West Village, between University and Broadway) We were trying to meet up with Barrett in Tribeca, so we got off the subway near Washington Square Park and found Piola. Chipotle-looking kind of place, with high industrial ceilings, simple tables, and chrome fixtures. The pizza was yummy- I ordered mine with artichokes, of course. I also enjoyed a cold bottle of Peroni Italian birra (that’s beer to you non-sophisticates- just kidding). Dinner was only $11, not bad. I would say this is a great choice if you want something inexpensive, easy and you’re in the neighborhood.
The Other Room 143 Perry St (West Village, between Washington and Greenwich St) Still trying to meet up with Barrett, we find this bar in the Village. Not my cup of tea. It was very dark, crowded, and kinda boring. I think you had to be an Arts major at NYU to enter. We stuck out like sore thumbs. The plus? There was a dog there. He was cute.
The Bubble Lounge 228 West Broadway (Tribeca, near Hudson St) www.bubblelounge.com We finally meet up with Barrett! It was good to see him, and I met his girlfriend Allison. He seems very happy, which in turn makes me happy. The Bubble Lounge was a cool place. Comfy, retro couches and armchairs; mirrors and lighting make the décor open up. A great place to hang out and chat with friends, but the music pumping keeps your adrenaline up. I paid $7 for a Stoli Razz and 7Up which is pretty standard in NYC. Check it out
Petite Abelle 134 West Broadway (Tribeca) www.petiteabeille.com This little Belgian bar was exactly what we needed to end our night. Heather had a peach beer that cost her $14, but she seemed quite happy with it. The deejay was the hit of the party though- he spun some great tunes and could really keep people dancing, but he also showed off his skills on the horn! He pulled out a trumpet a few times and wailed with the song. He was phenomenal, this was a very enjoyable place.
Europa www.europatogo.com You can find a Europa on every third block in Manhattan. The food will remind you of Panera- sandwiches, soup, fruit, fun bottled beverages. It’s cafeteria style, so you don’t have to wait on anyone to serve you. My seafood bisque soup was surprisingly appetizing! Lunch cost me $8.00- I won’t complain!
Rocky’s 45 Spring St (Little Italy, between Mulberry and Mott) Meghan’s Aunt and Uncle came in to the city to visit, and they suggested Italian. Heather remembered a place she had been so we trudged through rain and wind to get down to Little Italy. (The rain was miserable- the whole day had been very, well, wet! I felt like I could wring out my skin). We find Rocky’s and step in the door to about 7 tables. Very small place, but not crowded at all so we sit right away. I ordered an artichoke salad and chicken parmesan with vegetables. It was a wonderful meal- we were all so stuffed. Very authentic sauces, the vegetables were ‘a scapece’ and prepared perfectly, and the bread was a welcomed accompaniment. I highly recommend Rocky’s!!
Ferrara 195 Grand St (Little Italy, between Mulberry and Mott) www.ferraracafe.com After dinner, we strolled through Little Italy. There was a street festival commencing- The Feast of San Gennaro, as the rain had finally let up! Dave & Linda led us to a ‘pasticceria’ for dessert. Again, with the sweet tooth… but I must say this was the best cheesecake I had ever had. It was a perfect buttery, crumb crust; the consistency of the cheese was lush and velvety, and the strawberries were full and fresh. Heather had a trio of mini desserts and it was very presentable- she also seemed happy with the taste. Here’s a little tidbit of info- Ferrara’s is America’s First Espresso Bar, as it opened in 1892! They had a wide selection of take home items- canoli, biscotti, chocolate covered things, truffles, and more. If you’re already having dinner at Rocky’s there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stop at Ferrara!
Ono at Hotel Gansevoort 18 9th Ave (Meatpacking District, btwn 13th St and Little W 12th) www.hotelgansevoort.com The meatpacking district is ‘where it’s at’ right now. (I got two turn-tables and a microphone…. anyone, anyone?) We got all fancied up and headed down there. We weren’t sure where to go, but there was a line outside this one place, so we figured it must be good! We did wait a while, but eventually, we get through the door and are escorted to an elevator, going up to PH (that would be Penthouse, kids). We step off the elevator to a very posh, very crowded club. There are a lot of reserved areas, so we go towards the bar and order a drink. Drinks were expensive there- I paid $14 for a Vodka tonic. There was a rooftop patio we wanted to check out. It was cold and damp up there, but the view was awesome. The sky had cleared a little and we could see a ways up the Hudson. I wasn’t super impressed with this venue, HOWEVER if it was warmer and not Friday night it may have made a huge difference.
Prime Burger 5 E 51st St (btwn Madison and 5th) I did a lot of research before we left and this place kept popping up on my searches for ‘Best Burger in New York’. I know why. It was a diner-style place, nothing fancy about it. Paper signs hung on the wall, a window to pick up your food. I ordered simple- Cheeseburger, fries, and Peach Snapple. The burgers came out quickly- they were hot and juicy on a toasty warm bun. The taste was very good- but honestly not the best burger I have ever had. What I liked about this burger is that it was the perfect size, so I didn’t feel full, and it was reasonably priced. My entire meal cost me $9.00. It’s in a popular part of town, so stop in after a day of shopping on 5th Avenue
Harbor Lights Cruise Pier 83 Alright, so we got a little touristy. I am a sucker for these kind of things, so on the ferry we went. We paid $23 for our guided tour, and it was worth every penny. We departed from pier 83 and cruised down the Hudson at twilight. Our guide, David Parker who lives in Queens and was not at work on 9/11 or The Blackout, was super annoying. I say this through clenched teeth and balled up fists. The context of his tour was not bad- we learned a lot of fun little facts, and he was great about pointing out things for us, but his own comedic antecdotes were making me queasy. We sailed up the East River, about as far north as the Queensboro Bridge, and back down. This time, we went around the Statue of Liberty and she was a sight to see in the night lights of the city. It was beautiful- everyone kind of hushed as we passed Lady Liberty. Circle Line offers several cruises- I would recommend taking any of them except the dinner cruise. You’ll miss too much while you’re eating.
After the cruise let out, we (along with hundreds of other people) went out to the street to find a cab. It was hard to catch one, so there were a lot of private drivers trying to get a fare. I would normally STRONGLY caution you against taking a ‘black cab’ or a towncar, but we were anxious to get on with our night. So, this guy named Richard found us and we decided to get in. Let me just say one word- creepy. He was driving really slow and talking to us, asking us weird questions. He kept looking at us in the rearview mirror and turning around and gawking at us. I felt like I needed a shower when he dropped us off.
Gray’s Papaya 539 8th Ave (Midtown, at 37th St, by Madison Square Garden) This is my favorite place to eat when I’m in New York. I won’t leave the city unless I’ve had a Gray’s Papaya hot dog. Don’t let yourself be fooled- there are many imitators of this place (for instance, Papaya King). There are only 3 Gray’s Papaya original locations in NYC, make sure you check one out. It’s a little hot dog stand, there aren’t even tables in there. You can get it plain, with sauerkraut, or chili. They also have really great smoothies. My dinner- which consisted of two hot dogs and a smoothie- cost me $2.75. Can’t beat it, folks. Hands down, my absolute favorite food stop.
The Village Underground 130 W 3rd St (Greenwich Village, btwn 6th Ave and MacDougal) I found this dance club online before we left, and it caught my attention because of the type of music they play. Techno/ House music is very common in clubs in NYC, and it’s just not my thing. I can’t dance to it and I certainly can’t sing to it. The Village Underground promised hip hop and some 80’s stuff. Bitchin. We walk in to a rather dark, kinda smelly club. Immediately I judge and I want to leave. We order some drinks and start to loosen up. I step on the dance floor and it’s like a natural reaction- my body just goes with the music. You may have seen me, and if you have, you know I can’t dance. But I love the energy- I love the bass thumping, I love the pulse of the people around you. The deejay here was awesome, and really knew how to mix to keep people moving with the tempo. The setting, once you get past the drab entryway, had Hundreds of miniature, reflective glass domes that cast a warm light on the crowd of hipsters, if you will. Make time for this place, you won’t be disappointed.
Manatus 340 Bleecker (Greenwich Village, btwn 10th St and Christopher) www.manatus.net This 24 hour Greek restaurant/ bar/ deli is terrific for breakfast. Slightly expensive, I paid $14 for a perfect 100% fresh-squeezed (squozen) orange juice, eggs, hashed browns, and bacon. It was delicious- served very hot and fast. Great choice if you’re in the village- get up early for breakfast and spend the day checking out the quirky shops in the neighborhood.
We had pizza for dinner at a place on 3rd Avenue. I know it was between 43rd and 44th street, but I don’t remember the name of the place. It was good, of course I put artichokes on mine, and I got a salad and a Snapple for $7.
We were able to score decent seats for a Broadway show- Mamma Mia! at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theater. ($63 each) This may have been my favorite thing that we did all week. Mamma Mia is quite kitcschy, but irresistibly so- as the kind of story where young lovers live happily ever after, and old lovers get a second chance. It was funny, light, and energetic. And who can’t appreciate ABBA on stage? Certainly not I.
Since we’re talking about Broadway, I should tell you about getting tickets to a show. I have not had much luck with getting good tickets at the TKTS booth. I also do not recommend buying any tickets in advance, unless there is something you REALLY want to see. We usually pick up a guide that showcases all the shows running and we just go to the theater. Ask for a Sunday matinee, you should be able to get a good price.
We walked across town to the Empire State Building, where we paid $16 to visit the Observatory. I was pleased that we didn’t have much of a line, and the night was relatively clear. I had never been up in the observatory, so this was a treat for me. I could have spent hours there, just gazing off into the lights of the city below. My favorite piece of NYC architecture, the Chrysler Building, stood tall and aglow against the sky. It was beautiful… I have a ton of pictures to prove it. Being up that high, there was a touch of fog, so the pictures aren’t perfect, but they serve their purpose. This is a must when on your first trip to New York.
O’Neills 729 3rd Ave (Tudor City, btwn 45th and 46th) www.irishpubny.com Irish pub O’Neills served as the perfect laid-back ending to our busy tourist day. Upon walking in, we were greeted with the light tunes of Van Morrison, later the Beatles, Bon Jovi, and Billy Joel. I found myself right at home at O’Neills, with the friendly bartender, easy-going crowd, and warm atmosphere. I enjoyed Stella Artois beer on draft for $7.
The next morning, we attempted (and failed) to get up early once again, to visit the Statue of Liberty. We took the ferry (for $11.50) from Battery Park on this rather warm September day over to Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands tall and proud. I love the story of how Lady Liberty came to the New York harbor, and can still be in awe at the beauty of this statue. It really does stand for so much- generosity, independence, pride, freedom…. a must-see.
I was less impressed, however, with Ellis Island. I thought I would be able to view the signatures and records of my family members that passed through here in the early 1900s, but you have to pay and make reservations to do so. It was more like a museum. I may have enjoyed it more had I known what to expect.
Georges and Sons 89 Greenwich St (Financial District, at corner of Rector St) Nothing to write home about, Georges offers a large menu of typical deli-style food. Service was pleasant, but slow, perhaps our Swedish waitress was new. I ordered a reuben sandwich and fries, for $15. I will say the portions won’t leave you hungry- the sandwich was so large it was a mess. Tasty and well-prepared, but how badly can you screw up a reuben?
After lunch, we took the time to visit Ground Zero. I haven’t been there since 2003, and it has changed so much. They’ve built a subway station again underneath, and have decorated it with artwork from children whose parents perished in the attacks. It’s strange, because some people easily breeze through there on their way to work, but when I was there, it felt like my world had stopped. I couldn’t fight back tears as I read the ‘Heroes of 9/11’ list and browsed the photos and artwork.
Riviera Café 225 w 4th St (Greenwich Village, btwn 4th St and 7th Ave, near Sheridan Square) www.rivieracafe.citysearch.com The setting of this Sports Bar is what caught our attention. The Riviera Café sits at the point of an intersection, and they put a triangle-size space of concrete to good use as an outdoor patio. It was a beautiful night, we chose to dine al fresco. We wanted to eat light, so we each ordered a salad (Four Greens salad with grilled chicken; delicious)- and Meg and I shared quesadillas. The menu was rather savory, they offer plenty of options that kinda make me hungry right now…. The quesadillas were a little ‘oniony’, but otherwise good.The highlight- Sangrias! See the picture on Shutterfly. We look happy. $23 for dinner. My only complaint- very poor service. The waiter was not only slow, but unfriendly and inattentive. Boo.
The Comedy Cellar 117 MacDougal St (Greenwich Village, btwn 3rd St and Minetta) www.comedycellar.com $10 gets you into this venue. You promise to purchase two additional menu items (food, drink, whatever) during the show. Our particular show, hosted by the ever-funny Ardie Fuqua (www.myspace.ardiefuqua.com), was well worth the admission. We were presented by 6 comedians, each offering a very funny, very different bit. If you like to laugh, check out The Comedy Cellar. If you don’t like to laugh, you should at least go there for a cocktail.
Normas at Le Parker Meridien 118 W 57th St (Midtown, btwn 6th and 5th Avenues) www.parkermeridien.com/normas Le Parker Meridian is a sophisticated hotel, offering modern New York ambience and décor and Norma’s, the in-house brunch restaurant, mirrors that. Expect to pay, but it’s a nice treat. I had eggs, potatoes, sourdough toast with delectable jellies, and a side of sausage. Add a fresh-squeezed orange juice (not as good as Manatus), pay $37 and you’ve got my Norma’s experience. The menu almost glorifies breakfast, with items such as mango-papaya brown butter cinnamon crepes, foie gras brioche French toast, $4 a pot french press coffee, and a shrimp, tomato and egg white frittata. Read the reviews for yourself, don’t just take my word for it.
We concluded our trip to my favorite city in my favorite way… Central Park. I enjoy people-watching, I get it from my grandmother, and we did a great deal of that in the park. I took a little snooze on a park bench while Heather poisoned Meghan with limp plumper. We strolled up through ‘the mall’ and enjoyed the trees while the leaves were just about ready to change color. We sat at Bethesda Terrace and ran into a very cool band, the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn. Check em out at www.myspace.com/thebluevipersofbrooklyn. Featuring tenor sax, bass, and washboard; we were graced with a rendition of ‘All of Me’ and several other catchy tunes. We climbed some rocks, and thought about taking a buggy ride. It was nice to just relax and soak it all in. And say goodbye, once more, to the Big Apple.