Here’s the thing, city travel isn’t my favorite, but I’ll embrace my urban fever like the best of them. Cities provide intense education on the diversity and transportation of the area you’re in and don’t even get me started on the food! I’ll get to that obsession in a minute. Even though it’s a hectic mess, I usually don’t regret the experience of a metropolis, as long as I don’t stay too long.
New York City is no exception. In NYC, I get it-there’s a lot to choose from. New York City is filled with BIG Americana, in every direction, some of which is overdone and wasteful, and some of which you must respect. The statement you can make in itself is that you don’t live where you don’t want to live, but whenever someone complains about NYC, I like to remind them of Las Vegas. It is the epitome of overdone, overuse, and abuse on every level. When I’m traveling outside of my country, I consider it one of the most embarrassing parts of being American; I can’t understand why it’s in the top three American destinations from outsiders. At least New York has history that matters. While it is an abomination of population, it’s message is clear: freedom rules and diversity combined with freedom rules even more. Sure, the other message is that Americans are disgusting consumers, but let’s not focus on that part right now.
Speaking of consuming, let’s get back to the topic of food. I have always loved food while traveling. I like experimenting with my taste buds, and learning about the other place’s specialties. I like hanging with cooks or hired hands or anyone else for that matter who knows about the local flavors at hand. Lately, I’ve become a bit obsessed with that mission and it seems to be one of the most important things that I must tackle while traveling, especially when I’m in a city.
For what’s it worth, here are a few suggestions for a NYC visit, food and otherwise:
First of all, go there. It’s amazing to me how many local people haven’t gone there, or don’t know much about it; there is a bunch of rivalry between inhabitants of Brooklyn and Manhattan. But, if you’re lucky enough to know a local, the best part about that is usually the food. Cities are full of great food options, but it’s great when you can narrow it down successfully. Thanks to Micheal Golden, who resides in Brooklyn, I had great food experiences:
This is a small bbq joint in Williamsburg, a trendy, hipster neighborhood of Brooklyn. It reminded me of your typical college town except that it was larger. The streets are lined with local shops, pubs, and restaurants, and while I’m not an expert on hip locations, the best part about this one is that I saw zero chains there. It had a very localvore feel to it. Fette Sau is in what use to be an old mechanic garage, equipped with the original garage door. When you walk in, you’ll see a butcher-style counter, a bar, and a bunch of people, eating at communal tables. They have a specialized menu of meats and a few sides and you order your choice by the lb., which is then served to you on a large silver tray. Next to the food counter is this amazing bar, full of a few local brews and some others, one of which is called Six Point. Brooklyn has only two breweries, but Six Point was my favorite. The other specialty of the bar: whiskey and bourbon.
There’s one place in Anchorage that might have as many brands as this one, but this place was stocked! Once you sit down, you can educate yourself about the sauces that they make on sight. You slop the sauce onto your shared tray, mix in some of the best baked beans you’ve had in your life, and you’re in bbq heaven. Combine that with good conversation and great tunes in the background, and you’re feeling like a rock star. You can also get your growlers or jugs filled on site, but the unique thing about that in Brooklyn is that you can then sit down and drink it right there. I asked a local about them drinking it on site, explaining that it is illegal in Alaska and he was telling me that he was from Mississippi and the same was true there, but that “In Brooklyn, no one gives a shit.” I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be in love with a bbq joint in NYC (I’m a bbq snob from the south), but hands down, it’s some of the best I’ve had on the east coast and the atmosphere reminded me of being in Europe. Not to be missed.
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge
Not only is the bridge an amazing accomplishment, they’ve taken care of the walking/biking pathway, which only takes you around 20 minutes to walk. It’s cool to be able to see the financial district, the Manhattan bridge, the water, and Ms. liberty from that perspective. A great treat for anyone looking for some fun photography and a different mode of travel while in the city and it’s free. Way cooler than being on the subway all of the time, walking the bridge to your next destination is a treat.
A tiny joint located off Hoyt St. in the downtown area of Brooklyn, the Mile End is another place where you can get your meat on in the city! It too specializes its menu down to the essentials of what it is good at: sandwiches. They have a brunch menu as well, but we didn’t get there in time for that; however, if you are wanting to experience a good city deli, this is your ticket. In addition to that, I had the best coffee of the trip at this place, a local roaster known as Strumptown. Reasonable prices and fast service, but be prepared for a wait. It is well worth it.
Another highlight of Brooklyn:
A tiny garage style bar with great music, and some good local brewery selections. Not your typical bar, and it’s tucked away in downtown Brooklyn. There is also a fire pit outside, which is a rare treat in the city!
The New York City Metro
Figuring the subway system out is the tricky part, but once you do, it’s a golden thing. I hadn’t been to Grand Central Station before, but it’s quite a cool atmosphere, which also provides you with yet another amazing dining experience. The dining concourse goes on forever, and features local variety and expertise in all sorts of food, anything from bakeries to Indian food to Italian-it’s there. The architecture of the grand is a sight to see and gives you a break from the typical subway stops. Other than getting you to places fast, the other thing that the metro provides you with is entertainment. If you’re into music, you’ll be into the subway. I saw a reggae mixer, a brass band, all sorts of solo performers, and even an Opera singer. Union Square station seems to be a pretty popular spot for the big shows and you should check those out. Be prepared for forced performances on the actual subway as well, including interesting begging, bums telling long stories, and “college” students selling snacks. For me, the metro represented what America is all about and even though I’ve grown up seeing street performers, the mass quantity of them in the metro is something that makes you ponder about our country. You had the artists working for their dreams, and the oppressed begging for something better. Regardless, it’s America in your face.
Greenwich Village and The Comedy Cellar
The village is another hipster location in the city, home to many New York University students and musicians trying to make it. When it comes to the Manhattan area, I could have narrowed it down to many other things, but of all the areas we visited, this was on my must do list, and ended up being one of the highlights of the trip for me. It was on my list primarily for the Comedy Cellar, which has gained immense popularity due to Louis CK’s show and success. I wanted to go to a real comedy club and going to the Comedy Cellar wasn’t that complicated. If you’re interested in seeing a good comedy show, I recommend the place, but make sure you get reservations ahead of time through their website. Located off MacDougal St. in Greenwich, you have to stand in the reservation line, but they’ll come to you about seating, and if you’re lucky, there will be front row seats left. We ended up getting the last front row table, and because the comedians pick on you, it makes for a more personal show.
The joint is very small and people are crammed in there elbow to elbow, but they run an efficient club with some decent service, considering the fact that they run 4 shows on the weekend nights, back to back. With your reservation, you can also visit the dance club called Fat Black Pussycat, and get a drink for half off plus no cover charge to the basement dance hall, which normally goes for $50 bucks. Worth a visit, it has some good hip hop that will make you get your groove on for a bit, if you’re into that sort of thing.
You really can’t go wrong with eating in the city, but there is as much chain crap as local goodness so make sure you’re supporting the locals while there because the ones that are making it have had to work very hard to stay alive.
Aroma is located in East Village and is an Italian eatery and wine bar. It has a fabulous wine list and while I’m no expert, I was happy to see the fat list full of a variety of Italian grapes. The wine will run you up a bit, but you can get bottles anywhere from $45-300. If money is a barrier, you won’t be disappointed with their by the glass menu either. The interior of the place has a romantic appeal as it is an old white stoned house that has been renovated for the restaurant’s purposes. Aroma provides a quaint atmosphere that is not overly done, and its menu is full of flavors. If you’re into Italian food, check it out.
Now, not on this suggestion list is one mention of some historical and educational spots, but that’s because I know you’ll go to some of those, and getting those accomplished is a lot easier than narrowing down your food selections. Seeing a show, taking pictures of Ms. Liberty, doing some of the museums, figuring out which tourist trap locations you really do want to experience-all of those things will most likely happen because people like to have those experiences in their own way. Some people will go to the museums while others will try to hit all of the important monuments. If you’re like me, you don’t do a ton of that, and will narrow it down to some key wishes. Whatever you want your NYC trip to be like, I hope this lists helps you with some decision-making.
Here is to our next city adventures. If I’m lucky, that will be in Central America! Thanks for stopping by.