New York, New York!
My apologies for vanishing these past couple of weeks.
I've been busy travelling about; eating and drinking my way into another dimension. My most recent excursion was a 5 day visit to NYC (to which, I'd never been), and it was everything I imagined and more. I highly recommend that everyone visit this city at some point. You will be dazzled by its sheer immensity, the cultural diversity, the culinary journeys and surprisingly friendly people (as a Canadian, this means something).
I'm usually the kind of person who prepares for travel by making full itineraries down to the hour, however, the main purpose of this trip was to visit friends, so I made room for spontaneity. Because my adventures were so spontaneous and sporadic, I've outlined all of the destinations that I visited by boroughs and areas, rather than in chronological order. Most of these destinations are dedicated to food and drink, because I'm obsessed with food and NY is the place to get fat -- don't be surprised if you have to unbutton your pants on a subway at some point in your life!
You can't not go to Central Park when visiting New York; this was probably one of my favourite spots that we visited. We rented bikes - 20 USD for 2 hours - at the Merchant's Gate entrance. This was the perfect amount of time for us to bike around the entire park, make some stops for pictures and, full disclosure, catch our breath.
The park is a really neat way to see how the architecture differs from borough to borough, each having their own unique charm. You will also find cool sculptures, ponds, memorials (especially the John Lennon memorial), and street performers, throughout the park. It's a peaceful spot in the midst of the chaotic bustle of the city, where you can have a sneaky wine-soaked picnic and stalk some strangers' dogs. Could you really want for more?
Right at the southend of central park, Midtown is a hot spot for tourists and all that attracts them. There are some really exquisite buildings in this area - very "Mad Men" era. In just a short walk around the blocks, you will see Madison Square Garden, Penn station, Empire State Building, Time Square, Rockefeller Center, Broadway and Radio City! So, if you're looking for the "typical" New York experience, you won't want to miss this spot.
First thing's first: check out the Chelsea Market. You can literally find any kind of food there, along with cute wine shops and other fun vendors. We grabbed breakfast here and some cappuccinos from Kava café (great coffee), and strolled around this hip, up-and-coming neighbourhood.
You also should visit the High Line if you're in the neighbourhood. It is this old, elevated rail line that has been turned into a walking trail and runs along west Manhattan. In my opinion, this is the best way to take in an elevated view of the city, as you can stay outside and walk the trail, rather than stand in line for an elevator.
Right under the High Line, is a restaurant called Santina. Do yourself a favour and go here. This place is cooler than the other side of the pillow. We tried to get in for their C-R-A-Z-Y Sunday brunch, but ended up just grabbing capps and cocktails because it was bananas busy. The whole atmosphere is fun and bright, the menus (both food and beverage), were incredible and I will never get over the cocktails I had here. If you're looking for a hot spot to splurge on brunch, you will not be let down by Santina.
I spent a lot of time in the Village because I was staying in the area, and there was no shortage of places to go. Each day, I tried a new coffee shop and my favourite, by far, was Merriweather Coffee and Kitchen. It is an Australian Café (with Aussie workers and all), with *the perfect* espresso blend. They also have really great food with healthier options, such as avocado toast, oatmeal, quinoa bowls, salads.... I'd eat here every day if I lived in the Village.
Some of my other favourite places to eat in the Village were:
- Bleecker St Pizza: best for late night bites
- Big Gay Ice Cream: do yourself a favour and get some rocky road
- The Happiest Hour: no joke, this place has THE BEST old fashioned burgers and fries that I've ever had. They also have killer cocktails (Mai Tais on tap, anyone?!) - the best we had were Pineapple Express and Mango Mango. It is also necessary that you try their Bonsai Chicken Bites.
- Tacombi: 10/10 would eat my last meal here. There are a couple different locations in New York - I went to the Bleecker St location. They serve Mexican street food with refreshing, delicious margaritas. The best thing on the menu is hands down, the corn esquites. Their crispy fish tacos were also to die for, and they had super cool house-made sauces for topping.
- Rosemary's: Another amazing place to stop in, especially for brunch. If I could do it again, I'd get a big group together and split pretty much everything on the menu. Everything was amazing; they really know how to put on a spread here. Maybe it was the mimosas talking, but nothing rivals their Lemon Ricotta Bombolinis.
There are so many cool shops here - clothing, antiques... I even found a trendy stationary shop (who knew?). We stopped at this charming and tiny, corner wine shop a couple of times (there are many like this around the city), called Pop the Cork. They had a large selection in all price ranges, and the very chill, hippy salesman was rather helpful.
If you're into folk music, you can stop at 7th Avenue (from Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer"), or check out the crosswalk from Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" - pictured on his album cover The Freewheelin'.
If you stop by the beautiful Washington Square Park, you might witness a strange man training, petting and kissing pigeons - welcome to New York! And, one cannot forget fan-girling in front of the Friends apartment, located at 90 Bedford St.
I spent very little time here, but there was a really interesting mix of grungy buildings with impressive street art, and really gorgeous buildings in calm residential streets. My main purpose for being on this side of town was my quest for ramen... and Oh. My. God. Cannot recommend enough, Ivan Ramen. I won't get into the story about this place, but I implore you to look into it on your own, as I found it really interesting. The creator of Ivan Ramen was featured on the Netflix series, Chef's Table... for now obvious reasons. Everything I ordered was crushable: Kyuri pickles, Japanese fried chicken (favourite dish from here), steamed pork buns, and Tokyo Shoyu Ramen. Even their sake and beer menus were to perfection.
Tribeca & Financial District
Like Midtown, this is another area in which you can wander around and see many renowned attractions. There is Wall Street, Trinity Church, and Battery park (from which you can see/take ferries to, the statue of liberty). My personal favourite part of this area was our visit to Ground Zero, the 9/11 memorial. It touched me in a way that I did not expect; hats off to whoever designed this memorial. It makes a strong, compelling, heart-wrenching statement. One that acknowledges each life that was lost, and artfully but solemnly, resembles the falling of the towers and their disappearance into nothing. You can choose to do a guided tour, however, I really felt that the immensity of it all was best experienced through my own reflection.
My favourite day of this trip was spent in Brooklyn. It was a surreal experience to cross the Brooklyn Bridge and just look back at the huge Manhattan skyline. Once over the bridge, it was much quieter than Manhattan!
We immediately took an Uber to Williamsburg, which is apparently the hipster and foodie capital. I was most impressed by the street art and the little outdoor vendors, selling jewellery and crafts. There were a lot of unique clothing stores in the area, and yes, MANY foodie spots.
With a heavy craving for Szechuan, my friends and I located an incredible little spot called Birds of a Feather. This place did not disappoint! Everything was perfect, down to their plateware. I had a beautiful Pouilly Fumé, that paired wonderfully with our vegetable potsticker starters (favourite dish of the entire meal). Their steamed soup buns were also a big hit, along with their jasmine perfumed Kung Pao chicken and double cooked pork!
Post dinner, we did some more window shopping and found a couple of good drink spots. We had cocktails at Fresh Kills Bar, and then a round of beers at Mugs Alehouse.
Though I didn't spend a significant amount of time in other boroughs, the ones that I found most noteworthy while passing through were SoHo, NoLIta and Harlem.
'Til next time...
It is evident that my first trip to New York was a pretty indulgent one (but it's cool cause I prob walked off all those calories). While it feels like half my time was spent eating, I did get in a ton of sightseeing and visiting with my pals. Grateful to have had my own friend as a tour guide - we were able to jam a lot into 5 days! Next time, I hope to check out even more: The Met, Museum of Natural History, some broadway shows, comedy shows, drag shows, etc!
Until next time, New York!