“My favorite thing about New York is the people, because I think they’re misunderstood. I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are.” ~Bill Murray
I lived in Manhattan for a year after college and have been traveling there my entire life (dad being a native and all). Still though, the experience is different each and every time I visit. Sure, it’s crowded and dirty and loud, but the city has such grit–in a good way–and energy and truth. Don’t get me wrong, without a second home or millions of dollars, I wouldn’t want to live there permanently, yet a little part of my heart will always belong to New York City.
Sometimes I like to play tourist, other times local. On my most recent visit, over Halloween weekend, it was probably more touristy, and one of my favorites.
I flew up after work on a Thursday afternoon and had just enough time to drop my bag at my aunt’s apartment before walking–my favorite head down, brisk walk that’s only acceptable in NYC–to a delicious Upper West Side restaurant called Bustan. Despite its small size, they were quite accommodating of our large (8 person) group. The food though… THE FOOD WAS DELICIOUS! I don’t think you can go wrong, but be sure to get the spicy feta dip. Ah-mazing! Out of all those people, everyone was happy, if not thrilled, with the food and drinks. Yum!
An undisclosed amount of alcohol may have contributed to a late start on Friday. We did, however, manage to cram a lot into the remainder of the day… starting with Artie’s Delicatessen–a quintessential NYC deli/diner with deliciously fresh omelettes. Then the bikes…
If you don’t happen to travel with a bike, you can rent one from Citi Bikes, which are EVERYWHERE. There’s even an app to track pick-up and return sites–important since some are usually empty, while others are too full to accept a return.
I used to live on the Upper West Side, so that’s where I prefer to stay when visiting. Such a beautiful part of the city, sandwiched between Riverside and Central Parks, for
speed walking strolling and bike riding. We set off down Riverside Park on a gorgeous day, stopping occasionally at the piers along the way to the World Trade Center site.
This was my first visit since the completion of the memorial/museum/Freedom Tower. Time constraints would only allow us to wait in one long line and recalling a memorable visit to the Empire State Building observation deck, we opted to go to the top of the One World Trade Center. You can, and should, buy tickets online before going. That being said, time sometimes gets away from you in New York, so should you find yourself down there without a ticket, buy them online (with your smart phone) instead of waiting in the physical line to purchase tickets.
I won’t blow the little surprise you get at the top–which is great–and the view is amazing, but it’s a little more theme parkey up there than I would like. Also, the observation deck is windowed, unlike the Empire State Building, making pictures full of glare. So, though it has a great view and is a large, wonderful, symbolic F-you to terrorists, it doesn’t have the romance of the ESB. Perhaps the tallest building in the Western hemisphere doesn’t need to be romantic, but I don’t think Disneyland-ish is the right atmosphere either. All that being said, go ahead and go up, just to say you did.
Rather than supply a narrative about how I got from one place to eat and drink to another, I’ll just give you a descriptive list for the blur that was the next day and a half.
“There is something in the the New York air that makes sleep useless.” ~Simone de Beauvior
UWS Indian Food
I couldn’t decide whether to include this meal in my list of things to do. It’s not necessarily something I’d recommend, or do again when in NYC, BUT it’s cheap! And decent. Located on the Upper West Side, Alachi Masala is a byob restaurant, making for a rare, cheap, full meal in the city. I left completely full and paid $24! Of course, that doesn’t include the wine I brought with me… but still. Definitely not the best Indian food I’ve ever had, but it is good (except for the salad), and the price is great.
If you haven’t walked the Highline, you must! DO NOT, however, do it after brunch on a weekend. I had a photo shoot there years ago, at 7 am (see here and here)–a time when weekend NY is surreal and empty. Sadly, the relationship didn’t last, but aren’t those photos fabulous? Anyway, I digress… go to the Highline at an off-hour. It’s such a unique, beautiful place. If you’re lucky, you’ll see something scandalous while glancing up at the Standard Hotel windows.
Queen of the Night
When I was told we were going to Queen of the Night on Halloween, I can’t say I was excited. Though I heard it was unique and great and crazy, I just couldn’t imagine that it actually was worth $200. Fast forward to getting to wear my blue bob wig with a fascinator/birdcage veil headpiece, and I was pretty excited. So, long story short, there are surprises, weird things, hot things, amazing things, and the dinner is actually really delicious. If you’re looking for something different, but still show-ish, go see Queen of the Night. Wear something fabulous and fancy.
Sadly, I had never heard of Cafe Wha prior to going there… and my mom and aunt are the ones who introduced me to it! Please look beyond the fact that it’s in a basement, packed with people, and has stiflingly low ceilings. If you go at a busy time, you’ll wait in line until space opens up, then be escorted through a packed room to your table. Some how, some way, the wait staff is able to navigate through all of this and actually take orders, but more importantly, bring drinks without spilling them. I’ve recently become obsessed with pickelbacks and had a few of those. The truffle fries aren’t to be missed either. You could take away all of that though, and people would still go for the house band. NEVER, ever in my life have I seen such a fabulous cover band. Ever. They play current music, classics, Latin, 90s, 80s, whatever, and they do it amazingly well! I love live music and have seen more than my fair share, but this was really special. Located in the Village, it’s so worth going. Thank you, Comedy Cellar, for being sold out.
The best picture of the weekend:
“As for New York City, it is a place apart. There is not its match in any other country in the world.” ~Pearl S. Buck
See you soon, New York. I totally heart you.