empire state of mind

I’m one of those people who wants to do the most cliché things when I travel (which might just be the dictionary’s definition of ‘tourist’).

For example, in Key West last January, I absolutely had to order a slice of key lime pie. I wasn’t  hungry, and it was ridiculously overpriced, but this didn’t stop me from being a total cliché-snob, singing Jimmy Buffet with my pie in Margaritaville.

Brooklyn Bridge


Whenever I go to Tennessee, not only do I make it a point to drink sweet tea and whiskey the entire duration of the trip, but I also insist on posing in front of vintage pick-up trucks and flowery fields (I’ve also had to fight ticks off my calves while doing this, which has made me wonder, is this game even worth it?).

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My disorder is usually no different when I visit New York City. I’m not quite as bad as the tourists wearing Lady Liberty hats on the ferry to Ellis Island, but I do desire to haggle for purses and hail a cab as much as the next suburbanite. On this trip, in addition to stealing gorgeous views of the Brooklyn Bridge and grabbing hotdogs in Central Park, I also tasted my fair share of New York-style pizza at both Grimaldi’s and Artichoke Basille’s. We walked a bit of the high line, photographed the city’s most recent blooms, and shopped around the Chelsea Market. I even went for a massage at the Chelsea Piers Sports Center. But while the more traditional things are a must for a first-timer visiting NYC, it’s also good to keep in mind that New York is a city with thousands of little easter eggs hidden throughout its streets. There is always something different to see, to do, and (most importantly, for me) to eat.

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With this in mind, I gladly surrendered my trite ideas and took the lead of my city-dweller friends, Tommy and Nathaniel. On our first evening together we watched local artists play at BAM, braved the subway (my first time), and enjoyed cold beer at a laid-back joint known for its Mexican-style corn, Brooklyn’s Habana Outpost. We capped-off the night with a walk down the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. But the weekend didn’t stop there.


After Central Park on Saturday, we jaunted over to Magnolia Bakery on Columbus Avenue for cupcakes and a tub of their addictive banana pudding–layers of pudding, slices of the fresh fruit itself, and chunks of moist banana bread, (which I look very forward to replicating soon). My sweet tooth also got the better of me at Momofuku Milk Bar–a truly unique place where I purchased blueberry & cream cookies (which I had made earlier this month), and an indulgent slice of candy bar pie. We relaxed at PIER i CAFE to watch the sunset, before heading to McSorley’s Old Ale House in East Village, the oldest Irish tavern in NYC. The place was packed around 6:00, but we were immediately greeted by the friendly staff and guided to a table partially-occupied by what appeared to be well-seasoned New Yorkers. In their Yankee hats and matching accents, they began a short conversation of “Which do you prefer, light or dark?” Four half-pints of dark ale arrived shortly after.MagnoliaIMG_0746PicMonkey Collage4momofuku

We finished Saturday night at Jersey City’s Barcade–a bar with two dozen American beers on tap, lined wall-to-wall with 1980’s arcade games. Call me a nerd, but few things sound better to me than a round of Edmund Fitzgerald and a game of Donkey Kong classic. Walking the streets of Jersey  afterwards while singing T.V. theme songs in harmony wasn’t too bad, either.


On Sunday, we found good Mexican eats and ambiance at Jersey City’s Orale Mexican Kitchen, where we enjoyed steak tacos and just-right margaritas. Hot spots visited in West Village on Sunday evening include: Orient Express–an old-world cocktail bar with an elegant train car vibe, and soft jazz to carry it out; The Spotted Pig –a warm, yet whimsical restaurant (with a prominent pig theme!), serving seasonal British and Italian food, fresh oysters, and a variety of cocktails; and Frankie’s–a true Italian restaurant opened by friends Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli in 2004.


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