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

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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.

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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.

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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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