"Did you visit the Statue of Liberty?"
"Did you walk in Central Park?"
"Did you go to the top of the Empire State Building?"
I'll give you three guesses...
This most recent trip solidified the fact that I will always go to New York City to eat. Any other pursuits take a backseat for me when I visit NYC, a city that is picky (in the most wonderful way) about the quality, artistry and authenticity of its food. Luckily, there is also much walking and shopping - both excellent activities for working up an appetite.
Rather than bore you with a slideshow type point-by-point rundown of my trip (not that you get to know *every* point anyway!), I'll instead present a list of the best, best, best and a couple of the overrated...
Ideya Latin Bistro
"Home of the Perfect Mojito"
349 West Broadway/SoHo
See that motto? It really is perfect. After one of those blissful drinks, I stepped outside for a smoke and watched a young man shadowdancing to the salsa music pouring out of the restaurant. SoHo is so alive, and this place is so SoHo. (a word of warning, however: cheap chardonnay + top shelf mojitos = wacky delirous)
370 Columbus Avenue/Manhattan
A couple of very wise friends treated us to dinner here, and promised that it was a well kept sushi secret. We ordered the omakase - a Japanese word meaning, in this context, to entrust your meal to the discretion of the chef. We were rewarded with sashimi and sushi like I've never experienced - think salmon nigiri with caramelized onion and tomato and silken hamachi with spicy jalepeno sauce. Perfection. (Not cheap, but if you're into cheap sushi we need to have a talk anyway...)
50 E. 17th Street/Union Square Park
This is where the pretty people go to get happy. Fun stuff! It was packed the night we went - every inch of the large outdoor venue was full of gorgeous suits and sundresses. Surprisingly the service was still great... kind of like being waited on in the middle of a concert at Smirnoff.
Greenwich Village Food and Cultural Tour
You are so not too cool to go on a guided walk through the Village and be a little bit tourist-y for the day. Sample the best of the best in food and learn all about the architecture, history and people of Greenwich Village, incubator of the most influential artists, poets, actors and musicians in American history.
Multiple locations throughout NYC - indeed, throughout the world. Except here. When, oh when, will our H&M arrive?
22nd Cortlandt St./downtown - there is a reason why everyone tells you to shop here.
546 Broadway/SoHo - Uniqlo is unique, and the entire district around it is full of great shopping. Have a cab dump you off here, and bliss out for several hours of shopping fantasy.
I spent two days exploring the Village. Get yourself to Bleeker St. & 7th and you'll be in the heart of everything. Wander and lust. Be forewarned, however - one day might not be enough!
2165 Broadway, Upper West Side
I'm going to catch flack for this, but here goes: I just didn't see the big deal. The line for this place is usually about 45 minutes. It was even featured on the Today Show. The gelato was wonderful, don't get me wrong, but revolutionary? exceptional? worth 45 minutes? Not so much.
75 9th Avenue
I was somewhat disappointed in Chelsea Market, heavily hyped home of the Food Network. Disinterested store employees and dusty imported canned goods were my main impressions of the place. If you do go, tack a couple of hours onto the official opening time. Chelsea Market is a sleepy place and the stores really didn't "open" until 30-45 minutes after the advertised time. I had a bad scone, looked at some souvenirs and then called it a day.
Photos (top to bottom): 1. Talented hands crafting mojitos at Ideya 2. Look at those post-mojito smiles! 3. The crowd at Luna Park 4. Red couch for sale at the outdoor Flea Market in the Village 5. Beautiful pastries at Rocco's, 243 Bleeker St.