Food. Shopping. Drinks. Repeat.
This was my mantra on my most recent (and fourth) trip to New York City. On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend my pal MM and I headed to NYC to stay with her sister who moved there for a job about a year ago. On our first two visits to NYC we stayed at the Ramada Plaza New Yorker at 34th and 8th (now called the Wyndham). Nothing fancy. Good location for a first trip to NYC because it’s close to everything touristy and we didn’t get murdered or anything. Our first room was normal-sized but on our second visit we were booked into a room that was roughly the size of a kiddie pool. On our third visit we stayed in Brooklyn at aloft. I loved Brooklyn and would stay there again in the future. It was pretty quick to get into Manhattan. This trip saw us staying in Queens which, as it turns out, is where all the people live. We hopped a bus right at the airport that took us straight to sister’s apartment in Rego Park. It was Sunday evening – around 6:30 – and it felt like we were driving through Times Square, that’s how many people were out shopping and crowding the streets. MM is amazing at navigating the subways and buses of New York. Without her I would’ve probably ended up on Coney Island or something and taken up with a pack of rabid dogs. After dropping our bags, we walked about 30 seconds down the street and grabbed dinner at a pizza place because we have priorities.
After eating all of the pizza in roughly 19 seconds, we hopped on the subway and made our way into Astoria to have moonshine cocktails at The Strand Smokehouse. I loved this place and because it was so beautiful and warm when we were in NYC and Monday was Columbus day there was a festive mood in the air and lots of people out and about (translation: everyone was drinking). The Strand Smokehouse is spacious with long picnic style reclaimed wood tables and the cocktails were delicious (particularly the stormy moon). Good beer list as well. I loved the vibe of Astoria. It reminded me a lot of the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver (you can read my BC vacation blog post here) or Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood.
On our way home we had our very own pizza rat moment after I spotted a rat on the opposite platform dragging an ice cream cone. You’ve never seen three people laugh so hard. We were practically doubled over. I’m sure everyone else thought we were nuts. We were very supportive, yelling out “You got this, bro!” to the rat. His resolve was impressive. I tried to get a photo but it turned out too blurry. I blame my phone and not the moonshine cocktails.
On Monday we were up and out bright and early and made our way down to Cafe Cluny in the West Village, a place that had been on my ‘must-eat-in-NYC list’ for years. Yes, I have an actual list. Lists are cool. Cafe Cluny did not disappoint. It’s a pretty bistro with good service and I would describe the breakfast sandwich I had as “transcendent.” That’s a high compliment considering that I view myself as a breakfast sandwich expert. Full and caffeinated, shopping was next on our list. We made sure to stop by some of our favourites on Broadway: Bloomingdales, Sabon (their musk body gel polish is my obsession) and Uniqlo (where I pretty much bought all of the underwear based on MM’s recommendation and she was right – Uniqlo has the best underwear!!!). I also made sure to stop into Madewell to buy a new pair of jeans. I had noticed that one of my favourite bloggers always has the best jeans and in one post she broke down some of her favourite outfits and she basically lives in Madewell skinny jeans. I bought this pair and have been living in them ever since.
I mentioned above how beautiful the weather was. The first three days we spent in NYC were unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the low-to-mid 20s and lots of sunshine. It was amazing. Being able to sit outside at night having a drink(s) on a patio made it feel like we had stumbled into bonus summer. After all that shopping we were ready for a cold beer and stopped in at Houston Hall, a massive brewpub on West Houston. Afterwards we went up to the High Line because we were in the neighbourhood and it was also on my list. The combination of gorgeous weather and the Columbus Day holiday drew the crowds to the High Line so we didn’t spend too much time up there but I got some great photos. Right under the entrance to the High Line is hands down one of my favourite places in NYC: The Biergarten at the Standard Hotel. I fell in love with this place on my last visit and it was just as great as I remembered. How it works is you purchase beer tickets at a kiosk and then order your beer at the bar and then you drink the beer. Got it? Good. They also have food like ginormous pretzels. The perfect place to enjoy a drink on a nice day. Everyone was attractive. Bonus: There’s also a photobooth downstairs near the washrooms so you can have photographic proof that your lipstick didn’t hold up and your bangs do a weird thing when you don’t blow-dry your hair.
For dinner I had a made a reservation to celebrate sister’s 30th birthday at The Stanton Social on the Lower East Side. This restaurant is run by the same people who run LAVO, one of my favourite restaurants in Las Vegas (you can read about my last Vegas trip here). The menu is built around sharing plates, and sweet fancy Moses the food was ah-mazing. I loved everything. Between the three of us we shared coconut curry samosas, potato and goat cheese pierogies, french onion soup dumplings, philly cheese steak sliders (SO GOOD), a pizzetta, scallops and a few more dishes that I’m forgetting because at that point I slipped into a delightful coma from which I wish I had never woken. I highly recommend this restaurant for a fancy dinner out.
A short walk later we were at Arlene’s Grocery, a casual (some would say divey) bar that I loved because it reminded me of The Horseshoe and Sweaty Betty’s in Toronto, two bars where, frankly, I spent most of my 20s and did nothing I regret. Sister had to work the next day so MM and I went for a nightcap at The Wren on Bowery Street in the East Village.
On Tuesday MM had a mission to get breakfast from Brooklyn Bagel which is actually in Astoria (there are other locations around the city as well). I’m not a fan of bagels but MM swore they were amazing. I got a pumpernickel bagel with dill and cucumber cream cheese. The bagel was huge and soft and the cream cheese had actual chunks of cucumber. Absolutely delicious. Afterwards we strolled around Brooklyn for a bit to do some shopping on Bedford and Berry Streets and to soft stalk Hilary Duff who was filming episodes of her show Younger. Alas, despite passing a film set that we were pretty sure was Younger, we didn’t spot Hilary. Boo.
After Brooklyn we made our way to Union Square so that I could drop some coin at Nordstrom Rack. It’s basically Winners but with better designer labels and well organized. I love that they organize their clothes by designer. Actually, I just love everything about Nordstrom Rack. I left with an amazing blue sweater and new Paige jeans for $50. After shopping we decided that on vacation in NYC it’s always Happy Hour. We went to the Galway Hooker for a pint and then hit up a happy hour nearby at Agave. Six dollar margaritas and two dollar samosas and tacos were calling our name. Neither disappointed. Our next stop was The Upright Brewhouse, known for their great craft beer list. This day officially became the most day drinking I’ve ever done outside of Las Vegas. Which explains why I took this random photo of my “dream house.” Mostly I just wanted to nap because this looked like the kind of house that would have a high threadcount on their sheets.
By this time the sun was setting and it was time to go to Long Island City for trivia night at the Alewife. Sadly, Team ‘Canadians’ lost but I won at life because I ordered the cheese plate from Murray’s Cheese Shop. Not photographed because I inhaled it like it was my job. After trivia we took a stroll along the waterfront.
On our last day in NYC we made sure to stop into Brooklyn Bagel again. This time I got the bacon and chive cream cheese and hand to God if it was legal to marry a dairy product I would’ve done it. We then made our way to Macy’s where it was already Christmas and I hated everyone. Admittedly, the holiday display (right now it was just on one floor) was beautiful but Macy’s is so hectic and I can’t be in there for more than 15 minutes without feeling stabby.
We spent our last few hours in NYC doing what we do best: shopping. We went to the Rego Park Centre and I tried on everything at Century 21 and bought nothing. This never happens. I was probably thinking about the terrible exchange rate and the carry-on suitcase that I needed to fit everything into for the trip home.
And that was it. We bid adieu to NYC and I never stop thinking about that bacon cream cheese. It haunts my dreams.