The Big Apple
I live in San Francisco, I grew up outside of Boston, and I interned in New York. This was before smart phones with GPS, when I carried written directions & pray I did’t get on the wrong bus. When I worked for free and lived on cheap sushi and kind friend’s parent’s home-cooked meals. I have parts of New York memorized like the back of my hand and others remain an urban jungle of fast walkers and tall buildings. Funnily enough, the parts I have memorized I don’t remember the important things – like numbers or street names. A small portion of our trip became a scavenger hunt, recalling places as if from a dream – wandering a certain direction just because it felt right. I was really worried that I had hyped up the places I used to frequent. That once we got there, my now refined palette would cringe in disgust at my once seemingly decadent meal. Thankfully that was not the case.
Chris had never been to New York. I hadn’t been to New York in around 5 years – since I left my internship at Big Spaceship. We have many friends who live there and yell at us frequently to visit. Who are we to deny them?
We arrived in Williamsburg, outside of Michael’s apartment, at midnight on September 29th. It was humid. My legs felt like over-stuffed hot dogs, stretching my jeans to their breaking point. We hugged Michael, brought our bags up to his apartment, and Ichigo was the happiest dog on the planet. He ran the entire span on the room, back and forth, picking up speed to launch himself at me. “I missed you too!” At that point we were starving and in San Francisco that would have meant going to bed hungry, but in New York that meant it was time to walk the streets. After a few failed attempts, we ended up eating burgers at 1:00am. Welcome to New York.
The entire week we were in NY we successfully stayed on west coast time. We woke up most days at 11am and went to bed around 3 or 4 the next morning. (I’m really, really sorry Michael. You were a champ.) The first morning, before he left for work, Michael drew us a map of his neighborhood for where we could find coffee and food. When we finally dragged our asses out of his apartment, we grabbed coffee at Toby’s Estate and ran into…
Small world. We caught up briefly, promised to do dinner later, and Chris and I were off to find a classic New York bagel for breakfast. In coming to New York, Chris had a list of three things he wanted to experience:
- A classic New York bagel.
- A classic New York pizza slice.
- A dead person in Central Park. Thanks Law & Order!
First item off the list early! We spent the rest of the day in Manhattan doing all of the touristy things that we didn’t want to drag our New York friends to on the weekend. We went to both the 86th and the 102nd floor of The Empire State Building, Bryant Park, and Rockefeller Center.
I was both nervous and excited to bring Chris to La Bonne Soup for a late lunch. It holds a special place in my heart. My freshmen year of college my best friends, Laura & Caitlin, and I escaped Rochester for a weekend in New York. We wore pretty dresses, went to an art parade, and ate on the balcony of La Bonne Soup. I remember their french onion soup being the best I’d ever had, and thankfully it lived up to that. After lunch we stopped at Times Square, where I used to intern at VH1, and Port Authority, where I spent quality time every morning and night for two summers. I was proud to remember exactly which terminal was mine just by letting my feet do the thinking. I even found the bowling alley!
For dinner we met Jamie, Hilary, and Michael at Jamie and Hilary’s apartment in Clinton Hill. Michael, Chris and I met Ms. Giggles for the first time – she’s such a sweetheart! It was great to catch up with Jamie & Hilary at Speedy Romeo’s (an excellent pizza place). They said they’re moving to San Francisco for reals, so I’m holding them to that!
What we did after that is a secret, so please don’t tell.
On Friday we took the ferry from Williamsburg to DUMBO – where I used to intern at Big Spaceship and were Michael currently works at Huge. DUMBO has undergone a complete transformation in the past few years. There are tons of well-kept parks, way more food options, and a carousel! Chris and I met Michael for lunch in the park. Michael and I got sandwiches from No.7 Sub – known for an interesting broccoli and feta sandwich that was quite good.* After lunch we met Ben for some ice cream at Jacques Torres!
Ben and Michael went back to work while Chris and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. We continued south, past a sculpture park, to the National September 11 Memorial – which was humongous, somber, and absolutely beautiful. Afterwards we took a bus up to Central Park, where we stopped at the boat house so Chris could get a Manhattan in Manhattan.
That night we returned to Williamsburg for dinner with Michael and Ayaka. Afterwards we went to Momofuku Milkbar… whose ice cream was a disappointment. I think I built it up too much in my head… but their cookies are amazing.
That night Michael’s friends from college, Lauren and Terry, came to visit for the weekend from Washington DC. (I’m pretty sure Lauren and should be best friends. She loves Matt & Kim, Star Wars, and RuPaul’s Drag Race – enough said.) We ended up playing an amazing game of traitors, The Resistance, until 3 in the morning. It was epic.
On Saturday morning we all took a short walk to the Williamsburg Blue Bottle. Lauren was wearing a Sharon Needles shirt. Again, best friends. After coffee we went our separate ways. Michael, Chris, and I took the G train to Clinton Hill to go to the Fort Green Flea Market with Ayaka and Ben.
We spent the morning tasting lots of food and wandering around the “small” park. Jamie, Hilary, and Ms. Giggles joined us and we went on a walk for some delicious ice cream.
After leaving the Clinton Hills crew we traveled to Coney Island – one of my favorite places in New York. It’s just such a weird juxtaposition of most of the city. I’ve always loved all the lights on the boardwalk at night, the intimate, cheap baseball games, and the no-frills attitude of everyone there. The people who frequent Coney Island have seen some shit. We made it to a Cyclones game that had fireworks – which I was super pumped about.
As if that wasn’t a long enough day, we left Coney Island and traveled all the way back into Manhattan for a show. Lauren’s friend, a drummer, was playing at The Bitter End and we decided to join them. The show was great! The bands were legit and the space was laid back.
We officially ended the night at 2am with a slice of New York style pizza enjoyed sitting next to the NYPD. Chris was in heaven.
On Sunday morning Chris and I met Shalini and Chad for brunch at No.7. (*Sound familiar? That’s because I had lunch at No.7 Sub with Michael! I didn’t put that together until right now. Feeling pretty dense.) It was great to catch up with Shalini and meet Chad for the first time. The food at No.7 was absolutely phenomenal. The Double Decker Broccoli Tacos are one of the best things I ever put in my mouth. (*Again! Michael and I split the broccoli sandwich from No.7 Sub – REALLY should have put this together.)
We left Shalini and Chad for the High Line. Everyone who had visited New York and comes back to San Francisco doesn’t shut up about it, so it was definitely one of places I was most excited to visit. For some reason I had imagined, based on no logic or research, that it was in Brooklyn. It’s not. It’s in Manhattan, near Chelsea Market.
Fortunately, besides not being in Brooklyn, the High Line totally lived up to it’s reputation. It’s a beautiful oasis right in the middle of the city. The only thing that would make it better would be less people.
That night I got to have two of my college staples – Yuengling and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I was in heaven. Those fried green tomatoes are the bomb. The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn is conveniently located next to my favorite bar of all time – Union Hall. I was minorly terrified that Union Hall wouldn’t live up to my hype. That somehow once inside all of my dreams of that place would come crashing down and I’d be heartbroken… but they didn’t. It was definitely less magical then I remember it being, but it’s still a great bar with lots of space – excellent for big groups.
Lauren, Terry, Ayaka, and Ben met Michael, Chris, and I there. We ended up re-creating The Resistance out of paper and coins and played for hours. At one point one of the guys playing bocce left his game to figure out what we were doing “cause it seemed like so much fun!”
Monday, Labor Day, was Lauren and Terry’s last day. We all had brunch before their sad departure. Chris was having stomach problems in the morning, so we spent a good amount of time just relaxing at Michael’s apartment. Ichigo was thrilled to have us there.
When Chris finally felt good enough to go outside and the small rain storm subsided, we took the bus over to DUMBO to meander around Brooklyn Heights and walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. I had never heard of it before, but Michael assured us it was one of the best spots in town. Walking through Brooklyn Heights we passed Pok Pok and, down the street, Whiskey Soda Lounge. “This isn’t Portland! Where are we?!” Unfortunately they were both closed.
Michael was right, of course, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade was beautiful. We arrived just to time to watch the sunset over Manhattan. I think I may actually have liked it better than the High Line – there were less people, it was quiet, and the view was stunning.
That night we met up with Mike (Creighton) for dinner at Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg. I had never had an arepa before and it totally blew my mind. I had the La Mulata – grilled white cheese with jalapenos, black beans, sauteed red peppers, and fried sweet plantains. They had an amazing sauce, referred to as the “crack sauce” by Mike, that you poured over everything. Oh. My. God. So good. I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t take a picture, but it was really dark in there and it probably wouldn’t have turned out.
Full of arepas, Mike was excited to end the night at one of his favorite Williamsburg bars – Nita Nita. It was a classy little joint and they were extremely nice to us.
Tuesday was our last day so we ended up doing a lot of back and forth traveling to cross off the remaining items on our Foursquare list. We started the day at the Guggenheim, which is currently showcasing the work of the great James Turrell. As some of you may know, Mr. Turrell is one of my favorite artists. He focuses on light and it’s effect on perception of space. The first piece of saw of his, back in Boston, blew my mind. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but they exist online – so this is what the main atrium looked like.
Our artistic minds expanded we hopped on a train down to Battery Park to take in our last touristy location. When Lauren and Terry had been in town there was lots of talk of seeing the Statue of Liberty. Chris looked up the details and it seemed unlikely that we would ever get over there – especially because it relied on us getting up at the crack of dawn. Accepting this, we did the next best thing and I got the closest we could to the statue. We briefly considered taking the Staten Island Ferry, but ended up relaxing on a park bench in Battery Park, admiring the Statue of Liberty from afar.
Chris has heard a lot of my stories from New York. Most of them revolve around food, but there isn’t a food spot he’s heard more than Rita’s Water Ice. Most of the time I’ve tried to explain to him how water ice is different than italian ice – that no one makes it like Rita’s. I grew up with the stuff. My family would drive down to Philadelphia once or twice a year and we’d always go to Rita’s with my extended family. When I lived in New Jersey, I frequented a Rita’s in the neighborhood daily. So when I found out that there was one Rita’s in Manhattan I jumped for joy so much that Chris had no choice but to go.
I’ll admit – this Rita’s did not have a lot of charm. It wasn’t the classic white building where they give you water ice through a tiny window. It was kind of dirty and, worst of all, they called it fucking Italian Ice on all of the menus. What happened Rita’s! I was too excited when I went in. They didn’t have watermelon, my favorite, so I went with my second favorite – Root Beer. I thought, hey – Root Beer and vanilla custard will probably taste like a Root Beer float at that sounds delicious, so I ordered my water ice ‘Gelati’. Big mistake. I didn’t realize that they put custard in the bottom and on the top. The girl who made mine put WAY too much custard and to my dismay, the custard tasted awful. It was bland and fatty – it ruined the Root Beer instead of enhancing it. Chris and I ended up dumping the custard in a nearby trash can outside. The water ice alone, however, was just as I remembered and Chris finally understood why I loved it so much.
After the slightly disappointing Rita’s experience, we walked off the sweets around Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park and then returned south to meet up with Sam at the NYU ITP Lab.
He gave us a tour of his classroom and labs. They have some pretty inspiring work in the lobby and his class list sounds intriguing. Hungry for real food we left NYU, stopped at Famous Famiglia for garlic knots (for nostalgic reasons), and went to dinner near Ayaka’s work at Soho Park. Ayaka and Michael met us there and we continued after our mediocre dinner to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. It was the perfect place to end our long trip. I’m craving a Salty Pimp right now.
Thank you so much to everyone who took time out of their busy lives to hang out with us in NYC! It was really great to see all of you. The biggest thanks of all goes to Michael who dealt with Chris and I for an entire week. Thank you so much for letting us stay in your apartment, staying up until 3am, and joining us for a great time every day. Even though you weren’t there – thank you Kyle so much for letting us stay in your room with the air conditioner. I think Chris might have died if we didn’t have that luxury.
If you’re planning a trip to New York, I’ll give you a quick recap of the highlights. Definitely eat at No.7, Caracas Arepa Bar, Ippudo, Big Gay Ice Cream Bar, Ample Hills Creamery, and drink at Union Hall. Definitely visit the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, High Line, Central Park, and Guggenheim – especially if James Turrell is still there. Don’t get the gelati at Rita’s Water Ice, ice cream at Momofuku Milk Bar, or bother eating anything at Soho Park. Don’t go to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building or Times Square.