A Foodie's Guide to NYC (Part 1)
What can I say about New York City that you haven’t heard before? Probably not a lot. Anyone who has ever visited can tell you it is the largest city in the U.S. with more than 8.5 million inhabitants. It is also the most ethnically diverse, with approximately 37% of the population being foreign born. This being my first visit to New York, I was overwhelmed by the number of things to do, see and eat...but hey, I’m willing to do my best to eat my way through this town.
10 AM I wake up in New York, to find it snowing and below freezing outside. That’s what I get for visiting in March, I suppose. I am determined to make the most of my two days in the city, so I set out in search of a hearty breakfast to fuel all the miles of walking in my future. I decide to hit Junior’s Diner, known as the the home of the “Best Cheesecake in New York”. The restaurant is modern and airy, with big windows overlooking Broadway, which provide a great view of the snow coming down. A review of the menu shows they serve typical diner fare for breakfast. I decide to play it safe with eggs, ham and hash browns.
The food is good, not the best breakfast I’ve had but better than average. However, at this first stop on my journey, I learn a lesson about New York economics - everything you normally buy in Asheville will cost at least 3 times as much as you normally pay. Prepare yourself and your wallet.
11 AM After breakfast, I head to the American Museum of Natural History, home of an epic display of dinosaur fossils. I personally wanted to see the size of a T-Rex and have determined it could easily have eaten me! But the T-Rex was not nearly the largest dino on display here. They house the tallest Barosaurus in the world, at 5 stories high. There are also several other giant creatures to amaze you. The museum is massive and takes most of the day to view. I ended up being there through lunch, so I visited the museum cafeteria for my midday meal. Unfortunately, the meal was quite disappointing. If possible, you should plan your visit between meals to avoid the same.
4 PM After the museum I went across the street for a Central Park stroll. It was late afternoon and the park was simply gorgeous covered in snow. I didn’t venture far because I wanted to get back to the subway before dark. I look forward to visiting again when it’s a bit warmer outside.
7PM Dinner in New York on Friday night....need I say more? It took me quite a while to find a restaurant accepting reservations and close to my hotel, since I had already walked nearly five miles during the day. I settled on Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar. As a food lover, I am an avid Food Network watcher. Plus, it was close to Times Square, which would provide some after dinner entertainment. The interior of the restaurant was a study in contradictions - both modern and country. Think rough sawn lumber and black gloss bricks, meets stainless steel and taxidermy. The food was surprisingly delicious. I had a half rotisserie chicken with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables and I would recommend it to anyone. It may have a chain restaurant vibe, but Guy’s was one of the best meals I ate in New York. I guess there’s a reason he made it to TV fame.
9 PM Given the opportunity, everyone should take a walk around Time Square. Sure it’s a massive tourist trap, but it is also the “Crossroads of America”. Nearly every restaurant and brand has a flagship store here - so think huge selection and products you never knew existed. Not to mention it’s right on Broadway, so there is theater after theater with shows happening all the time. The billboards and lights make it look like daytime even in the middle of the night and there are huge crowds no matter what time of day. It is truly something you have to experience at least once.
11 AM After all the excitement of the first day, I overslept! I'm out the door as quickly as possible, because I want to visit the Chelsea Market today. I hop on the subway and just a quick ride away, I’m deposited one block from my destination. Lucky for me too, because even though the snow has stopped it’s only about 25 degrees out today. Yikes!
Chelsea Market lies just east of the Hudson River in the Meatpacking district of New York. It houses 35 different food vendors, including the Manhattan Fruit Market and several non-food stores plus an artist and flea area. This place is just cool. It’s an old warehouse transformed into an indoor market with plenty of remnants to remind you of its past.
Walking through the market, it’s hard to decide what to drool over first. But I’ve come here with a recommendation from a friend - eat brunch at Friedman’s. They are farm to table and amenable to food intolerances. Their special of the day is french toast covered in candied walnuts, bananas and strawberries and dripping in maple syrup. Yum! They also serve fresh squeezed juice daily. There are plenty of other breakfast offerings - like eggs and pancakes, too. (Apologies, because this is the most awful vacation food photo I've taken in a while)
12 PM With a full belly, I decide it’s safe to walk around the rest of the market. This place is as diverse as it can be. The restaurants range from Italian to Mexican to Middle Eastern to Thai. They have bakeries and creperies and donut shops. Coffee and tea and spices and nuts. Basically, if it’s made of food it’s in this building. And the smells are amazing! I believe you could spend an entire day inside this building eating and be happy.
2 PM You cannot visit Chelsea without seeing the High Line. Once an elevated railway, the last train ran here in the 1980s and it was then abandoned. Through the vision of some local residents and many years of planning and fundraising it has been turned into a public park. It has plenty of seating, public art displays, food trucks, river views and even a view of the Statue of Liberty.
4 PM While I’m in downtown, I decide to hop a train to Chinatown. As soon as I step off the train, there is a shift in culture. New York has the highest Chinese population outside of Asia and it is apparent here. If a sign is printed in English, it is also printed in Chinese. Not to mention the many primarily Chinese shops. It’s too bad I ’m still full from brunch, otherwise I might be able to take in some of the Chinese food, as well as the sights.
5 PM Back on the train again and headed for Grand Central Station. The scene of so many movies and TV shows - it was so much more than I ever imagined. Interestingly, the Vanderbilt family, who is well known to us in Asheville, also had a major hand in the Grand Central Terminal we know today. As owner of three of the four major railroads in New York, Cornelius Vanderbilt led the way to a central train depot in Manhattan. The Grand Central Station main terminal is something to behold. With soaring ceilings, decorated with constellations, it is simply breathtaking. During my visit, there was a couple celebrating their wedding in the midst of thousands of people walking around. The perfect sweet ending to my whirlwind trip to the Big Apple!