New York -- the big apple, the great American melting pot, the city that never sleeps. Spending three days in a place as large and diverse as New York City can feel overwhelming. How do you choose where to eat, what to do? In an effort to tackle this conundrum for our recent weekend stay, we chose to limit our activities to a small area of Manhattan -- Midtown, the Theater District, and Central Park (map). This meant postponing our visits to Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn, the Comedy Cellar in the Village, or the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan. The upside was that we were able to walk to and from most places, taking in the various city blocks along the way.
Of course, even after limiting ourselves to a small section of Manhattan, choosing where to eat was still no simple task. Home to many of the country's best restaurants, New York City is also the perfect place to enjoy authentic cooking from cultures around the world, thanks to the city's large immigrant population. Wanting to experience a little bit of everything, we opted for the following:
Quintessential New York - Grand Central Station Oyster Bar
A dining experience unique to New York City is Grand Central Station Oyster Bar, which is set in the heart of Grand Central Station. The breadth of its seafood menu will make your head spin, with twenty three types of raw oysters alone! In addition to the food, the station's vaulted tiled ceilings give the venue a truly New York feel.
High End Dining - The Bar Room at The Modern
A meal at a Michelin starred restaurant is always a culinary delight but the steep bill that comes with it isn't always as appealing. The Bar Room at The Modern is a great way to enjoy Michelin level dining without having to pay the high end "Prix Fixe" that is common place with such establishments. Adjoining its more formal counterpart, "The Modern", The Bar Room offers an "A la Carte" menu and is more casual, yet just as exquisite.
Street Food - The Halal Guys
Food stands are a staple throughout New York City and while we weren't originally planning on it, we simply couldn't resist the smells wafting from the Halal Guys on our way to see Romeo and Juliette at The Met. The popularity of their gyro platters and sandwiches have led to franchises around the country. Lucky for us, we got to enjoy our fix from the original food stand on 53rd and 6th, which opened in 1990.
Authentic Eats - Joe's Shanghai
One of New York's qualities is the juxtaposition of its numerous immigrant cultures. Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Odessa, Astoria, Little Italy - each of these communities is home to many authentic eateries. However, not wanting to venture far from our location in Midtown, we were thrilled when one of my college friends and longtime NYC resident recommended Joe's Shanghai on 56th street between 5th and 6th. With another location in Chinatown, Joe's is best known for their soup dumplings. The dumplings are prepared by wrapping meat aspic into a rice dough. As the dumplings are steamed, the aspic melts, creating the "soup", which one slurps when biting into the bun. While there are a slew of delicious items on Joe's menu, ordering a dozen dumplings makes for a joyously satisfying meal.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Midtown is also home to Molyvos, one of the city's best Greek restaurants. Although we didn't manage a visit this time around, you can be sure we won't miss the occasion during our next trip!
Afternoon Coffee - Knave at The Parker Hotel
New York City has no shortage of good coffee spots. Following a matinee performance at The Metropolitan opera, we wandered over to the Tavern on The Green, hoping to soak in some of Central Park. Regrettably, with wedding season in full swing, the place was overtaken by bridesmaids and groomsmen. This led us to wander back into Midtown, where we discovered the lovely Knave at The Parker Hotel. Set in an ornate marble parlor with tall columns and vaulted ceilings, we enjoyed excellent cappuccinos and a decadent slice of chocolate cake.
Great food aside, the New York experience that most captured my heart was a journey through Central Park. Although I have visited the city numerous times over the years, I most often experienced the park on its periphery. This time around, however, Friday's sunny weather provided the perfect excuse to explore the city's oasis. As I hope the pictures below might convey, the excursion provided an entirely new appreciation for the city, its treasures, and beauty.
Until next time New York City!