|Eating and Drinking|
One day Steve and I were wandering around the Lower East Side. (We do that a lot.) We came around a corner, and Steve stopped dead. "That's where it is?" "Where what is?" I looked around and saw nothing but a battered restaurant canopy that said "Sammy's."
"That's Sammy's Roumanian Restaurant. It's world-famous - one of the most amazing places. Great food, music. That's where it is?"
Sure enough, that's where it was.
New York is full of amazing restaurants - many of them ethnic. I can't tell you how to get a reservation at "21" - I've never been there. But I can tell you about some of my favorites.
Chumley’s has an interesting history. It’s a former speakeasy (a “hidden” bar where alcohol was sold during Prohibition), and it is still invisible, with no sign outside. The back entrance opens into an alley, though they don’t like customers to use that entrance any more – I guess it disturbs the neighbors.
The first time I went there, we were following up on an ad for a lobster special. (They still do the lobster special, but it’s gone up in price, of course.) We had an address, and the name of the place, but when we got there, there was nothing to be seen. Eventually, we figured out where it had to be, opened a door, opened another door, and found ourselves in a busy restaurant. We investigated further, and found memorabilia of famous writers all over the walls, fireplaces (the place is fabulous in winter), and the best juke box in New York. And the dogs.
Later, we found the alley entrance, and the joke became, “Imagine explaining to a visitor to New York. ‘Well – you go to the corner of Bedford and Barrow, then go around the corner, down an alley, and open the door at the end of the alley – the one with no sign on it.’ Can you imagine their faces?”
Update: Last I heard, Chumley's was temporarily closed. They were doing renovations and had a partial building collapse. No word that I've heard on whether or when it will re-open.
Breakfast in New York
Where do you eat breakfast if you're visiting a new city? Well, probably you eat near the hotel, so you can get a good start on the day.
Well, folks, I work in Times Square, and I just can't believe the prices tourists pay for a coffee shop breakfast in that neighborhood! I understand that when you're on holiday, you may be willing to spend more, just because you're on holiday, and because you don't know where else to go.
But where I live, a quick bus ride from midtown, that $8 eggs and coffee is $3. I'm not suggesting you go there for breakfast - the $4 for the bus ride there and back would pretty much wipe out your profit! But you might consider, if you're going downtown for the day, for example, having breakfast there instead of at your hotel. Trust me, there are plenty of inexpensive places to eat downtown!
The Times Square neighborhood does cater to tourists, though. Just this morning, I heard a waiter giving detailed directions to his customers - "Go down to 57th Street, across to 8th Avenue, then take the C train..." Later, I heard him asking some French-speaking customers if they would like him to add the 15% service into the check for them. They were appreciative.
Just a few days earlier, though, some other visitors were not so appreciative. I heard them discussing the check in German at the next table, and asked if I could help. They said no, they were just very annoyed at the way the waitress had circled the "Service is not included" message on the check. I explained that they are used to dealing with Europeans who assume service to be included, and just wanted to call it to their attention, but they were still annoyed. Apparently waiters kept pointing it out to them, and they knew it already. They felt they were demanding a tip.
Sometimes you can't win!
UPDATE: I am so, so reluctant to say this, but yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden, and it really wasn't fun at all.
It was mobbed. The crowd was loud, and the staff overwhelmed. It may be because they had an event ("Water for People") that had brought in a lot of new people, so we'll probably give it another chance. But otherwise, we may have to wait until October.
I'm not sure whether the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden belongs under eating or drinking - their beer is great, I'm told (I don't like beer), and the food is excellent.
"Oh, I love that place!" That's what everyone says when we tell them about Bohemian Hall. I always think we're introducing them to something new, and they always know about it.
The Bohemian Hall Beer Garden is the last "real" beer garden in a city that once had hundreds. It's in Queens, an easy subway ride or one bus stop from Manhattan. The staff, the food and the beer are Czech, and the beer garden is big, and shaded with oak trees - a wonderful place to spend a summer afternoon. And in late September, they do a great (but very crowded) Octoberfest - see photos below.
There's a stage where musicians of all kinds perform, and little kids run around on it when nobody's performing.
The Blind Tiger is a favorite with its neighbors in Greenwich Village - a place where you can easily get into a “pub-style” conversation at the bar. There’s a wide range of beers, and, while they don’t serve food, on the weekends there’s a table full of bagels, cream cheese in various flavors, and fixin’s. And if the bagels tend to be a little salty, there’s always another beer. (No doubt that's the idea.)
Update: The Blind Tiger has moved to Bleecker Street. The free bagels have been replaced with gourmet food (though it looks good), and the beautiful (if stand-offish) calico cats that used to hang out in the window and on the bar are gone. (Illegal to have animals where food is served.) Nothing stays the same in New York...
This site was last updated 09/21/07
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