Last weekend I headed down to NYC with my friend Chris for our second weekend of basketball, food and exploration this year.
Despite the three flight cancellations I had to deal with, we had a great time, unexpectedly overlapped in the city with another friend of mine and hit a combination of old favorites and new spots.
On Friday night after the basketball game we headed to The Spotted Pig, the original gastropub. Although the place is half-full of tourists, it is still a good vibe and the food has always been good. One of my favourite beer bars, Upright Brew House, is just around the corner too so we hit that for a little bit afterwards before getting back to our hotel around 3am.
The hotel we stayed at was The Box House Hotel in Greenpoint, just north of the uber-trendy Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I’ve always been intrigued by this place and I would say it lived up to expectations. However, it is worth mentioning that right now, it is near nothing. The nearest coffee shop is a couple of blocks away but it is easy to see gentrification coming and the walk to the nearest subway lines is pretty manageable. Within five or ten years I am sure people will be complaining about how much heirloom vegetables cost and that rent is unaffordable. The rooms themselves were pretty cool, with a kitchenette, soaring ceilings and a loft space. Ours even had a little patio.
On Saturday, we wandered around Brooklyn a hit before heading into Manhattan. Once there, we went to Biang!, a sit-down outpost of the Xian Famous Foods mini-chain and had noodles. They were so delicious – really one of the best restaurant experiences you could have with a total bill of only $30 for the two of us!
In the afternoon we visited the Museum of the Moving Image. Unbeknownst to me there is actually a huge movie studio out in Queens (Kaufman Studios) and this museum sits right beside it. It was a pretty cool place, although a little random in its collection. At certain points it felt like, ‘well, we have this, let’s just put it out.’ Worth a visit though and way bigger than I expected it to be.
On Saturday night, we went back to Mission Chinese, another classic. With Danny Bowien seated right next to us, the vibe is still pretty cool although I would challenge anyone to find a less ethnically diverse crowd in any restaurant in NYC. It seems to be the go-to birthday spot now for groups of 30-something white people. Although this place may have jumped the shark a bit although they still put out some pretty delicious food.
On Sunday morning we had a lazy start with coffee in Brooklyn before heading over to Chelsea Market and walking up the High Line around the new Hudson Yards project on the west side of Manhattan. I don’t think there has been a trip to New York I’ve ever made when I haven’t ended up on the High Line at least once, regardless of the season. Although it’s busy, and touristy, it is always enjoyable – particularly on a warm winter day.
Before the basketball game we grabbed a slice at another old favourite, Pizza Suprema, right across the street from MSG.
After the game, we met up with my good friend from university at The Belfry on 14th Street – one of a million cool bars that would be easy to just walk right by.
From there we head to Greenpoint Beer and Ale to watch the Super Bowl and managed to grab the last table there as a couple was just leaving. Although the game was lousy, we enjoyed the good food, beer and atmosphere at this spot.
On Monday morning, after hours on the phone having Air Canada doing nothing for me, we went to a place that is sure to become a new favourite. The Russ and Daughters Cafe is an extension of the famous shop and was simply awesome. It totally lives up to the hype. Although I was somewhat distracted trying to book myself a new flight after mine was cancelled during our meal, the smoked fish cannot be beat.
With so many choices, trips to New York City will never get old. With a combination of classic spots and an endless list of new possibilities it remains an exciting place to explore.