Feel like a Korean-Mexican fusion burrito, loaded with spicy beef, kimchi, rice and beans for lunch? Followed by a slice of creamy cheesecake? Maybe a late night slice of pizza with tangy tomato, mozzarella, olive oil and fresh basil? No place does street food better than New York — where 10,000 food carts and trucks serve up everything from jerk chicken to waffles for very reasonable prices. That kind of lunch is just a few hours away, with the recent launch of United Airlines direct service linking London and Newark airports. You can leave London at 6 a.m.,be on the ground in Newark by 7:30, hop on a New Jersey transit train, and 20 minutes later you could be in Penn Station, in the heart of Manhattan. Grab a hand-rolled bagel at Pick A Bagel on 8th Avenue &
53rd Street and you’re set for fun in the Big Apple!
The new flight service allows for an easy get-away to some new foodie adventures over two or three days. The return flight to London leaves Newark at 8 p.m., so travellers can have three full days in New York — which was plenty for us as we packed in two culinary walking tours, a Broadway play, a TV show taping and a walk through Central Park. There may have been a little shopping too!
Home base after leaving Penn Station was the newly renovated Row NYC Hotel, 700 8th Avenue in the heart of Broadway, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance of Central Park and several TV studios. This Hollywood themed hotel was formerly The Milford but re-opened as Row NYC after a two-year, $140 million renovation to the 1331 rooms, bar and lobby. Claiming to be “more New York than New York”, the hotel features wall murals of famous New York scenes, including the food carts! The breakfast pastries are beyond fabulous — made by some pretty famous Manhattan chefs like Francois Payard. The late night Neapolitan hand-stretched pizzas are amazing. Row NYC has very clean,although small, rooms (but who comes to New York to spend time in the room?). The staff are super friendly and combined with reasonable (for New York) rates, this is a great location for a quick get-away visit.
Even though the subways and trains are easy to manoeuvre, the best way to experience New York is on foot — especially if you are searching for interesting bites and beverages in unique neighbourhoods.
If you truly want a Korean-Mexican fusion burrito, jerk chicken and the best Halal food then the Food Cart walking tour given by Turnstile Tours is not only tasty, filling and fun but also provides an interesting history of street food in New York. Over several hours our guide, Brian Hoffman, (eatthisny.com) a food blogger, actor and street food fanatic gives a passionate overview of the community of food carts and trucks. He also promises “no hot dogs, pretzels or chestnuts” along the way.
A second culinary walking tour with New York City Urban Adventures took us deep into the Lower East Side where, over three hours, we visited and tasted our way through Chinatown, Little Italy, Nolita and the Bowery. This tour, Tenements, Tales and Tastes, was expertly led by Nikki Padilla who not only spoke Italian in Little Italy but greatly respected the story of immigration, being an Italian/Puerto Rican herself. On this tour we saw a Chinese funeral procession, a bride buying flowers outside New York City Hall, and avant-garde fashions in SoHo and along the way enjoyed piping fresh pork dumplings (the best deal in the city at five for $1!) prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, creamy baked knish from a 1910 shop, and oven-fresh pretzels from Loreley Biergarten.
All this walking and sampling explains why this trip to New York was not about destination dining but instead about touring and tasting. ‘Though we did wind our way to a table one night, for a “Woody Allen” sandwich at Carnegie Deli on 7th Ave at 53rd. The sandwich “made famous” in Broadway Danny Rose is a huge, as in really huge, tower of pastrami and corned beef on rye. This must be shared! With a side of light, crispy onion rings — we were glad we were doing a lot of walking — this was a delectable treat along with a mug of Brooklyn lager.
At times one must take a break and sit in New York. Why not be entertained at the same time? Free tickets are available for TV show tapings and we managed to get two online (in advance) for The Late Show with David Letterman. On occasion, tickets are given away outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre. This is an excellent show that features great music by the Paul Schaffer Orchestra. I had to cheer for the guy from my hometown of Thunder Bay! Plus, it was fun to hang out prior to the taping in The Three Monkey’s Bar, where local beers were on tap.
Given ROW NYC Hotel’s location, a Broadway play was another natural choice. Just around the corner from the hotel is the Neil Simon Theatre where Sting’s new musical, The Last Ship, opened in late October. If you like Sting you will really enjoy this musical inspired by his childhood in Wallsend, England. He grew up near the shipyards and the musical takes us back to a time of change in industrial England. Sting himself is going to guest perform in the musical in early January 2015.
The delightful thing about New York is that something new awaits around every corner. Whether it’s a stroll through the impressive New York Public Library or a visit to Strawberry Fields in Central Park, no matter which direction you head you will find something of interest. In many ways, the trip can’t be planned, as plans quickly change in the city.
One thing is for certain, you won’t go home hungry.
We departed Penn Station, with bagels and lox in our bags, around 5 p.m. and within three stops were back at Newark airport for the flight home. It is so lovely to take one direct flight back to London, having only a few people in line in customs, and be back in your car home by 10 p.m. Whirlwind? Yes. But isn’t that what going to New York is all about? That, and a great bagel. And a Korean-Mexican burrito. And some prosciutto. And those dumplings….
Jane Antoniak is a culinary travel writer for eatdrink who is glad to do a lot of walking when tasting her way through a city. She is also Manager, Communications & Media Relations, King’s University College.
Bruce Fyfe was particularly pleased to take photos of the John Lennon memorial at Central Park. He is a regular travel photographer for eatdrink and a full-time Librarian, Weldon Library, Western U.