Ah New York, a foodie’s dream, a historic city for transit, the bustling intersection of so many cultures. While the smell of Manhattan in July may not be appealing to most, I dug through the ripe layers with fellow adventurer Scott Martin. Musician, Beaverton Writer, Internet Comedian, and Comic Book Lover, first time visitor to the city that so many of our childhood heroes took by storm.
With it being a weekend holiday, the Financial District was uncharacteristically quiet. After taking the NJ PATH train to meet Scott in Newark, we headed into WTC and took in the sights of the tower’s station. A glistening minimalist shopping and transit center that felt futuristic and weirdly clean for NYC.
A short walk away was Midtown Comics. One of three locations catering to the nerds of New York, we were welcomed to the shop by a friendly worker named Tiffany who gave us a history of the shop, their three locations, as well as some of her recommendations. I’m a huge fan of graphic novels, comics, and manga. This shop really had it all. It was a real treat to get to see such a vast selection of literature as well as rare issues, figurines, apparel, and more. After we picked up a few affordable pieces to add to the collection, we walked down to the waterfront to have lunch.
Unbeknownst to my companion, we were spending the day in Manhattan followed by two in Brooklyn so I figured we would have to take in the Brooklyn Bridge and skyline from Manhattan and vice versa later in the trip. We took a sun soaked stroll down to Watermark Bar, a watering hole with great daytime happy hour deals, and one of the last unblocked views without VIP prices.
As we sampled the Pina Coladas and Mango Guava Cheesecake, ferries, trains, and busses came and went. It was really amazing to see just how many people move around the city on an hourly basis. We looked for affordable indoor activities as the heat index rose and I came across a classic at the Roxy Cinema – Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. At $12 per ticket, and a 30 minute walk away we agreed to trek to tribeca and look up the amazing architecture we passed along the way. Though the public transit in Manhattan is vast and constant, I love taking it in by walking the blocks, a privilege of my good health I do not take for granted.
After a fantastic flick in a historic theatre I had one more tradition to cap off the quintessential experience. Cheap, fast slices at Joe’s Pizza. While every pizza place swears they have the best slices, Joe’s has had my back every time I’ve been in the area. With both Traditional Slices and Sicilian Squares it’s hallowed grounds to the broke and famous alike. Did I eat so much pizza I was in pain? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely.
After a good night’s sleep and an Aloft hotel breakfast in a cup, we ventured to Central Park. Entering near the Frick Museum adjacent to the boat house walking path, we saw tons of cute dogs, wacky performances, took our best park selfies, and sat out by the water watching people sweat and row around in the time honored tradition that was a little beyond our range. We would be Brooklyn bound that afternoon so I grabbed a gin and tonic and called the hotel to see when our room would be ready.
It looked like we had a little time so we headed to Frankel’s. A dream deli I had been cyberstalking after seeing others in the industry claim it tops the Katz experience. Zach and Alex Frankel paired up with Chef Ashley Berman in 2016 to combine their Grandmother’s recipes in a snazzy little shop at the corner of Manhattan & Nassau.
Let me preface this by saying I love a good deli. Give me tangy, salty, smoked, cured goodness any day of the week and my heart will be happy. Frankel’s blew away my expectations. This is maybe the best pastrami on rye I’ve had in my life. For me, this pastrami was everything. Thick cut and uncompromising in flavor, I would absolutely recommend Frankel’s to anyone stopping in the area.
Everything is made in house or selected with the utmost attention to detail. Scott and I sampled a selection of pastrami, matzo ball soup, latkes, housemade pickles, and Scottish smoked salmon fully dressed on a garlic bagel. It was his first time at a traditional deli and I loved getting to see his reactions to completely new flavors.
After Frankel’s we headed over to the Whiskey Brooklyn for skee ball, picklebacks, and to catch up with another Ontario friend Phil. He was traveling to visit a friend in Manhattan and was good enough to join us and share his opinions contrasting the Toronto and NYC metro experiences. Overall he was appreciatively of the time and variety of routes in New York, but lamented the lack of cleanliness in most stations. This is no surprise to anyone that’s been through the city before, but I can see how it would be jarring to someone on first impression in contrast to most major metro experiences in Canada.
The next morning brought us to the New York Transit Museum where we were offered a tour. It’s a fascinating museum tucked inside a closed station. With cars spanning from the formative years of elevated lines to experimental cars and the world’s fair, this is an absolutely perfect destination for any train enthusiast. Our tour guide was equal parts historian and host. She had a deep bond to the cultures both past and present and is a tireless advocate for women in transit. After learning some more in depth histories of the great city, I felt grateful hopping on the train back to the hotel.
With work deadlines looming, I said goodbye to my dearest companion Scott and watched as he drove back towards the border. It would have been nice to stay goodbye at a train platform but unfortunately there is no VIA to Amtrak connection for the town he lives in despite it being close to both Toronto and Ontario. I would love to see better more frequent connections and affordable points of access between the two networks. I did not envy him the daylong drive back.
I spent my last evening amongst the hotel staff sampling treats from both the bar and restaurant. Seven Seeds is a new concept to the Williamsburg Hotel. They serve breakfast, lunch, and midday snacks featuring a variety of baked good from Brooklyn Bread Lab. On recommendation from the bartender, I tried the Lamb and Mint flatbread and was extremely impressed by the quality of the food. It’s a common misconception that escalated Hotel food is becoming more rare but I would argue this is yet another group working tirelessly to enrich the guest experience. A gorgeous flatbread with thin soft buttery folded layers topped with ground lamb, mint, feta, and roasted leek, it was a nice light meal after days of heavy meals.
With a few sips of the herb infused gin and tonic the bartender paired with my plate, I was ready to say my goodbyes to one of my most favorite cities. I took a swim in the rooftop pool, taking in the skyline sparkling in the distance. I don’t know the next time I will be in New York, but I know my heart will long for it soon enough.