One of the best things I did before arriving in New York was to purchase an excellent pair of walking shoes.
Walking is one of the best ways to explore the many interesting neighbourhoods that make up Manhattan. Neighbourhoods with names such as TriBeCa, Chinatown, SoHo, Nolita, Meat Packing District, Times Square, Greenwich village Upper East and West Side, Financial District, Theatre District and Hells Kitchen all have something special to offer.
Each neighbourhood has a unique flavour and personality. Whether it is known for its shopping , great restaurants and cafes, historical buildings, street markets or upscale apartments and lofts, we found them all very interesting.
We found the best way to get to the any of the neighbourhoods, that were too far to walk to, was by subway. On our arrival to New York and in our first subway station we purchased a US$25 MetroCard that gave us unlimited use of the subway and buses for seven days. These cards can be purchased at any subway station or they can be purchased from a MetroCard shop. These were a deal.
Once you get downtown (southbound) and uptown (northbound) figured out and take a minute to read the subway maps, usually posted at the entrance of the stations, it is a pretty easy system to use.
Walking through all the neighbourhoods is bound to make you hungry. New York is a city known for its food. Restaurants and cafes are abundant. Ethnic cuisine is everywhere. What to do?
Eating in the highly touristy areas such as Times Squares was not on our agenda. We wanted to taste some of the foods N.Y. is famous for, such as the deli sandwich or a New York strip steak, but we also didn’t want to spend our entire budget on high-profile, expensive and often overrated restaurants. We found that even on Broadway, one deli could be offering a $20 breakfast and just a few doors down in a lesser known deli, we could purchase coffee and an omelette for under $5. Make sure you shop around.
We got to know the cooks in the little deli across from our my hotel and ate a wonderful healthy breakfast each morning, prepared in front of us, to enjoy either there or as a takeout. Many mornings we finished our run, grabbed our takeout breakfast and found a bench in Central Park to enjoy it. What a treat.
Chinatown is brimming with restaurants. We chose Big Wong King (67 Mott St. between Canal and Bayard) and enjoyed a delicious meal and two drinks for less than $15. Make sure you try the barbecued ribs. It was worth manoeuvering the crowded streets of Chinatown to hunt down one of its many restaurant meals.
I don’t think you could go wrong by eating at any of the many restaurants found there. In these restaurants, it is less about the ambiance and more about the food. It is authentic and interesting.
Shopping before or after the meal is also an eye opener. Who knew they could fit so many items into the crowded shops. You are sure to find an interesting little trinket for yourself or a friend in this area.
We also loved eating in the neighbourhood just off the theatre area and Broadway named Hell’s Kitchen. Here you can walk past restaurants and cafes for blocks and blocks along Ninth Avenue. The toughest job will be to choose the place you want to dine as there is a collection of Thai, Greek, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and American-themed restaurants. We ate at Thai (Wondee Siam) one evening and a Greek (Uncle Nick’s) on another and were not disappointed at either. Again we were fed and watered for under $30 at both places. You really can’t go wrong in this area of town.
Of course you can’t go to New York without having a bagel. You can dress it up with cream cheeses or smoked fish, but if you’re like me a plain, slightly chewy bagel, warm out of the oven can not be beaten. I tried the H&H Bagel shop (2239 Broadway at 80th Street) and wasn’t disappointed. I was busy looking for it on a little street map, but as I got closer all I had to do was follow my nose.
A last bit of eating advice: don’t forget the street vendors. You shouldn’t leave N.Y. without a taste of a hotdog, falafel, gyros or a bag of hot peanuts. Eating a $1 hotdog filled with fried onions and secret sauces on a busy N.Y. intersection is an experience not to be missed.
Taking the subway and then walking around the diverse neighbourhoods of New York was a highlight for us. Finding a great restaurant that didn’t break our budget was just part of the fun. We only got to a few of these special places this time, but I know we will be back for more. Once again, we knew we had only taken a small bite out of the Big Apple. It was much too tasty not to come back for more.
Mona Knudslien is a recently-retired Red Deer teacher and school administrator. Her column appears on Saturdays.