Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope your holiday is as pleasant and relaxing as mine. I'll be back Wednesday morning with another post!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Best Sushi Restaurant in New York City

In a city of 8 million people, you'd think New York would have at least a handful of sushi conveyor belt restaurants.

Maybe it does, but they're sure hard to find.

Luckily, we found a winner on our second try.

Last month we tried Sushiya, a sushi restaurant inside the Whole Foods Bowery. But the selection on the conveyor belt was sparse (we admittedly got there shortly before closing, but still) and the atmosphere was a little too, well, pristine. No character.

East Japanese Restaurant (also known as Kaiten Sushi East) in Gramercy, however, had the trifecta: character, selection, good prices.

I knew I was in for a good time when I immediately saw a plate of dried seaweed that I remembered eating every morning for breakfast in Tokyo. I plucked the plate off the belt right away, but no worries. I saw so many servings of seaweed that it was impossible to keep count.

In fact, that was the best part. The belt was so crowded that the lips of the plates almost always overlapped. So whenever I felt like some spicy tuna or an avocado roll, I knew it wouldn't take long before one would roll my way.

What's more, the plates started at $1.50. Sure, it was only three pieces per plate, but at these prices I didn't even care. We were actually full when we left, which never happens at a sushi restaurant.

East Japanese Restaurant has hopped, skipped and jumped into second place on my personal list of favorite restaurants in New York City. Don't remember my favorite? Take a look here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Best Shady Market in Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge has more than its fair share of discount stores. I can think of three offhand within a couple of blocks of our apartment.

Most stick to the tried-and-true 99 cent motif, but a lot of them sell items for -- gasp -- up to several dollars. My favorite discount store is the nearby Shady Market.

The sign (and, as far as I know) the name are new. Paul and I had a good-natured laugh when we saw it. The owners don't speak English as a native language, and we wonder if they understand the double meaning of the word "shady." In any case, the woman at the cash register is anything but the more sinister meaning of the word -- she's always very friendly when I pick up some sandwich baggies or an umbrella or two.

In fact, she made me feel pretty good a couple of weeks ago. I had just come from a bodega and had placed my bags of groceries on the ground while I fumbled in my purse for some cash. The woman, from Morocco, spied some couscous in my bag and rewarded me with a huge smile.

"You like couscous?" she asked, astonished. She told me that I'm the first non-Arabian she's met that eats it.

I like to think that I'm more open to foreign foods since moving to New York, and I probably am. But couscous? I started eating that in Columbus.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Good Night's Sleep, Every Night

My biggest source of frustration (at least at home!) was suddenly and unexpectedly eliminated last week.

The bar downstairs closed.

Faithful readers of this blog know that the bar/Mexican restaurant two floors below us has been the cause of many middle-of-the-night awakenings. Fights. Drunkards shouting obscenities. More fights.

These things didn't happen every weekend, but often enough to make it a major annoyance. We never called the cops because of the noise, but we came pretty close a few times.

You may also remember that several months ago our landlord told us that the bar was on its way out. A week, a month, three months later the bar was still there and I had given up that it would ever be gone. That's why it was such a lovely surprise to see the windows papered over when I came home from work one night.

Now we have a different problem. Paul said he woke up in the middle of the night because it was too quiet.

So family members and friends: Come visit! I can now guarantee fight-free Friday nights and a good night's sleep ... as long as you don't mind the regular din of traffic and the incessant tune of the ice cream trucks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Miles vs. Minutes in New York City

In Ohio, 1 mile = 1 minute.

This is true nearly everywhere, except in the heart of the state's biggest cities and during the unavoidable rush hours.

In New York City, 1 mile = ? This is true in all locations, at all times.

A trip by subway from Bay Ridge to, for example, Times Square could be 30 minutes if the train pulls up as you step on the platform and you then transfer from a local to an immediately arriving express train. Make the same trip after midnight, when the trains are local and you might have to wait up to a half hour for a train, and the trip can easily take over an hour.

What's more, a destination that's further away in miles isn't necessarily further away by subway. It all depends on the nearest subway station and whether that station has express trains.

The distances from our apartment to New York landmarks are deceivingly small, even if you travel by car. It may take only about 20 minutes to drive the 9 miles to Greenwich Village, but by the time you find a parking spot (let alone pay the exorbitant fee), you may just as well have taken the subway.

Here's just a few of our commuting conundrums, from closest (in miles) to our apartment to furthest away:

Staten Island

2 miles
Car: 15 minutes
Subway/ferry: 1 hour

Coney Island
6 miles
Car: 15 minutes
Subway: 1 hour

Battery Park (Statue of Liberty)
7 miles
Car: 15 minutes
Subway: 30 minutes

Greenwich Village
9 miles
Car: 20 minutes
Subway: 40 minutes

Williamsburg, Brooklyn
9 miles
Car: 20 minutes
Subway: 1 hour

Union Square
10 miles
Car: 20 minutes
Subway: 40 minutes

Herald Square
11 miles
Car: 25 minutes
Subway: 45 minutes

Times Square
12 miles
Car: 25 minutes
Subway: 1 hour

Central Park
13 miles
Car: 30 minutes
Subway: 1 hour

Metropolitan Museum of Art
14 miles
Car: 30 minutes
Subway: 50 minutes

LaGuardia Airport
16 miles
Car: 25 minutes
Subway/bus (yup, you need both!): 1 hour 30 minutes

Citi Field (Home of the Mets)
18 miles
By car: 30 minutes
Subway: 1 hour 20 minutes

JFK Airport
20 miles
Car: 30 minutes
Subway: 1 hour 45 minutes

Yankee Stadium
21 miles
Car: 35 minutes
Subway: 1 hour 30 minutes

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ping Pong & Beer: The Perfect Combination

I wasn't in the mood to go home one recent Friday evening, but I didn't have any plans. So I gave Paul a ring on my way to the subway. Miraculously, I didn't get his voicemail. Instead, he too was just getting ready to leave.

Let's take a walk, I suggested. He was game. He works exactly 4 stops away, so I met him at the door to his building.

We didn't have a particular destination. First we dawdled along the not-so-scenic streets of downtown Brooklyn and then finally made our way to the much more lively Park Slope.

We walked and talked, all the while keeping an eye out for a good happy hour special. I knew we hit the jackpot when I saw the chalkboard scrawlings outside a bar called Royale. The lure: $3 beers ... and a ping pong table in the back.

Happy hour ended in about 2 minutes, so we hurriedly ordered our drinks and waited for the couple playing ping pong to disappear. My glass was almost empty when they finally stopped playing. So we ordered another round (at full price -- we fell into their trap!) and snagged the table.

I beat Paul twice.

I hadn't played in many years, but ping pong used to be a staple in my family. My parents have a table, and we would regularly play in the garage each summer. I specifically remember having family tournaments at my and my sister's birthday parties each year.

The bar looked familiar, and then I remembered that we had been to Royale once before, right after we first moved to Brooklyn. Back then, there was no ping pong table -- only a dance floor. I much prefer the ping pong.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vogue vs. Me: Dressing in New York

I'm not the most fashionable dresser.

Yeah, you've probably noticed.

I think/hope I'm not the worst dressed on the block, but I know I'm not the best. I don't flip through fashion mags, and I don't buy high-end clothing or even their cheaper knock-offs. I like to think I dress neatly but conservatively, in clothes that fit my body type. But as for a pair of skinny jeans? I couldn't bring myself to take them any further than the dressing room.

Amid all of the excitement of moving to New York two and a half years ago, I must admit I was worried about my clothes. Hey, I may not spend much time on my wardrobe, but I'm still a girl. I knew the city wasn't completely filled with Carrie Bradshaw wannabees-- more like 50 percent, right? As I quickly found out, it's much, much less. In fact, practically non-existent in most neighborhoods and exactly all of the restaurants and bars I frequent. Clans stick to their own, I guess, and I'm not in with the Vogue crowd.

I remember the exact moment I knew I was going to fit in just fine. I was coming into the city one August day from LaGuardia by myself -- Paul had flown in earlier in the day for the job interview that eventually brought us here -- and I noticed a girl about my age in a simple dress that I can only describe as bohemian hipster. I can't even remember what it looked like, but I do remember thinking that she had the same tired damn-it-all expression I would have used on a hot, humid, below-average morning in Ohio. Heck, there are so many Midwestern transplants in New York, that she might have been from Ohio.

In any case, my point is this: this girl made me realize that New York is just another city. It's buildings are a little taller and its inhabitants live a little closer, but everyone's still just trying to get on with their lives. There's just better food in New York to help us do it.

I don't shop at Barney's or Bloomingdale's. I still wear sneakers far too often and heels far too little. But I don't feel out of place. I'm just a grain of sand in the fashion mecca of New York, and that's okay by me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spring at Rockefeller Center

There's probably 1 flag for every 20 tourists at Rockefeller Center on a nice spring evening. Maybe everyone wants to pretend they're on the set of "30 Rock"?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

From Bathhouse to Marketplace

Brooklyn Lyceum

Flea markets, I'm finding, are one of the best ways to see the old buildings of Brooklyn.

First, I took something of a self-guided tour of the historic Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower when I visited the Brooklyn Flea a few weekends ago.

Last Sunday I got off the subway one stop before the Flea and went to the Brooklyn Lyceum's Spring Food and Craft Market. The vendors were similar -- Etsy-type crafts and lots of delicious food -- but the venues couldn't have been more different.

The bank location is gigantic, with huge ceilings and a large mural on one wall. The architecture was amazing -- it almost looked like a church rather than a former bank.

The lyceum -- formerly Public Bath #7 -- was much more cramped and crowded, but the building was just as interesting.

According to the lyceum's website, the 100-year old building once held the largest indoor pool in the country. The building, now a cafe/theater/gym/building-available-for-rent is a bit shabby in the corners, but with lots of personality -- and a surprising amount of natural light.

I tried a few samples (like a yummy piece of coconut truffle) and wished I had tried a few more (bacon marmalade, anyone?). Other than that, I left empty-handed, but I left intrigued about a block of Brooklyn I had never before given a second glance.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Guilty Congratulations

The distance from home seems longer at some times than at others.

Five hundred miles really isn't that far. It's about two hours by plane, and I swear most of that is spent at the gates. By car it's a 10 to 12 hour drive, depending on traffic and our destination.

Either way, the distance is just far enough to be inconvenient. Now a trip home takes planning, and a simple weekend jaunt to visit my parents is out of the question.

But it doesn't prevent me from feeling guilty about all of the times I feel I should be there. This past weekend is a prime example. Not only was it Mother's Day, but my sister graduated with a master's degree in education. A congratulations over the phone (and, ahem, by blog) isn't quite the same as being there for the family celebration, but it'll have to do.

So congratulations, Katie. Finally, you can stick to assigning homework instead of working on it yourself!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Lonely Lilacs of Bay Ridge

Green is a beautiful color after a long winter, but purple is even prettier.

Last year, on one of my many trips to and from the subway station near our apartment, I noticed a purple lilac bush. Rather, I smelled it. I remember literally stopping in my tracks while my nose did a double take.

This spring I've adjusted my route to and from the subway so I walk by the bush almost each day, tracking its progress and trying to catch it in full bloom. The bush is about my height and scarcely wider, trapped behind a fence. It's nothing like my parents' lilac bushes -- or the ones we recently saw at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden -- that could more accurately be called trees. But it's all I have in Bay Ridge.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lunch with a View

View from Fairway: Red Hook, Brooklyn

Eating outdoors is always pleasant, but it's even more so if the patio comes with a view like this. Sunny sky, Statue of Liberty, kayaks in the distance. Food tastes better this way.

Monday, May 3, 2010

An Out-of-Towner at Heart

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

Paul and I see our families far less now that we've moved 500 miles away. I take each visit -- both of us to them and of them to us -- far less for granted than I did when we measured the distance between us in minutes rather than states.

I'm always happy to see my mom and dad, and nowadays it happens far less often than I would like. And now I have yet another reason to look forward to their visits: Seeing the city through their eyes.

I would never pretend to be a New York native: I have far too much to learn. But I can hold my own. I can debate the best way to get from point A to B by public transportation, I know that a $1,000 apartment is unreasonable in Manhattan, and I've even set myself up as something of an expert at work on the cupcakes of New York City.

I can't match the disappointment of long-time New Yorkers who regret the Disneyfication of Times Square, but I no longer stare in awe at the skyscrapers, the people or the sheer variety of activities in the five boroughs.

So I enjoy sharing what I've learned in the last two and a half years with my parents. The out-of-the-way spots for a good view or a nice rest in the middle of the city. Or getting from here to there by subway in the shortest about of time with the least number of steps. What's more, I like hearing about their own discoveries, like when they stumbled upon Bryant Park one afternoon last year while I was at work.

But despite all of this, there are still a few "touristy" things that we all can enjoy together. First among these is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. "True" New Yorkers would probably complain about the crowds, but I'm still enough of an out-of-towner to admit that the stroll still hasn't grown old.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...