I visited New York in August 2013 for the first time after almost six years. The best part about being back was that it gave me the opportunity to explore parts of the city that I had ignored when I lived there, including Chinatown, Little Italy, and the LES. Most of my days were spent wandering streets that didn't have a number in its name - confusing at first but eye-opening and exciting as well! I soon came to love these parts of the city and made a personal vow to make one of these locales my home if I ever moved back to New York.
New York can get expensive and since I was on a bit of a budget, I often planted myself at a sidewalk cafe and people-watched over coffee or a beer. The city is full of beautiful, interesting people from all over the world - it's very much like an outdoor airport!
Getting around the city is super easy. You can easily hail a cab from the street or use the 24-hour subway, a luxury that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world I think. A trip on the subway costs $2.50 and it doesn't matter if you're traveling from Coney Island to Harlem or Union Square to Astor Place - you always pay $2.50 for a one-way journey, which is awesome.
David Chang's Momofuku restaurant group has been attracting hordes of hungry New Yorkers ever since Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in the East Village almost 10 years ago. Booker and Dax is the chef's first foray into the world of cocktails and it surely holds its own in a city that's already home to PDT, Milk & Honey, and Pegu Club. While the drinks may be pricey ($13-$15 a pop), the atmosphere is anything but. People are here to chill and even when it's busy, the bartenders remain attentive. Sides include heaps of ham, deviled eggs, and caviar. I could have spent the entire night here but that would have left me with only enough cash for ramen dinners the rest of the week.
While it's apparently the first dim sum house to open in New York, Nom Wah Tea Parlor has definitely kept up with the times and is also, dare I say, pretty cool. Pop music blasts from the speakers, there's free WiFi, and black and white photographs from generations ago dot the walls. I had the House Special Pan Fried Dumplings, Shrimp Rice Rolls, Pork Buns, and Pork Siu Mai. All were freaking fantastic.
The name of this simple, no-frills restaurant says it all. Try the roast duck noodle soup.
One of THE spots to have brunch in New York comes with an unofficial disclaimer - no matter how hard you try there will always be a wait for a table. So be prepared and man up; there are tons of things in this world that are worse than having to wait an hour for the greatest brunch in the greatest city in the world. If it's your first time and you're by yourself, then get the famous blueberry pancakes. If you're in a group, get a mix of sweet and savory dishes. If you can't decide what to get, close your eyes and point - you won't be disappointed.
There is no compromise or halfway point at this Mediterranean meets Middle East restaurant - everything is cooked to perfection. The food, which is inspired from the chef/owner's Israeli roots, ranges from new renditions of well-known staples to simple inventions that taste pretty damn amazing. I had the Fried Olives, the Daily Ceviche, and the Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak.
I found Mimi and Coco while wandering the Lower East Side one afternoon. Described as Japanese Food, New York Style, Mimi and Coco dishes out piping hot Teriyaki Balls from their small spot on Rivington. Stuffed with shrimp, sausage, cheese, or potato, these spheres of deliciousness are the perfect takeaway snack for exploring the LES. $6 for 6 - a deal if you ask me.
A really cool bar with a good-looking but casual clientele. Friendly bartenders is icing on the cake; one was even kind enough to take a stab at a tequila cocktail that wasn't on the menu - the Infante.
This place stinks...but in a good way. If you're a fan of the fromage then come here to pair cheese from all over the world with flights of wine. Murray's also conducts classes on cheese - check out the website for details! Next door is the famous cheese shop where over 300 different cheeses are on rotation for you to purchase. The shop is also home to Murray's Melts where you can get some gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Mmmm...