I love Manhattan. And that’s not to say I love it more than the other boroughs. To be fair, I’ve never spent much time in the Bronx or Staten Island. But there’s a lot to love about Brooklyn and Queens. And then there’s the rest of Long Island. And you’ve got Jersey just over the bridge, or through the tunnel, to the west.
That whole New York City metro area is just so damn rich in culinary diversity and density, it drives me wild with desire.
But I wasn’t touring the region. I had two days worth of work meetings in mid-town Manhattan. However, I wanted to see some family down there, so I added a couple of shoulder days to see my sister, father, aunt, uncle, and grandmother. I wish I had time to catch up with my old friends who live in the city, but my grandmother was in the hospital, so family took priority.
Which isn’t to say there wasn’t time for food. There most certainly was.
It started with a bagel from Absolute Bagels. My sister tells me it’s the new it bagel shop. All I know is that I got an everything bagel hot, and it was everything. Well, it still didn’t quite compare with my Nana’s favorite place on Long Island, but I wasn’t complaining.
Then it was off to Koreatown for lunch. It was surprisingly warm, so at Kunjip I got the Jjol Myun, which was spicy cold noodles with vegetables and an egg. It really hit the spot. And those banchan were all delightful too.
Dinner was at a cool Japanese place called Ootoya that specialized in comfort food. The fried pork set was delicious.
The next morning was a quick breakfast at the Hotel Giraffe, before heading off to the Yelp offices, where I took advantage of the free in-office coffee shop and had the first cortado of many.
Lunch was at The Little Beet Table, and I had tacos with some vegetable sides and a switchel to wash it all down.
Dinner was also nearby in the Flatiron district at a place called Harding’s. I tried my hand at some beer and food pairings. I was pleased to see Peekskill Brewery on the menu. But the braised short rib with mashed potatoes and roasted turnips was delicious, if heavy. Even still, I pushed myself to try dessert, because I had heard good things about the griddle cake. Which was also heavy, but crazy delicious.
Which of course, made me happy for my light hotel breakfast the next morning of plain yogurt, fresh fruit, and a little granola.
And I was still full at lunch, so when we went to the Union Fare Gastrohall I decided to be good and get an order of poke from the Poke Fish Salad stall. However, the director of my group got some pepperoni pizza to share, and I may have had more than one slice of that. And I will neither confirm nor deny that I took a cream filled donut back to the office.
Fortunately, when the meetings were done, I took a giant walk, plus a stroll through The Met Breuer. That meant I finally had an appetite for dinner at the 2nd Ave Deli. Skip the corned beef there. Get the pastrami. And if you can share it with four people, the kasha knish is delish.
That big meal called for another light breakfast back at the hotel. And after visiting my grandmother at the hospital, I went out for dim sum in Douglaston with my sister and uncle. It was great to be able to introduce them to dishes they had not tried before, like my favorite silken tofu with sweet ginger sauce.
Amazingly, when we popped out of Penn Station, I found the one food I had been longing to try since returning from Beijing. It was a Mr. Bing food stand, so I ordered a bing to split with my sister. It kind of killed me to pay $10 for one, but it was cheaper than the plane ride around the world.
And even though we weren’t hungry, I had to pop in to Mandoo Bar in Koreatown because it had a couple people in the window stuffing dumplings by hand. How can anyone resist handmade dumplings?
So we walked it off a bit. Found a Blue Bottle coffee for one last delicious cortado. And before getting on the train for the ride back home, my sister made sure I got a giant 32 ounce beer in a cup with a straw at Penn Station, plus a grandma slice to help suck up all the booze.
She’s a smart one.
Dear god, that’s a lot of eating. And I really didn’t want to bore you with a travelog of eating. Eating was not the focus of this trip. All I wanted to do today was tell you my one insight about Manhattan.
The smell of the city has changed.
I spent my early childhood in Brooklyn and made it into the city quite a bit. Manhattan to me smells like hot dog vendors, hot roasted chestnuts, and warming pretzels. Plus the occasional dank, warm blast of air from a passing subway. And of course pizza.
Those sweet and smoky days are gone.
Today, the overwhelming smell is that of halal carts. Don’t get me wrong. That’s a great smell too. The aromas of deeply seasoned grilled meats are tantalizing. But the smell of the city has changed in a meaningful way. Truly, The City is in a constant state of change. And it has changed in much more meaningful ways in the past few decades. And it will continue to change as the years fly by.
Change is the universal constant. While there may be a small part of me that would like to revisit the Manhattan of the past, going back isn’t progress. You can’t turn back time. And memories of the past are often better than the way it actually was.
One good thing about the Manhattan of today is that it’s much, much cleaner. Even the once omnipresent pigeons were a rare sight. It actually made me worry. Where did all the pigeons go anyway? Are they like rats fleeing a sinking ship? Or has there been some kind of effort to rid the city of these rats with wings? Or perhaps as real estate prices have gone up, and the town is almost exclusively populated by the millionaire class, there just isn’t anyone left who wants to feed the birds.
I’m just going to close with one thing.
Remember to vote tomorrow. Block out the time on your calendar today. Research your polling place, so you know where to go. And if you can’t find a ride to get there, reach out to people on social media.
Hopefully, our country continues to move forward, and we can get beyond the awfulness of this election season.