Not really needed on one of the best eating days of the year but to ensure proper drool action, lets start the weekend with my Friday lunch with the boys at work. It’s becoming a company tradition where I take my coworkers to lunch like on a school field trip (single file, no holding hands). We call it Eating With Ziggy. This time it was a special occasion so I took them to Danji, a sort of favorite go to spot lately. I got the usual suspects to share… the addictive tofu, KFC wings, Bulgogi sliders (rule number one of fight club – order the sliders) and both bibimbaps. Cant recommend this highly enough. Well, I can, but choose not too. Slightly different menu for dinner where all those dishes are available and more.
This time we left the house at 8 am much to more confusion from the neighbors (where are their kids, why are they stuffing a suitcase in the car again, are the kids in the suitcase). We don’t talk to the neighbors on the left who’s main mission in life is to see all their neighbors suffer. But I digress. Very light breakfast at home was necessary in order to save room for what turned out to be one of the best eating days of the year. Hmm, I believe I already said that.
The entire morning centered around the brilliant Summer Streets. It’s like the biggest baddest block party imaginable. Ok, perhaps not the baddest. For three Saturdays in August the entire park avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn bridge to around 70th st or so is closed to traffic the entire morning, or from 7 to 1 to be exact. Bikers, walkers, babies, joggers take advantage with the help of volunteers from New York Cares that control traffic, and even try to entertain sometimes while controlling traffic. Some seem happier to do it than others but I give big kudos points to all of them. In addition, you have all sorts of pit stops along the way… Zip Lining, Yoga, Whole Foods giving away free food, concerts, free walking tours, wall climbing, bicycle riding lessons, and much more. A great way to spend the morning with other New Yorkers. We parked near our hotel of choice (more on that soon), and rode the bikes to around 30th st in order to walk inside the Park ave Tunnel to the sound of water and waves. If you ever wondered how Cast Away middle of the ocean feels like, you wont get that feeling here. They choose a different artist every year to for the sounds.
The end of the tunnel you pretty much at Grand Central Station, so like true tourists we took the opportunity to visit it. Their was a wedding couple taking pictures while posing way too proper for the purpose. We tried to take an audio guide tour but couldn’t quite wait the extra few minutes for the audio guide person to come back from her break. It said “will be back in 15” and I swear we waited over 7! Ok, we are not the most patient people. I’m waiting for someone to bring me a Cronut directly so I could finally try it. Right before entering the station we found ourselves at the Grand Hyatt, which felt just (slot machine sounds) shy of a Vegas hotel
We then proceeded to the Public Library Main branch and proceeded to do what every normal parents normally do in town without their kids.. go to a children book exhibit. The ABCs of It exhibit was more interesting than I expected. History of famous children books and their importance. Stories like that of a couple who fled Paris right before a Nazi invasion carrying the drawings of a monkey named Fifi. “Curious Fifi” would have been a better name than Curious George if you ask me. A fun corner depicting the history of Goodnight Moon. Nothing about goodnight Ipad, and my favorite classic Goodnight Schnitzel, but whatever. Goodnight Moon was my favorite book because it was easy to read, short and sweet and I was able to go back to watching the hockey game in no time. And upon exiting the library there was that wedding couple again following us with the same exact pose.
Back to Summer Streets, we walked Park ave a bit to the Whole Foods pit stop where we enjoyed..nothing! due to the lines. Picked up bikes and rode to the lower end of the “festival” where things got a bit more chaotic (in a good way). But just before we picked up the bikes we did what every tourist to NYC must do, eat a hot dog. I havent eaten in like 3 hours and I was starving
Our lunch was at Ivan Ramen flagship in the Lower East Side, with our young friend Victoria who recently moved to the East Village. This is my second visit to this location, but I’ve been to the Slurp Shop in Gotham West many times. They don’t share the same menu. I will try to write a separate review if I have a chance but meanwhile here’s what I recommend to try at the LES flagship
Pickled Daikon – With dried shrimp that taste closer to breadcrumbs than shrimp but quite yummo!
Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – The pickled garlic is what did it for me
Ankimo Dirty Rice (dinner only) – Ankimo is essentially monkfish liver but dont be scared. An absolute must
Pork Meatballs – Perfection. Cant get any more tender this
Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen (dinner) – Didn’t have it yet but perhaps the most popular dish here
Four Cheese Mazemen (dinner) – Rich and flavor packed
Salmon Donburi (lunch) – Like the whitefish Donburi at Gotham West but with Salmon instead. Fantastic dish
Not much dessert here but no worries. One of my new favorite “I cant believe its not gelato” ice cream spots is not too far at the underrated Essex Market, Luca and Bosco. Named after the owners dogs. Two girls, one of whom picked up some valuable trade secrets in the gelato capital of the world, Florence Italy. The Drunk and Salty Caramel with Bourbon is my pick again but I urge you to try the rest
We then walked around East Village with Victoria and made our way to the hotel. I don’t know if it was the beer or lack of sleep but exhaustion hit, and I was craving a hotel bed badly. And yes, we went back to the Hyatt Union Square and THIS time I got the view I wanted, of the brick wall. I suppose a view of the city would make more sense to the average tourist but I rather face peace and quiet. Our room was away from the elevator this time as well, and while the design was a bit different, still the same great king size bed and pillows, decent size, nice shower, and here’s the kicker… “Great Location” is something you see in just about every hotel review, whether the location is UWS, Times Square, no matter. Its a cliché. But, I honestly cant think of a better location than this. You could come up with some other nearby hotels that may be slightly better situated than the corner of 4th and 13th st, but, this is as center as it gets to great dining, great neighborhoods, and everything else pretty much. You can walk just about everywhere from here including Times Square. We walked to Battery Park the next day. Highly recommend this baby Hyatt. From baby Hyatt to baby NoMad…
After some relaxing at the Hyatt we met up with friends and walked toward the most highly anticipated meal of the “trip”, the new NoMad Bar. It was even better than anticipated. Fantastic bay scallop, and carrot “tartar” starters, first rate duck sausage, and as expected a burger that can rival anything in NYC right now. But that’s not all folks. The NoMad famous truffled/foie grased chicken can be had in the form of the most luxurious and delicious Chicken Pot Pie ($36). They bring you the pie with the Foie on the side, and mix it in table side. Needless to say the most extrodinary Chicken Pot Pie you will ever have. But that’s not all. The infamous $110 Cocktail Explosion we shared was a big hit with everyone. One of the most memorable meals of the year.
We then made a tourist mistake. We took a cab to Washington Square Park just to cross it again to reach the next destination. This time they had what looked like a Shakespeare in the Park session which I’ve never witnessed before. Our destination was Comedy Cellar which was sold out of all shows, hence the mistake. Oh well. We briefly considered the Argentinian aerial acrobatics Fuerza Bruta but then settled for plan A, The Hundred-Foot Journey movie which dictated our next day dinner destination (second only to one of the best lobster rolls I ever had)