Last week, Shawn and I went to New York with his teenage kids. Coincidentally, New York was the last trip I took before COVID (in November 2019), and my first trip after the pandemic. The city is just reopening, and we found that it wasn't completely back to normal. Some places didn't allow indoor seating, some businesses had limited hours, and others weren't open at all.
Masks were still required at some restaurants and stores, unlike in Atlanta, where we are seeing everyone's faces again (for better or worse, ha ha). It's not surprising that New York is being cautious - they were hit badly by COVID, and it is a densely populated city with scores of tourists (including us).
Overall, though, we found that Manhattan was less crowded than usual, which made for a nice vacation.
There is no better place for dining out than New York.
I loved seeing all the outdoor patios put up by restaurants in the street, some crudely constructed, others quite elaborate. I hope the city allows the patios to remain.
We ate everything from Italian to French to Japanese to Mexican. My favorite was Ivan Ramen, which Shawn chose after we saw Chef Ivan Orkin profiled on Chef's Table. Chef Ivan's story is remarkable because he is a Jewish guy from New York who outdid the Japanese when he opened a ramen shop in Japan.
I ordered the Triple Pork Triple Garlic because the noodles come in a sauce, rather than a broth. It was my favorite dish in New York.
Tie for second place goes to Angelina Bakery, featuring old-world Italian pastries and savory sandwiches, and Paris Baguette, which nearly fooled me into believing I was biting into a real Parisian croissant.
Below, sweets and savories from Angelina's Bakery
Bea, in Hell's Kitchen, wins Best Atmosphere Award, with its old photos on exposed brick, "I Love Lucy" projected on the wall, a piano in the dining room and candles decorating the tables and bar. The mac & cheese and Brussels sprouts were delicious. I definitely recommend this restaurant if you are in NY.
Above and below, Bea in Hell's Kitchen
We also went to Chelsea Market, the model for Ponce City Market on the Atlanta BeltLine. Once the Nabisco factory where Oreos were invented, Chelsea Market now hosts restaurants, shops and food markets. While some restaurants were closed, I knew I picked a winner when I saw the line at Los Tacos No. 1. The Pollo Asado taco was my favorite, with chicken nestled inside a handmade corn tortilla, topped with verde sauce.
Below, Los Tacos No. 1 and Chelsea Market
And of course, in New York, there is pizza. Thin slice. Sicilian slice. Brooklyn slice. I will take any slice.
Above, guess which is from Joe's and which is from Prince Street Pizza
I got the chance to explore some of New York's street art. I love this Zeus-like profile below by @CPWON, and Shawn was excited to find the portrait of Basquiat, a favorite of his. One of the mural artists, Al Diaz, coined the tag SAMO© (same old shit) with Basquiat, which they painted as graffiti around NY in the 1970s. He painted this mural in Brooklyn with Owen Dippie.
Below: Street art by @CPWON; Basquiat mural by Al Diaz and Owen Dippie; It's OK to Cry by @hugogyrl; Thank You Dr. Fauci by @individualactivist; an alley on the Lower East Side.
We also went to the Guggenheim, my second visit, and saw some of the masters, including Picasso, Gaugin, Manet, Degas and Van Gogh. The spiral ramp was closed for a new exhibit installation, but we got to see plenty of inspiring art.
My favorite part of the trip was rooftop comedy in Brooklyn. Every comic was funny - there were no duds. The only downside was the very steep fire escape we had to climb to access the roof (no pictures because I was too busy trying to suppress my fear of heights). But the comedy and sunset view of Manhattan were worth it.
Many Manhattan businesses were showing their colors for Pride month. Unfortunately, we missed the parade, held a day after we left. But it was great to see the business community support the LGBT+ community.
Above and below, Macy's and UGG decked out in rainbow colors for Pride Month
We discovered new food and art in New York, and I was so glad to travel again. During the pandemic, caged up in my home, I was immensely grateful for all the trips I took when I had the chance.
Hopefully, this is just one of many more to come.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food & art tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.