New York City is a tough nut to crack. It’s never more apparent to me that I’m from a small town in Oklahoma than when I’m wandering the streets of Manhattan, usually either sweating buckets or freezing to the bone. But each time I visit, I find ways to chip away at that nut and find something new to love. We spent a little over 24 hours in NYC last month, and had a great time. Here’s a very photo heavy look at what we did in the city that never sleeps.
A Healthy Lunch at Made Nice
Food is always a priority when we travel, but for this trip we made an effort to stay on the healthier side with our choices. Made Nice is the fast casual spot from the team behind the “world’s best” restaurant Eleven Madison West.
We stopped in as soon as we dropped our bags of at our hotel (more on that later) for a quick, healthy lunch before the day’s activities. The place was crazy crowded on a Friday at lunch, but the line moved very quickly.
Unlike many fast casual places where creating your own bowl or salad is the norm, Made Nice has a set selection of dishes from which to choose. They do not allow any alterations or substitutions. While this felt a tad limiting, it certainly helped to move things along.
I ordered the curry cauliflower with cauliflower stew, tofu, couscous, coconut, lemongrass, watercress, almond and grapes. Tom chose the pork and carrots with confit pork shoulder, warm grain, roasted carrots, bacon, kale and a sherry-bacon vinaigrette. Both were very good, with flavors slightly more elevated than I’ve come to expect from fast casual cuisine. I’d love to see one of these come to DC.
A Walk on the High Line
Our top priority for this trip was a visit to the High Line, so we headed there right after lunch. It was an unusually hot day for mid-May, but we were not deterred.
For those who don’t know, the High Line is a beautiful public park built on historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. I hadn’t been to New York City in several years, so it was a must see for the trip. It is as stunning as I had hoped, with great views and tons of NYC character.
The High Line is such a fabulous place to spend an afternoon in New York City. I was excited to read that the architects who designed it are going to be putting their skills to the test to transform Georgetown’s stretch of the C&O Canal into a more functional public space. I can’t wait to see what it becomes!
Happy Hour Snacks in the Village
We need sustenance after all that walking and sweating, so we meandered through one of favorite NYC neighborhoods, Greenwich Village, to find food and drink. We grabbed a glass of wine at Monument Lane before moving onto Amelie Wine Bar for snacks. Because it was so hot, we opted for a scallop crudo and the watermelon gazpacho both of which were delicious and refreshing.
We went back to the Village later that evening for a night of live jazz at Smalls for a wonderful, chill way to cap off the day.
A Stumbled-Upon Food Festival
We walked around the Village for a bit longer after happy hour before heading back toward our hotel. We’d been scouring the internet and social media trying to decide where to go for dinner, but as luck would have it we stumbled upon the Madison Square Eats food festival. Problem solved!
We took a quick lap to check out what all the stands had to offer before deciding on two businesses I’ve heard a lot about – Roberta’s Pizza and Bolivian Llama Party.
Everything we ordered was wonderful, and probably much cheaper than a dinner out in the city would have been. The curry papas at Bolivian Llama Party were outstanding. Our Famous Original pizza from Roberta’s didn’t photograph well, but was also very delicious. I love happy accidents like this.
Lights Out at Life Hotel
Life Hotel is a brand new boutique hotel in Midtown. We scored a great rate on a room due to the fact that construction was still going on during the time of our stay. The gorgeous building once housed the iconic Life Magazine and also served as lodging for the writers and artists who worked there.
When we checked in, I was ecstatic about how beautiful everything was and how large the room and bathroom were for the price – especially in Manhattan.
However, we probably should have known that you get what you pay for. The room was lovely, and I may have squealed with delight when I saw the huge soaking tub in the bathroom. After a long day walking all over the city I had grand plans for a soak. Unfortunately, the hotel was completely without hot water due to construction issues. I understand that these things happen. However, the staff were not at all forthcoming about the issue or when it would be resolved. It wasn’t the end of the world, but enough of a pain to diminish the original thrill I’d felt over finding an affordable hotel room in the city.
All of that said, it is a beautiful building in a pretty convenient location. If the price stays low, you could do a lot worse than staying here. The bed was comfortable and there was a nice, complimentary spread at the bar for happy hour and breakfast. They also provided water bottles and free filtered water on every floor, a very nice touch. I just would have appreciated a more hospitable and up front staff.
Brunch at The Little Beet Table
While we got off to a great start, we hit a snag with the hotel that continued through brunch. Keeping up with our efforts to be semi-healthy on this trip, we made brunch reservations at The Little Beet Table. The adorable restaurant near the Flat Iron Building serves up healthful, vegetable-driven food that is 100% gluten-free. I’m not gluten-free, but I always enjoy seeing what restaurants can do with their cuisine within such limitations.
Things started off well with some of the most delicious banana bread I’ve ever had, which just so happened to be gluten-free.
Unfortunately, most of the goodness stopped there. Service was incomprehensibly slow. Tom’s mashed sweet potato toast was good, but not earth shattering. My crispy pearl rice arrived with the most leathery, overcooked fried egg I’ve ever seen.
It took more than half an hour for our dishes to arrive after ordering them. But when I asked for a replacement over easy egg on the side, a completely new dish arrived five minutes. The second egg arrived in far better shape, although with cold, undercooked rice. Hopefully it was just an off day, as reviews for the restaurant are very positive. That’s the downside to travel dining, you only have one chance to get it right.
I think we would have been better off opting for the fast casual Little Beet option instead, which reminds me that I need to check out the DC location soon.
A Walk in the Park
No trip to New York City is complete without a trip to Central Park. We decided to make the long trek there on foot, which allowed for a glimpse at the Empire State Building.
We bought coffees and walked through Bryant Park along the way. I can’t imagine living in such a big city, but moments like these that make me think it might be worth a shot someday.
Our feet were already throbbing by the time we reached Central Park, but we still happily wandered around taking in its peaceful beauty.
Fun story: Tom and I went to New York City for the first time shortly after we started dating. We’d gone for a concert on Long Island that got cancelled, so we wound up staying in Brooklyn the whole weekend. (Brooklyn is so wonderful and I really hope to take another Brooklyn-focused trip very soon.) It was my first time visiting, so Tom showed me around. We took the subway into Manhattan for a walk around SoHo and Central Park. Although I think we both already knew before the trip that we were pretty serious, we decided to make our relationship official while in NYC. Needless to say, the city and Central Park will always hold a piece of my heart.
Goodbye For Now
With that, it was time to hit the road. We drove a short ways to visit Tom’s family in nearby New Jersey, a relaxing change of pace from the past 24 hours in NYC. It was a short trip, but every time we visit is better and better. And we’ll definitely be back to keep chipping away at the big, beautiful, crazy nut that is New York City.