Category Archives: Walk NYC

NYC Dining Secrets: Stone Street with Kathy Biehl

 

Stone Street is believed to be the first paved street in New York City.

Stone Street patrons enjoy dining al fresco

This narrow, cobblestoned pedestrian street dates back to the original Dutch colonists. Originally called Hoogh (High) Street, it was re-named Duke Street in the 1700s and then, Stone Street.  The area fell into disrepair, but a revitalization effort sparked in the mid-1990s has restored this little alley to a pleasant oasis amid the bustle of the surrounding city canyons.

Lined with chic restaurants and taverns, from April to October the entire street is filled with tables for outdoor dining. Choose from Japanese, Mexican, Scandinavian and other cuisines. Or, opt for the neighborhood appeal of the cozy Stone Street Tavern at 52 Stone Street. Great pub food and a friendly staff.

The Financier Patisserie is a great place to grab a sandwich or an interesting salad like La Mexicaine with arugula, grilled shrimp, roasted corn and black bean relish. Chef Eric Bedoucha takes great pride in his éclairs. You can buy some of the Financier Patisserie’s own brand of cookies or packaged preserves in flavors like apricot & wild cherry.

As you explore Manhattan’s financial district, be sure to forgo noshing so you can totally enjoy the ambience and cuisine of Stone Street.

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NYC Dining Secrets with Kathy Biehl

Dear Gad Abouts,  Our special guest blogger today is Kathy Biehl.  Kathy is the co-author of the up-coming Walk NYC, a walking guide to New York City.  Kathy is incredibly knowledgeable about where and how to find the best restaurants in Manhattan without blowing your travel budget.

Here’s Kathy…..

Gad About Gals are all about traveling light and unencumbered. This is definitely the approach I like to take when it comes to eating in Manhattan.  As tempting as the high-profile restaurants may be, I’m not one to make a reservation weeks in advance or pay the equivalent of my electric bill for a meal. (Given my decade-plus reviewing restaurants in Houston and NYC, you might think otherwise, but you would be wrong!) I prefer to show up on the spur of a moment, look in a window or at a menu and follow where my mood takes me. Here are some of my finds.

Anywhere near the theater district, my preference is to head for 9th Avenue between 43 and 52 Streets, which is a United Nations of restaurants.  My usual drinking buddy and I will often meet on a designated corner and eye the intersection to make our dinner choice.  Favorites include the sausages and beer at

Island Burgers & Shakes

Island Burgers & Shakes

Hallo Berlin

Hallo Berlin

Hallo Berlin Express, 744 9th Ave. near 50th, the humongous burgers and shakes at the inexplicably surf-themed Island Burger, 766 9th Ave. near 51st, and the paper-thin slices at 9th Avenue Pizzeria, 791 9th Ave. near 52nd.

If you have to eat in the Times Square area, head for Cafe Edison, 228 W 47th Street off 7th Ave. Cash-only, it offers breakfast and Jewish comfort food in low-key digs. Great Matzoh ball soup. If you have time to wait in line, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., smack in the middle of pedestrian insanity at 1501 Broadway, has surprisingly  good Southern-style seafood and a wide-ranging menu.
In the Village my favorite spot is

Check out the poetry readings hosted in the basement

Check out the poetry readings hosted in the basement

Cornelia Street Cafe,

 

29 Cornelia Street. The menu is light American bistro fare in a comfortably arty atmosphere, and the bar is a welcoming place for a single person to enjoy a meal. The remainder of Cornelia Street is worth a stroll, too. Even though it’s only a block long, it’s got one tiny restaurant gem after another. Terrific pizza abounds in both directions down Bleecker Street as well. Head towards 6th Avenue for Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine Street. You’ll have to fight your way to the counter and stand to eat your slice, but with pizza this satisfying, you won’t mind. Or head toward 7th Avenue for John’s Pizza, 278 Bleecker, where you can enjoy your pie seated at a table like a respectable person.

And if you’re kicking around the tip of the island, forget the chain restaurants at South Street Seaport and wander over to tiny Stone Street, a historic district near

Lots of history packed in this combination pub, restaurant and museum

Lots of history packed in this combination pub, restaurant and museum

Fraunces Tavern with more than a dozen restaurants side by side. Browse the menus, check the crowds and noise levels and pick a place for your meal.

Other fruitful stretches for spur-of-the-moment dining are Second Avenue in the 60s and 70s and around 14th Street, as well as the streets radiating out from Union Square.

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In Search of the Positive: The 8th Anniversary of 9/11

Hideous construction fences surround the gaping hole that was once the site of the World Trade Towers. Orange vested workers move in and out through well-controlled openings. Visitors lock fingers into the diamond shaped commercial chain link, performing acrobatic pull-ups to catch a glimpse of the cavity.

Eight years after 9/11, the site no longer tells the story. Today, the stories reside inside every New Yorker and how this single event altered their lives.

Ceramic tiles paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the Towers. The fence is across the street from St. Vincent's Hospital.

Ceramic tiles paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the Towers. The fence is across the street from St. Vincent's Hospital.

Hang out with a New Yorker and you will invaribly hear, “After 9/11….”   For them, the event divided their lives into before and after 9 /11.

The first time I saw John Morabito of the FDNY, he was sitting in front of Ladder Ten engine. This fire station sits across the street from what once was the WTC. He was adroitly fielding visitors’ questions like a baseball player hitting practice balls.  John never seemed to tire of repeating the events of that day.  An hour later our impromptu interview consisted of one question: “Has anything good come from 9/11?”

He closed his eyes. Then spoke gently: “The people are different.” His statement was simple, yet profound.  He took a deep breath, exhaled and proceeded to explain. “Before the towers fell, New Yorkers were driven.” Realizing what he had said, he stopped and chuckle.  “Well, New Yorkers are still driven and always will be.

Cross constructed from Twin Tower materials

Cross constructed from Twin Tower materials

But, if you ever need help, just ask. There’s not a person walking these streets that won’t stop what he’s doing to help you. Do they smile? Are they drippy sweet like Southerners? No, but they have hearts as big as that hole down there.” Of course John Morabito is right about New Yorkers. Not even a tough exterior can mask their strength of character.

Several days later, Oswald, a Puerto Rican New Yorker, was snipping off pieces of my hair at Lena’s Hair Salon on East 29th. The quiet of the salon prompted his announcement: “After 9/11, I stopped waiting for tomorrow. You know, I still wake up in the middle of the night feeling the confusion of that day.”  His voice becomes a hum as he drifts back to that terrible Tuesday morning.  He inhales, “Beautiful day today, isn’t it?”

Tragedy has a way of accelerating change while compressing time. In times of crises, decisions that normally take years to finalize, flip into fast-forward mode.  On a sweltering July evening, four of us were sucking down egg cream sodas at Veselka’s on the Lower East Side when, out of some mental fog, Andrea blurted out “I was in California when the planes hit.”  We froze. We listened.  “I stood in the middle of my hotel room, watching the TV, screaming. I went nuts. All I could think of were my friends.  Were they alive? Weeks went by before I knew if they were OK or not. That’s when it got personal. The idea of being afraid to take a chance seemed absurd.”  One year after 9/11, Andrea liberated herself. She quit her high-powered corporate law job and started her own business as an independent charity fundraiser. This evening, when she smiles, her face lights up with satisfaction and zero regrets.

There are universal truths in our world. Number one is love of family.  On a lazy June afternoon, Suzanne and I were on our way to a video interview. Traffic was bumper to bumper on the George Washington Bridge. We seemed to be floating in slow motion. Her cell phone rang. “I need to take this. It’s my daughter.”

The conversation was brief, marking each other’s locations, activities and the dinner menu. She flipped the cell phone closed: “Since 9/11 we stay in touch. I must know she is OK. That day, we were in SoHo. We walked home to Harlem. It took us all day. We were devastated. “ Her long pause begged no response. “We’re always in contact. Imagine that. A mother and her teenage daughter talking to each other. Now that’s a miracle in itself. I just can’t let go. If something happened to her…” She didn’t finish her sentence. She didn’t have to.  Fear of loosing a child is part of every mother’s DNA.  It hides in the caverns of the soul. And, the fear never, ever goes away.

In Amy Zipkin’s NYT’s article “The Call of the Circus” she tells the story of Nicole Feld who came to New York to live and work at People Magazine. Nicole’s story parallels that of so many others: “After Sept. 11, 2001, I decided to join Feld Entertainment…. I had slowly been making a decision to leave magazine publishing, but the terrorist attacks made me think about family.” Nicole’s family owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In a way, she did what kids dream of, running away to join the circus. Only in her case, she ran away to join her family.

Dave Freeman, author of 100 Things to Do Before You Die, died at age forty-seven.  “On Sept. 11, 2001, Freeman watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center from his apartment just blocks away. He moved back to Southern California to be closer to his family.”   Good for you, Dave.

The stories change shape.

A single rose placed on the chain link fence surrounding the Twin Tower cavity.

A single rose placed on the chain link fence surrounding the World Trade Center cavity.

The characters change names. But, the constant remains: New Yorkers have found the positive in an unimaginable negative event.

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New York City’s PRIDEfest: Birth of Modern Gay Rights Movement

If you’re not in New York City today, you’re missing out on one of the most spectacular celebrations in America.  The New York City Gay Pride March, better known as PRIDEfest.  Celebrating life and community
The first NYC Gay Pride March was held in 1970. This year’s March marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which signaled the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.  The original purpose of the March, to protect the civil rights of homosexuals, has expanded to include the fight against AIDS and a celebration of life and community. And a grand celebration it is.
At noon, participants, floats, bands and celebrities will gather at 5th Ave. and 52nd Street. The March will wind its way down 5th Ave. and end at the intersection of Christopher and Greenwich Streets just a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn. Well-wishers and curious by-standers will line the streets to watch the beautiful and not so beautiful show their pride and support for the gay community. 2008 Gay Pride March

Stonewall Riots:
At 1:20 a.m., June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village an accident happened. There was no plan, no premeditation.
In those early days, the only LGBT bar in NYC that allowed dancing was the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia owned bar. That morning, eight policemen raided the bar, which was packed with 200 patrons.
The atmosphere was one of confusion. The cops called for backup from the sixth precinct. The savvy customers who knew what was happening bolted for the doors and windows. But, the police blocked their exit.
Police SOP was to line up the patrons, check the sex of those dressed as women and the identity of the others.  That morning, things didn’t go as usual. The patrons simply refused to be harassed. The out-numbered cops decided to transport the entire group to the station.
This is where circumstances changed history.  The patrol wagons were delayed in arriving. Some of the customers were released. But, instead of leaving, they hung around outside attracting a curious crowd. The crowd began to grow and grow until the number outside outnumbered those inside.
Rumors spread that people were being beaten. Some shouting here, some pushing there and suddenly the crowd became a mob.  Less than 45 minutes into the commotion, bricks were thrown, windows smashed and a fire started.  The Fire Department and Tactical Police Force finally arrived. Anger on both sides escalated.  By 4:00 a.m. the streets were cleared only to reconvene the following evening (Sunday) with increased numbers. Rioting continued for three days.

Things would never be the same.

2009: President Obama has invited gay rights advocates to the White House tomorrow in recognition of the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

In less than a week, we will be celebrating America’s freedoms. Frequently, we forget the sacrifices others have made to win those freedoms. Regardless of our orientations, let’s remember and celebrate. Celebration!

To see a short video of the 2008 Gay Pride March, please
visit You Tube:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0h5ONAv8PM&feature=channel_page

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NYC Boutique Museums

Kelley Loftus and David Miller, artists and museum professionals, bring us the inside scoop on lesser-known museums in Manhattan.  In our interview with Kelley and David, they target Manhattan museums off the well-worn tourist path.  They share three of their favorites with us in this video.

The Hispanic Society Museum:
As you walk in the front door of the Hispanic Society Museum at 155th Street and Broadway, the first thing you see is Francisco Goya’s The Duchess of Alba. As Kelley says, “What more could you want?”

Hispanic Society location

Hispanic Society location

Not only does the Hispanic Museum house magnificent paintings by El Greco, Velasquez, Jose de Ribera, but also incredible collections of ceramics, textiles, decorative arts and sculpture grace the cases.  My personal favorites were the ceramics. The designs and colors never go out of style.
This free museum offers a comprehensive survey of Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Filipino art, artifacts and books from the Middle Ages to the present.
On your next visit to NYC, try to include this hidden jewel in your schedule.

Rubin Museum:
The Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) features art from the Himalayas and surrounding regions.  Donald Rubin’s private collection of Himalayan art formed the foundation of the museums permanent collection. In 1998, Mr. Rubin purchased the old Barney’s department store in Chelsea and spent the next six years renovating the 70,000 square foot space.

Rubin Museum location

Rubin Museum location

One of the most interesting ways the museum interacts with the community is Lunch Wednesdays.  Every Wednesday, the museum presents a film and/or speaker in the museums’ state-of-the art theater where you can learn while you eat lunch.  One Wednesday I saw a film on the herders of the Xinjiang region of China.  The experience influenced me so profoundly that I am planning a trip to the region in September to film and write about the people of the region.
Although I never had the chance to ascend at the K2 Lounge, David highly recommends it.  Live music presented on the week-ends.

Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian)
The National Museum of the American Indian houses over 800,000 works of Native American Indian art. The museum is located in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan.  As part of the Smithsonian family, temporary exhibitions are some of the best entertainment to be had in Manhattan.
The day I visited, the museum had an exhibit of Fritz Scholder’s work including a video that I watched at least five times. The guard must have noticed my interest in the work because when I exited the screening area, he pointed out some of the finer points of Scholder‘s sculpture.  I would have missed these points had it not been for his direction.
A visit to the Museum of the American Indian can easily be combined with your trip to see The Statue of Liberty since the old Custom House is just across Bowling Green (street) from Battery Park where the Liberty ferries dock.

Museum of the American Indian location

Museum of the American Indian location

Note: This interview was filmed at the Frying Pan Restaurant and Bar (a barge that sits on the Hudson River) at West 25th . A Manhattan heliport is close by.  The sounds of the city are included for your pleasure at no extra charge!

Ahhhhhh!

Ahhhhhh!

New York City Museum trivia:

1.  Here’s an easy one… What do the initials MOMA stand for?

Correct:  Museum of Modern Art

2.  How about this one… When and why do teams inflate huge balloons around the American Museum of Natural History?

Correct:  Every year, the day before Thanksgiving, teams inflate balloons in preparation for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

You’re waiting for a question on Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum aren’t you?  Sorry, not gonna happen!!!

Please click on comments below and add a note. They are always appreciated.

Join us next Sunday for our tribute to NYC’s Gay Pride Parade.

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A Well Kept NYC Restaurant Secret: Sanur Restaurant – Indonesia and Malaysia Food

One of my travel pet peeves is to pick a restaurant from a local guidebook only to walk in and find a roomful of tourists eating food devoid of character.

If you are exploring NYC’s Chinatown and want to enjoy a delicious, adventurous, authentic and inexpensive meal, skip Joe’s Shanghai and head over to Sanur Restaurant, located in the basement at 18 Doyer Street (between Bowery and Pell Street).

If Indonesian and Malaysian food is an unfamiliar cuisine for you, you’re in for a delicious treat. Rob Hollander, our Chinatown expert, describes it this way:  “If you can imagine the edge of Thai spice mellowed with the full richness of Indian, you’ve got Malaysian.”

Sanur Menu

I recommend the Roti Canai.  This thin pancake like bread (Indonesian poori bread) is folded into a cone shape then served along side a mild curry sauce. A piece of potato or chicken in the sauce soaks up the flavor and adds to the joy of the eating.  Begin by pulling off a piece of the pancake, dip it in the sauce and savor the flavor that makes you feel as warm and snugly as that childhood security blanket.  Order two because at $2.25 per order, one is just not enough.

When Rob Hollander, John Caballero and I visited Sanur last February, Leng, the owner/manager of Sanur, proudly showed off some of Sanur’s most popular dishes.

If Malaysian food is new to your palate, Leng will be happy to help find dishes that best reward your taste buds.

Breakfast:    7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Dinner:    10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays

18 Doyer Street  (in the basement) Between Bowery and Pell Street

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Reverend Billy: You don’t get this on the Circle Line Tour!

Reverend Billy

Zoom! Zoom!  Let’s jet over to Manhattan for a visit with NYC’s Reverend Billy (Billy Talen) and The Church of Life After Shopping.  Reverend Billy’s entertainment is better than a loaded MasterCard…it’s priceless.

Here’s some footage from a recent Reverend Billy “Stop Shopping” get together.


That was so much fun, how about a smidgen more?

In 1996, Reverend Billy established The Church of Life After Shopping. He “preaches” the overriding theme that consumerism is overwhelming our lives.  His shtick is fashioned after the old southern revival meeting adorned with a 34-member gospel choir and 8-piece band.  He encourages his congregation to frequent local independent shops vs. large chain stores and carries a special loathing towards Starbucks.

Reverend Billy often uses the term gift economy.  I had no idea what a gift economy meant so I did a little research.  Gift economy is people giving products and services to others for no explicit rewards.  Your neighbor shares the fruits of her garden. Another bakes bread. Yet another provides plumbing services. All this given without expected compensation. The “rub” for Reverend Billy is that the US market economy lives and dies on consumerism.  Where’s the love in that, children?

Naturally, Reverend Billy is a defender of the first amendment since his performance relies on freedom of speech.  In fact, on one occasion in Union Square, he was arrested while reciting the First Amendment to the police over a megaphone. Now that incongruity should make you smile.

News flash! The good Reverend is running for mayor of New York City. I’m sure Michael Bloomberg is shaking in his boots Italian A. Testoni’s.  At least Reverend Billy has the nomination of the Green Party and a spot on the November ballot. That’s more than Mr. Bloomberg can attest to.

If a trip to NYC is in your future, visit Reverend Billy’s website at http://www.revbilly.com for his scheduled appearances. This is a must see.

Anyone with the motto  “put the Odd back in God” has my vote!

Put the Odd back in God

Put the Odd back in God

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