I realised as I was putting this post together that we didn’t eat a lot of lunches – probably because I got carried away in a museum or was too full from breakfast still (oops).
Despite that, I think we managed to try a lot of different things in the Big Apple!
Minh, R, and I meandered about and stumbled upon Taco Box in NoHo – it was literally a hole-in-the-wall taco stand!
R ordered the Shrimp Taco ($4.50), which Minh thought was delicious while I thought it was a little weird that the tacos here aren’t hard-shelled like the ones I’ve had and am used to.
It struck me that this was probably a real taco – it’ll take some getting use to!
We meandered some more and found ourselves at Cafe Habana, well it’s takeaway part: Habana To Go. Minh confessed that she had been nudging us in this direction the entire time, as she couldn’t stay away when she was here last and wanted a re-visit.
We didn’t mind at all, as their signature grilled corn Mexican style ($3) was super sweet with cheesy Parmesan and a hint of spice; it was also fantastically messy to eat (just don’t inhale the cheese like I did).
The sweet plantains ($3.75) came out “super molten lava hot” (R, I’m stealing this phrase too), but once it cooled down a bit it was savoury-sweet fried goodness.
The Halal Guys came highly recommended and a long queue doesn’t lie – this was the place to get your lunch!
The guys worked like gears in a well-oiled machine and the line moved fairly quickly.
I guess it helps that they only serve rice platters with either chicken or gyro toppings and a side of salad (ie chopped up lettuce). They’re very reasonably priced at around $8 a platter.
There are two sauces available for self-serve: a garlicky white sauce and an unreasonably molten hot lava chilli sauce. I’m not being a pansy when I say it’s molten hot, I mean, I am a pansy with chilli (I practically died when I accidentally had some and got a headache for a good hour or two), but it was supremely spicy… Even Minh found it hot! And I know that girl can take her spice.
Joe’s Shanghai was one of the places on my to-eat list and it was good enough that I’d bring my parents here.
We had pan fried pork dumplings ($6.25), beef with black mushroom and bamboo shoots ($12.95), seafood fried rice ($13.50), and crab and pork soup dumplings ($8.95).
The dumplings were pretty on par with those from Taste of Shanghai, though the skin of the soup dumplings seemed a little thicker, which I preferred as that just meant my man-handling of the dumpling didn’t result in spilt soup.
The beef dish, while not all that pretty to look, was a strong hit of nostalgia – the flavours were so similar to what my dad used to cook.
One on F’s hitlist was to try a street hot dog. Although we chuckled when Teresa muttered, “Good luck! I hope you don’t get sick”, I was a little worried for him as he downed the dog.
It was kind of what he expected and thought it was pretty good.
Thankfully he didn’t get sick from it and had another 2 while we were in town, but was only annoyed that a few stands down – they were selling the exact same dog for $1 cheaper.
There was an actual hot dog joint conveniently close to where we were staying: Crif Dogs.
The Chihuahua ($5.50) is a bacon-wrapped sausage topped with avocado and sour cream; F added diced tomato ($0.95) and cheddar cheese ($1.25).
The Philly Tubesteak ($4.95) had melted cheese and sauteed onions draped over the sausage and easily was F’s favourite, hands down.
I ordered the Lil Ma ($5.50) purely because it was a bacon-wrapped sausage accompanied by peanut butter, pickles, and crushed potato chips. Sure it was strange – a tumbling of sweet, sour, and savoury – but it was one of those “so wrong that it’s right” thing (though F didn’t really rate it).
Despite having two dogs, F decided that he also wanted a normal Chihuahua – for science, I think he said.
We wanted to try more of the menu (specifically the Spicy Red Neck for F and I wanted to build my own Crif dog), but our time in NYC was deceptively short and we never got to go back.
The line for Shake Shack in the Theatre District was immense – it snaked a few times inside before coming out the door and down along side the building – almost to the next shop! The line, like for The Halal Guys, moved at a fairly decent pace – though the wait was helped along by staring at the menu, trying to decide what to get, and eating flavour-of-the-day ice cream samples being passed out by a sweet staff member.
I was really pleased how this photo turned out, but F pointed out that he must have taken it as I was in the shot. Oops, gotta give credit where credit’s due!
Meanwhile, I took full advantage of M’s height and got him to take this shot. (Awesome work, guys! Thanks ^_^)
For beverages, we ordered (top to bottom) a Fair Shake ($5.50), which was a coffee shake made with 100% certified organic Arabica Fair Trade beans, a Shack-made Blueberry Lemonade ($2.65, regular-sized featured flavour of the day), and a Diet Coke ($2.55, large-sized).
I really liked the blueberry lemonade – it was on the tart side and really refreshing, but F found it to be too sour for his taste.
The sausages at Shake Shack are 100% all-natural beef, with “no hormones and no antibiotics ever”; they are split and griddled crisp.
The DogMeister ($4) is topped with Shack cheddar, American cheese sauce, and crispy ShackMeister Ale-marinated shallots.
The Shack-cago Dog ($4) comes with Rick’s Picks Shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt, and mustard.
I could only manage a bite from each dog, but even so, it was difficult to say which I liked better – they were both good in their own way.
These cheese fries ($3.90) were the bomb! The topping is a special blend of cheddar and American cheese sauce – adding a more-ish cheesy goodness flavour to beautifully crisp fries.
The freshly ground, proprietary Shack blend patties are 100% all-natural Angus beef, as with the sausages, these have “no hormones and no antibiotics ever”; all burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested.
The ShackBurger is a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce ($4.95 or double for $7.65).
While the SmokeShack is a cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and ShackSauce ($6.45 or double for $9.15).
I really wanted the SmokeShack, but I wasn’t sure how spicy the cherry pepper would be (yes, I’m sorry I’m a chilly wuss), so I opted for the ShackBurger. (Though either one is a win in my books – just look at them! Delicious.) Turns out, the SmokeShack did have a bit of a kick to it!
In any case, I loved how juicy the patty was, fresh the veggies, and super soft the bun; probably one of the better burgers I’ve had.
I’m not sure what’s going on here, but there’s three dressed stuffed animals chilling out in what seems like a very small parking lot or someone’s yard (we still haven’t worked it out) on our way to Black Brick Cafe. While the walk wasn’t long, sights like these really make walking around Brooklyn interesting!
A little courtyard between two soaring skyscrapers would be the last place I’d think to see part of the original Berlin Wall… though it was fairly close to MoMA, so maybe not so odd after all?
Okay, I want to appreciate and enjoy modern / contemporary art, but sometimes it just… does not make any freaking sense!!!
I just didn’t get it and became a little grumpy and upset as we toured the gallery.
I was entirely too relieved when Minh and R also gave up their struggle to get it and we called it quits; part of me still feels incredibly bad that I failed to grasp the concepts the artists were trying to convey and bailed instead of trying harder.
If anything, these statues in MoMA’s courtyard made more sense to me than the artworks I saw inside; I particularly like the one on the right – so smooth and shiny.
On our way to the 9/11 Memorial, we passed the breath-taking Freedom Tower (previously Six World Trade Centre).
I know the tower doesn’t pierce the sky (its shape is actually quite blocky), but damn if these architects know what they were doing to instil awe and wonderment.
It’s hard to grapple with the idea that this used to be where a building once stood, where it used to be a hive of activity from top to bottom.
The 9/11 museum is intense. Some exhibits struck at me more than others, but I thought it was very respectfully curated.
This wall hit me hard in particular. There are 2,983 individual paper watercolours, representing those killed on 9/11 and the 1993 bombing, surrounding a quote forged by Tom Joyce using steel recovered from the World Trade Centre site: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time” – Virgil, from the Aeneid (source).
Interestingly, the quote was taken out of context and there’s a bit of controversy around its use.
No controversy over the Last Column: a 37-foot tall beam that used to be the interior support for the south tower – the final object removed from the WTC site. While it stood, people covered the beam with memorials in honour of those lost, such as pictures, notes, and badges and tags from fire and police departments (source).
Sombre as the 9/11 museum is, there is an element of positivity – the human spirit rallying together to overcome tragic loss; I highly recommend a visitation (plus, the park on top is quite lovely).
Probably like all tourists, I wanted to cycle around Central Park.
We had to cross the park first to get to a rental place and that’s when I almost lost my crap over a squirrel looking for food. I couldn’t help exclaiming how cute it was and “just look at how fluffy his tail is!!” – generally being embarrassingly over-enthusiastic over a rodent (that’s how I remembered things anyway).
Pigeons are really rats with wings. These pigeons were stealing the poor horse’s food – so greedy was one that he almost got squished in the bucket! That’s a photo of it trying to squeeze back out into freedom.
Rental bikes, I discovered, are awful. Not only are they heavy, half of the gears don’t work – I guess the guys had the right idea in bringing their own bikes! I sorely missed mine. Still, it was a lot of fun and quite glorious cycling around the park (which was roughly a 10 km round trip); everything is just so pretty.
We stopped halfway to have an ice block break in a lovely area called Strawberry Fields. I wanted to explore more – there’s a castle in Central Park – but we didn’t have a lot of time and had to head back. Sadness.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (or The Met) wasn’t on my final to-see list (I have no idea why), but I’m so glad I went. After the MoMA fiasco, I felt like I was in my element at the Met – these are the kind of displays I understood and could appreciate – and I greedily soaked it in.
This sculpture was carved by American Randolph Rogers in 1859; I am never not amazed what people have done and can do with marble, just look at the way the dress drapes and seemingly shifts in a non-existent wind! Fantastic.
The armoury section of the Met was really impressive with armours from all over the world; though the Europeans really did take it to the next level.
The Virgin and Child is attributed to a Frenchman, Claus de Werve, and is made from limestone that’s been painted and gilded around 1415 (older than Sydney!).
I love how the Met is laid out – it made sense and it was rather easy to view the displays systematically (if you don’t wander off somewhere, like I did, to see something eye-catching in the other room).
There are huge, majestic halls like in the armoury photo and this one that break up the smaller, interconnecting rooms (and seemingly, different collections). To give you a better idea of just how soaring these ceilings are, that iron and limestone choir screen (completed around 1763) has a massive dimension of 15m x 12m and it doesn’t even hit the roof! (Or maybe just note the humans in my photo versus the ceiling haha).
Anyway, if you haven’t gotten it yet, I am in freaking love with the Met and could spend all week in there. I was most upset I had to rush through it and even so, managed to see only one floor. Sigh.
So, this wraps up my Lunch instalment of our NYC adventure.
Dinner, coming right up! (But realistically, it might be a while: my computer died after I uploaded these photos, but fingers crossed it’ll be fixed soon… Ugh).