Oh the Places You'll Go #2: NYC

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Destination: NYC
Dates: 2/16 - 2/19/2013
Reason: Sweetie and Me Time - Yay!

I'm so happy to finally be DONE with this post! It took forever to get motivated to finish it up. Even though I had much of it written up on-the-go while ON this trip (gotta love smart phones), the sheer number of pix and collages to be made were just daunting. So, YAY!

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Flew into Laguardia and instead of hopping an easy cab to Nana and Papa's condo in Manhattan* like we usually do, we decided to get a Metro card from Hudson Newsstand and paid $10.51 for a $10 card. This next part is kinda for me so I remember what to do next time :). We headed southeast out of Terminal B, turned right and followed the crosswalk immediately on our left and crossed the street towards the red walkway awning. We turned right and walked towards the green bus stop and hopped on the M60 into Manhattan and transfered at 2nd and 124th. Mental note: Take the EXPRESS M15 next time!! From what I recall, I believe it only took about 45 mins longer than taking a cab and saved us like $25 one way. Not such a bad way to get into the city, especially when you're traveling sans kiddies!

* Yes, we are lucky souls because not only were we staying in their condo, Nana came down to watch the girls too!!

1st stop after dropping off our stuff: Delizia Pizza for a couple quick, easy and yummy slices of NY pizza. Goodness gracious do we love NY Pizza! I was always a Chicago-style fan myself, but something happened to me over the years and now I just cannot get enough of this stuff!

After a mid-afternoon snack and little R&R back at the condo, it was time to hit The Three Monkeys Bar for a beer before taking in a show: "Bethany" starring America Ferrera in an awesome small theater Manhattan Theater Club where we sat in the last row and still had a perfect view - from row 5!

Afterwards, we went to dinner in Koreatown at Kunjip Restaurant. All of the reviews for restaurants here were pretty similar so I basically chose it based on name (literally means "Big House" but growing up, that's what we called my Dad's oldest brother and his family's house). I think we picked well because this place was rockin! That's always a good sign. And they were so efficient, too! This no-nonsense Korean ajumonee (ie "auntie") took our complete order while we were waiting for a table. Once we were seated after about 15-20 minutes, I went to use the restroom which took all of 5 mins and when I got back, PRESTO! our food had already magically appeared and beautifully arranged at our table. Wow. Now THAT's what I call speedy service! Just as I was about to take my picture, another older Korean ajoomunee, this one oh so sweet, came by, added gochujang (hot red pepper paste) to my bibimbap and proceeded to mix mine for me. LOL. That's never happened to me before, but maybe that was because I was w/ my whitey husband, who, btw ordered a dish far redder and way spicier than mine. That's what usually happens anyway. :)

So, the bibimbap was tasty, but I've had better. Not sure if it was because there wasn't enough gochujang in it (I would have added more but my soup was pretty spicy so I didn't want to turn my mouth into a burning inferno) or because it had some bitter root in it which I've never liked, but luckily it was easy to pick out. But I can still say that I've never met a bibimbap I didn't like. Where this place stood out was in their denjang jigae and Sweetie's kimchee jigae (hot pot soups). I didn't taste the latter, but I had the former and it was just the thing to hit the spot. Plus the atmosphere was pretty cool - with all that hustle and bustle around us. Now that I think about it, was a fairly young crowd - mostly Koreans but lots of non-Koreans too. They also served something called "egg jigae" (kinda like an egg souffle) as a side. This totally brought back memories of when I was in high school. I didn't do much cooking at all, but one of the things I'd have ready for my parents when they came home from work late at night was steamed rice and bowl of egg jigae, not nearly as delicious as the one we had hear. But egg jigae isn't for everyone, because the hubby had enough after one bite. Probably didn't help that he scorched his tongue with just that one bite.

For more detailed insight, be sure to check out Sweetie's Trip Advisor Reviews: KunJip Korean Restaurant Review

Though we were stuffed full by the end of dinner, just had to do it... Tous les Jour bakery for desserts. Hmmm... decisions, decisions.

Sweetie's Tous Les Jour Korean Bakery Review

SUNDAY (Day Two):
We did NOT wake up bright and early and got breakfast at Bagel Express. In the past 10 or so years of visiting NYC, I honestly don't think we've ever gone anywhere else for a bagel in NYC because they are SO good here. This place is LITRALLY (spoken Chris Trager-style) our favorite bagel place on earth! :) Plus, I got a free Black and White Cookie on our next visit there. They had me at... well, they have me. :)

Sweetie's Bagel Express Review

Next stop: Chinatown. Honestly, I've never been a big fan of Chinatown. It's too crowded, I don't enjoy the really strange smells that emanate from there in the summer and you can't unsee some of the shocking things that you may accidentally run your eyes across (like those giant live toads in a bucket frothing in bubbles and such a few years back) but when in the city sans kids and there's a parade afoot (Lunar New Year Parade), we just had to check it out. (Wait, is that bad of me to imply that I'd rather go to a parade without kids than with? haha) We found the end of the parade route where there was actually plenty of room to take it in, no waiting AND front row "seats" - sweet! After about 30 minutes of standing still in 25 degree weather and the parade nearing its end, it was clear that lunch was calling (at 3)!

We headed to Greenwich Village on a mission and went straight to MacDougal street, THE place to eat with so many interesting and yummy ethnic restaurants abound. Beware though, these places are TINY and each have maybe 3 tables/seats!

First stop was our 2nd favorite falafel place: Mamoum's Falafels where we split a... falafel of all things! Last time, some ornery guy tried to (unsuccessfully) take my hubby's seat right next to me when he had gotten up for like 10 seconds to walk 10 inches to get some napkins then gave him the evil eye for like 10x10 seconds before finally leaving. haha! This time, I'm happy to report that we ate in peace. :) Oh, here's a warning that I didn't receive from the hubby until it was far too late: the hot sauce is really hot. Like REALLY hot! YEOUCH!

Sweetie's Mamoun's Falafel Review

Of course we were very smart and only split a falafel (though that's really hard to do when eating something so yummy) so we could make a Stop 2 for some delicious Indian wraps from The Kati Roll Company. Just couldn't pass up this place when we saw it on our way to Mamoun's. We've eaten here a few times before and quickly fell in love. I sat next to this annoying guy who meticulously tore his Kati roll paper sleeve up one edge, flattened it out, arranged his wraps very carefully and started taking pix of them. What strange behavior! And how funny is that because I tore mine the exact same way (in fact we were tearing simultaneously!) to take pix too, but he had the nerve to go one step further and unroll his to take "innards" pix! Haha. I totally should have taken a pic of him doing that (and someone should have taken a picture of the both of us!) This time we got TWO Kati Rolls because I just couldn't resist the hunger, but that turned out to be a mistake because we were too full to hit the crepe place across the street for dessert - bummer.

Sweetie's Kati Roll Company Review

Well, as luck would have it, all the walking we did on our way to our next stop worked up an appetite for dessert just as we happened across this cute little cupcake place: Baked by Melissa. They were so cute that we (I) just couldn't resist buying some even though 6 teeny little cupcakes cost about $6. They were quite tasty and left us longing for more.

Then it was time to take a break from the bitter cold and ducked into a REALLY cool bar called R Lounge located on top if the Renaissance Hotel with amazing views looking over on Times Square. If you are in the area, you HAVE to check this place out. Especially at dusk. The views were just WOW. And just look at  how cool our drinks looked (esp with that Green Arrow ad right outside the window)! :)

Sweetie's R Lounge Review

After warming up, we strolled by Rockerfeller Center on our way to the American Girl store to pick up a couple presents for the girlies. You can bet that I was excited when I stumbled across this: Volleyball Outfits! When I showed the hubby, he gave the nod. We'll take 2! Cool.

With our gift for the girls mission accomplished it was movie time! Yes, we decided to take in a movie tonight and save ourselves some additional walking around in the 20 degree cold. Saw Zero Dark Thirty and boy oh boy, was that INTENSE! Great movie, but whew - I was in need of a bit of something lighter - and food! So we ran into a nearby cafe: Highland Cafe - with a neon sign that looked a lot like the Seinfeld diner they frequented. This was one of those places that have like a zillion things on the menu - from breakfast to dinner and desserts, American, Greek, Italian and then some - where the food is pretty good, but not great. Perfect place for a late night snack though. I decided to go healthier and it totally hit the spot. :)

MONDAY (Day Three):
We opted for a quick, light breakfast this morning as we were getting ready to stuff our faces with 4 slices of Brooklyn's best pizzas on a pizza/bus tour we signed up for, so oatmeal and fruit it was (and coffee, of course), care of Sweetie and Starbucks. Even boring ol' oatmeal tastes better in NYC! :)

Then it was time for the long-awaited Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour!! This is something we've been meaning to do for years and finally got around to it this trip. We had heard lots of great things about it and the weather was just right, ie we had spent plenty of time walking around in the cold and were now ready to spend some time on a warm cozy bus while doing some Brooklyn sight-seeing and making stops for delicious pizza. We made two pizza stops and both were quite yummy, though I have to say that Grimaldi's Margherita (Neopolitan Style) Pizza was my favorite. What I can't believe is that I was so eager to eat my pizza that I TOTALLY FORGOT to take pictures of them! I actually behaved like a normal person for a change. :) We not only made stops for pizza, we also got out at Coney Island to walk the boardwalk for a bit and take in the fun sights there.

So the hubby has a full review below, but I gotta say that we really enjoyed this tour and would highly recommend it! Tony the owner and one of the tour guides was so knowledgeable, funny and just plain fun to hang out with. He put together a great tour complimented perfectly by a video montage. We SO enjoyed spending our afternoon this way!

Sweetie's Review of A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour
Sweetie's Grimaldi's Pizza Review
Sweetie's LB Spumoni Gardens Pizza Review

After the nice relaxing bus tour, we did a little torturous shopping at the crazy giant Macy's and got the heck out of dodge as soon as we could. That just was NOT fun, even though the hubby MADE me buy two pair of boots. hee hee.

Later on that night we had plans to meet up with our buddy Ron whom we've known for about 20 years and lives in Brooklyn, so back to Brooklyn we went! We met up at one of his favorite bars and then had dinner at Pagoda Thai where we had some pretty yummy Thai food. Every time we visit NYC, we always try to meet up w/ Ron. This is probably our 4th or 5th time so I didn't bother to take any pix of us (sorry Ron!). Here's one of us from one of last year's trips when he took us to the oldest Irish Tavern in NYC: McSorley's Old Ale House. They even have their own Wiki Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McSorley's_Old_Ale_House! But I digress...

Sweetie's Pagoda Thai Restaurant Review

Of course we had to top off the evening w/ a treat (or two) from Fortunato Brothers' Italian Bakery. I am not a fan of cannolies and yet I LOVE theirs. It wasn't our first time there and certainly won't be our last. One of these days Sweetie will include a review of this place. :)

TUESDAY (Day Four):
Of course on our last day, after suffering through well-below freezing temps, the weather gets warmer. It was a balmy 38 degrees, so I decided to go without a coat and didn't regret it. :)

Breakfast was enjoyed at Bagel Express once again. The nice lady there gave me a free Black and White cookie today and boy was it yummy (and humongous)!

Then we did a little shopping and hit stores that I like: Urban Outfitter, The Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta (I sense a theme) but I'm proud to say that I didn't by a single thing, not even at Altheta where I was paid a nice compliment by the sales gal who said I could be one of their models. Could it be because of the outfit I was wearing? Nice sales tactic, lady, but I didn't bite. :)

(Update: 5/27/13) Oh I totally forgot to add - don't you just LOVE my scarf? My buddy Cat made it for me and I actually took this picture just for her - just forgot to mention it until now! Thank you, Cat, you insanely talented chickiedoo! :)

Finally, a quick lunch was gobbled at a nearby joint: Falafel on the Corner where the falafels themselves were nothing special but the red cabbage & spicy tomato toppings definitely made them memorable.

Lastly, here's a picture of my partner in crime already starting to work on his Trip Advisor reviews as we wait for our flight. <3

Though we missed our sweeties pies back at home, we SO enjoyed our mini-vacation together in one of our favorite cities ever. No matter how many times we go back, there's still so much fun to be had and no one we'd rather spend it with than with each other. Really, it's true. He said so! :) And it's so wonderful to know that through all the ups and downs of every day life with kids, work, house, bills and 16+ years of marriage, there's still a "just us" that still shines through.

Thank you Sweetie for still wanting to spend time w/ just me over anyone else and thank you Nana (and Papa) helping us do so!! :)

My Other Travel Post:
Oh the Places You'll Go #1: Asheville, NC

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

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Michelle@ Simplifiy, Live, Love said...

What a great post! I have been all over the world (including Korea) but NEVER to NYC. :( I'll have to get there one of these days. The falafels looked heavenly! Thanks for stopping by SimplifyLiveLove!

happyvballgirl said...

Wow! You have me beat 'cause I've never been to Korea (got soooo close one w/ Japan but just couldn't make the hop) and I'm Korean! :) Thanks so much for stopping by, Michelle!

Jenn Christ said...

What a fun review! I am now adding some of these tasty places to my list for next time we go!

happyvballgirl said...

thanks, Jenn! Hope you enjoy them as much as we did! And feel free to pass along some of your favorite stops to me! <3

Bethany said...

Looks like SO much fun! I would absolutely love to visit NY. Thanks for the tips and reviews, if I ever make it there, I will have to try these places :)

happyvballgirl said...

I hope you do make it there one day, Bethany!! It's an amazing place. :) THanks so much for stopping by!