Day 15 -The Beginnings of a NYC Food Tour

The Big Apple. The Concrete Jungle. Gotham. Out of all of my stops, New York City is the one place that makes sense to everyone (because everyone goes, ‘What? Why?’ when I mention Pittsburgh). Due to the higher price tag on Boston accommodations, my stay in NYC was going to be an extended 10 days instead of the usual 7 days in all my other cities. That’s not to say NYC is any cheaper than Boston. I just got lucky with my accommodations since I was staying with a friend, which drastically reduced the amount I had to pay to stay in the big city.

After my last day in Philly, I woke up early on Saturday morning to take the Megabus over to New York City. If you guys haven’t taken Megabus before and you’re traveling along the East Coast, I would highly recommend it because it’s an inexpensive way to travel that’s relatively comfortable. They’re pretty on-time, and bus fares are a mere fraction of the price of airline tickets. I spent $16 to get a reserved seat from Philly to New York City, a 2-hour trip. Everything’s so close together on the East Coast anyway, so everything’s driving distance. But why spend a bunch of money to drive yourself while you can get someone else to drive while you nap?

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New York City in the distance from my Megabus window seat!

This leg of the trip to New York is unique for my 5-weeks away. In addition to being longer than my other cities, this will be the first time I’ll be hanging out with people I know! After the first 2 weeks of wandering around places by myself, I’ll finally have people to listen to my witty jokes when walking through museums 🙂 My friends Tom and Gabe will be here for the week and a half I’m staying in NYC, and my sister Lana is visiting for the weekend. Quite a change from 0 companions to 3! For the first couple of days of this portion of my journey, I’ll be in East Village with my sister at an Airbnb. Great location since it’s close to a couple subway lines and is generally close to a good nightlife scene. It’s also close to the Katz’s Deli!

The first place we ventured to after we all arrived in NYC was Morimoto’s new ramen restaurant called Momosan Ramen and Sake to grab some lunch. I’m a hugeeeee Morimoto fan because he’s clearly the best Iron Chef on the Iron Chef America show. When I heard that Iron Chef Morimoto had opened up a new ramen place in NYC that would be open by the time I visited, I HAD to go. There had been reported sightings of the famous chef at the restaurant, so I wanted to take my chances of possibly running into one of my culinary idols.

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The restaurant itself is very trendy and cool (I would have a pic but I didn’t want to be too embarrassing). We had heard that there might be a long wait, so we made sure to get there right as the restaurant opened. No wait for us once we arrived though, so if you want to check out the restaurant yourself, definitely check it out during early lunch hours!

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My sister’s pic of her lunch set with tonkotsu ramen, kakuni bao, and zuke don

After a quick glance of the menu, everyone decided on getting the lunch set since it gave us a chance to try a little bit of everything. HIGHLY recommended because I personally think the portion sizes are perfect. You get a small bowl of ramen, a small donburi rice bowl, and if you’d like, a side of gyoza or a pork bun (for an extra couple of bucks). Everyone in my group for the tonkotsu ramen lunch set with the kakuni (pork) bao, but I opted to just stick with my ramen and donburi. I normally favor tonkotsu broth over all other broths, but I opted this time to try the tan tan ramen (with an egg, of course!). The unusual thing about this tan tan broth is Chef Morimoto decided to use a coconut curry broth instead of having just pork broth flavored with sesame and chili. Definitely an interesting interpretation of your usual tan tan men ramen.

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Good thing I got the tan tan men because everyone in my party mentioned that the tonkotsu ramen was SUPER rich. That’s not to say that the tonkotsu was by any means bad. The incredibly thick and rich broth would just be hard to difficult to finish if you had a large bowl. Definitely not the broth you want if you wanted something light. I had a sip from Lana’s bowl, and while the tonkotsu broth tasted rather lovely, it was very, very rich and heavy. The broth coats your tongue a bit so it felt a little bit more like a stew rather than a broth. Again, not bad but I can’t imagine eating a bowl of it. My sister certainly struggled to finish it, especially since she order the kakuni bao along with the donburi AND ramen.

After a nice filling lunch, we headed over to the nearest subway station to buy Metro cards to allow us to navigate the public transit in NYC. Word of advice—if you plan on taking the subway a lot, consider getting the weekly pass (or monthly if you plan on staying for a month). For $31, you can take an unlimited amount of rides on the subway for 7 days, opposed to $2.75 per single ride. You just need to take about 11 rides to break even. Lana was only staying 2.5 days, but it still made the most sense for her to get a 7-day pass. If you find yourself at Grand Central Station, you can purchase the tickets downstairs in the subway. We actually had some trouble finding where to buy these passes because not all machines have them. Don’t go to the machines in the main hall because you won’t be able to purchase them there. Go downstairs, and the machines accept both cash and card.

We had to wait in the super hot subway for a bit (those underground stations are DEATH during summertime) to purchase our passes, but we eventually got them and were ready to travel around town. Our next destination was the Statue of Liberty, and on our way there, we made sure to stop by the iconic Charging Bull sculpture to snap a couple of photos. IMG_5905Prior to Tom’s suggestion to stop by there, I had no idea of the existence of this piece of New York art. Italian artist Arturo Di Modica created this sculpture and presented it to the city of New York on Christmas Day in 1989 as a symbol of the determination and tenacity of the American people after the Wall Street Crash of 1986. Now a popular tourist attraction, there is no second of any day that this sculpture doesn’t have adoring fans snapping photos next to it. Rumor has it that it’s good luck to touch the bull testicles. I think people only say that because it’s seen as scandalous but I snapped a photo anyway, just in case…

Then we had a date with Lady Liberty! WARNING! If you’ve never been to visit the Statue of Liberty, read this piece of advice. There are A LOT of hustlers around the area where you line up to get to the Statue of Liberty. They may have shirts that look official, and they may say things to try to coerce you into buying their tickets. I’m here to tell you to not fall for it. They prey on unsuspecting tourists and try to scare them into buying tickets by exaggerating wait times and telling you they work for the company that allows you to see the Statue of Liberty. DON’T FALL FOR IT. Unless they work for the National Park Service, you DO NOT have to buy anything from them to see the Statue of Liberty. This is what you need to know:

  • Line up for the security line to get on the ferry to the Statue
  • Go through security
  • Pay the $18 fee to see the statue
  • Get on the boat
  • Get off at Liberty Island
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See, $18! Not the $50 those random people want you to pay.

And that’s it. The hustlers will try to get you to purchase more expensive tickets to “skip” the line. We went on a busy day but we waited no more than an hour. Unless you’re in a really big hurry, there’s really no point in going on their “express line”, especially since their ferry doesn’t really stop on the island. It’ll take you around Liberty and Ellis Islands but you don’t get to stop on the islands. Waste of your time, really. Just tell these guys “no thanks” and be on your way to ACTUALLY see the statue.

If you’re interested in going up to the base of the statue or to the crown, BOOK IN ADVANCE. The tickets sell out months and months in advance so it’s pretty hard to get them. It’s basically impossible to get them the day of, so plan ahead!

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On our way to Liberty Island!

On the Liberty Island, we had a good time walking around and listening to the cool audio tour headsets that were included in the price of the general ticket. I’m a big history nerd (as you probably remember), so I walked around and listened to a lot of the different tidbits here and there about Lady Liberty. The audio tour was interesting, but I gotta say, my favorite audio tour is still the one from the Eastern State Penitentiary.

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Those ominous clouds should’ve tipped me off…

And then, out of nowhere, it started POURING. I wish I snapped a photo of this while it was happening because it was INSANE. Alas, I didn’t because I was too busy trying to run away and understand what was going on. As a native Californian, I don’t (and have never had to) really experience “proper weather”. The Bay Area in California stays nice and moderate during all months of the year. In contrast, the East Coast experiences a lot of weather, including flash floods that seem to be a common occurrence during the summer. I’ve actually gone through one once, years ago when I interned in Washington, D.C. for the summer, but clearly I forgot this kind of thing happens because I live in my Bay Area bubble. The sudden rain took everyone by surprise (because a lot are tourists!), so everyone rushed to crowd into all the available buildings like the gift shop, the restaurant, the cafe, the National Park Service office. Everywhere! I would’ve stayed put to make sure I stayed dry, but I then remembered I wanted to get a National Parks stamp for my book. I ended up darting from the nice dry spot from the gift shop to the NPS information office. Within seconds (really, I’m not kidding), I was pretty soaked. Not quite jumped in a bath soaked, but none of my clothes were dry. I got my stamps and after about 15 minutes, the rain slowed to a light sprinkle. Determined to make the most of our trip and not let the rain ruin our fun, we left Liberty Island to head over to Ellis Island to check out the museum there.

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Once we got there, I think the people in my party were pretty pooped from the crazy weather (or they were just bored) since most ended up sitting on benches to nap or just hang out for our duration there. I took a bit of time to explore the exhibits since I was curious about this important historical building. The Ellis Island Museum is full of interesting stories about immigrants from all over the world coming to the United States in search of a better life. While I expected European immigrants to be represented in the exhibits, I was surprised to see a handful of Asian immigrants in the mix as well. Displays included stories from Japanese and Chinese immigrants, which while less common than Irish, Polish, and German immigrants were still present and were very interesting. I regret not snapping a couple of photos to show you guys, but it slipped my mind since I honestly was pretty tired from all the walking around in NYC’s moody weather— crazy hot sun then crazy rain then mildly warm but still humid weather.

We eventually left once my brain got its fill of daily interesting facts and headed over towards Brooklyn. Lana really wanted to get pizza from some famous place underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, so we agreed to have our poor feet suffer a little more and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Honestly, it was a lot of fun, and it was quite beautiful since we made our trek across around sunset. Check out these photos:

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Apparently, there was some concert going on beneath one section of the bridge. Lana recognized the music to be American hip hop artist Nas, so she started filming the performance through the floorboards of the bridge. Once we figured out that there was a concert going on beneath that section of the bridge, it made total sense why there were so many people squatting and staring through the floorboards in that area. We looked it up later and found out that we had caught a glimpse of the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. Cool stuff!

We arrived at a pizza joint called Juliana’s, which is direct competitor to next-door Grimaldi’s. If you’re unfamiliar with their feud (I certainly was), you can read about it here. Pizza feud or not, both places are incredibly successful and popular with lines running down the block. We waited probably about…40 minutes before we were seated. I’m glad because if we waited any longer, I would’ve yelled at someone due to hanger.

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With everyone starving, we agreed on two of Juliana’s special pizzas: the No. 3 (mozzarella, sausage, broccoli rabe and garlic – no tomato) and the No. 4 (tomato, mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto).

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Sorry, bad lighting on this one because it was next to a lamp
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So good!

Not much to say—they were both pretty tasty. If you’re down for some fancy pizza, this is the place to go. Great quality ingredients and pizzas made with care. Expect a long wait though because everyone else wants a bite of this famous New York pie as well!

We figured that after stuffing our faces, we needed to walk it off. Granted, everyone’s feet wanted to fall off at this point, but we needed it. Everyone was super stuffed! That meant we were going to Times Square! We took the subway over (because walking back over to Manhattan would surely mean we’d die from exhaustion) and made our way to the colorful bright lights. We wandered around for a bit just to fill our tourist needs with no particular goal in mind.

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Then when no one’s feet could take anymore, we headed home to end my first day in NYC…at 12AM midnight. I know, terrible because that’s when all the party people come out. Alas, everyone was exhausted so we agreed to pick it up tomorrow morning for Sunday brunch.

Questions? Comments? Leave me a note below!

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