It should’ve been more like 48 hours in New York City, but first I had a minor trip to the doctor for fear of my next ‘face turned hot air balloon incident’ due to some allergic reaction. After leaving the doctor’s office, hopped up on steroids and antihistamines we left for our road trip to NYC. Which should’ve only been 6 to 6.5 hours but ended up being 9 GRUELING HOURS. Due to driving through unnecessary road construction 3 times in Pennsylvania (which added 1 hour to our drive), and a 2 hour gridlock at the NJ Turnpike.
Aside from all that, our trip went pretty smoothly.
Photo taken as we were stuck on a bridge in NJ. NYC is so close, yet so damn far. So. Damn. Far.
On Friday night around 8pm we finally arrived to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We dropped off our suitcase at my cousin’s apartment (where we usually crash when we visit the city) and took a brisk 10 minute walk over to Williamsburg for dinner. One of the good things about visiting the city is we always have a place to stay for free with so many relatives. The bad thing is there’s so many relatives and we can’t visit all of them in that short period of time. This weekend, however, was planned to be our last trip to the city before we head, inevitably, towards the west coast. And we wanted to do the things we just felt like doing, at that instant, for example:
wandering around until we got hungry, then finding places to eat
catching up with old friends
And doing this did not require the following:
packing fancy clothes, fancy dinner reservations, shopping, touristy site-seeing (Chris made a point of only wearing a pair of sneakers and not packing dressy shoes)
These few simple rules ensured a stress-free (well, as stress free as New York City gets) mini vacation. For the past few years, making simple plans became more and more exasperating. For example, going out for dinner. First of all, a group of people will all have to agree on a set place for dinner. This can take weeks. I don’t know how we’ve ever managed to eat in the city by doing this. Second, there is no way to confirm exactly how many people can commit to meeting up for dinner, as they might cancel, or add more people, etc. Third, attempting to make reservations based on a loose guestimate is not the best way to get on a restaurant’s good side. Fourth, having everyone meet at the restaurant at said time. This can take up to an extra hour. Fifth, taking 2 hours to get to any destination within the city. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because we stay in Brooklyn. But that last one really irks me, since commuting to and from simple things such as dinner can take up to 4 hours.
Not that we’re completely done with the fancy restaurants, dressing up, or meeting up with groups of people. It’s just that we wanted to leave NYC on a good note this time. Like eating the last piece of buttery lobster and savoring that taste in your mouth for as long as possible, never knowing when you’ll order lobster again next time.
I realized after taking all these pictures I had enough to write a bunch of reviews. And since I never wrote any restaurant reviews on my blog, this can be my first time. Towards the bottom of the post I have listed a summary of all the restaurants/bars/places to be, with addresses and links, for your enjoyment.
First stop was pizza.
Fornino is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take the L train to the Bedford stop. It looks like your standard small town pizzeria. For 4 people, we ordered the Melanzane (tomato, eggplant, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, basil), the Gorgonzola (gorgonzola, mozzarella, caramelized onion, rosemary), and a small Vongole (clams, mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, oregano). I heard rave reviews about the Vongole, and it was the reason I had to try the restaurant.
I wasn’t totally impressed. At least, with the Vongole. Rating the 3 pizzas we ordered, I have to say the Gorgonzola was the tastiest, with the caramelized onions as the star of the show. The Melanzane was fresh tasting, but nothing special. The Vongole was the most disappointing, since it was the one I looked the most forward to eating. The clams didn’t add anything special to the pizza. Everything tasted fresh, but it was lacking in depth. Personally, I thought if the pizza had a tiny sprinkling of salt it would’ve brought out all the flavors well enough. But at least the crust was perfect, thin and crispy. I just wish it had more taste.
Aside from that, the waitress was friendly, the service was quick. From reading all the great reviews online about this place, I’m assuming it was just an off day or something.
Melanzane (right) and Vongole (left).
After filling our bellies, we walked to Barcade, also located in Williamsburg. Barcade features microbrews made locally around the area, with pints starting at $5. The place is also lined with ‘vintage’ arcade games, hence the name Barcade. I say vintage because all the websites call them vintage. But if you were born before 1980, you will feel old calling the games vintage. Actually, I was born 1980, and even being the ‘youngest’ in our group of 4, I still felt old. Vintage games include Frogger, Arkinoid, Joust, Donkey Kong and even Marble Madness at 25 cents a game. Wait a sec, Marble Madness is vintage?! Damn I’m old.
Good atmosphere with a bunch of people of the same age range (25-35). Beers are interesting to try. Try the place out if you want a different scene other than clubbing, or sitting around drinking all night.
We woke up bright and early Saturday morning. Took the train to Flushing, Queens to Udu Cafe for a Hot Pot lunch. My cousin and his fiancée recommended this place since we wanted something spicy. Plus, hot pot sounded fun to Chris. He likes eating + fun. Other than Korean restaurants in Rochester, we lack other kinds of Asian restaurants. So this was something new to try.
According to my cousin, it is hard to get a table for dinner at this place, which is why we did it for lunch. And it was also cheaper for lunch. Our bill came to approx. $20/person after tax and tip. I read a couple reviews where people thought the meal wasn’t filling enough, but it seemed to fill us up a lot. It depends mostly on what you order.
We ordered 2 hot pots, one spicy (picture above) with red hot chili peppers floating all over the place, and a regular hot pot with duck flavored broth. Both were fantastic. Even if you don’t prefer spicy food, the regular broth is extremely flavorful.
What you do at a hot pot restaurant, is order a hot pot of your choice, followed by various raw meats, seafood, vegetables, and noodles that you want to cook in the pot. Put some slices of food into the broth, let it cook, then spoon it out onto your plate. They also give you a bowl in case you want to drink the broth with the food.
That is the sauce bar (on left) where each person can make their own sauce for dipping the food after it is cooked in the hot pot. It has sauces such as house made oyster sauce, soy sauce, fermented bean curd, chopped green onions, chili sauce, chili oil, crushed garlic, cilantro, etc. I didn’t know what to use, so I put a little bit of everything in it along with tons of garlic.
Doesn’t the sauce itself look appetizing enough to go try?
This is my cousin and his fiancée. We had them order everything for us since it was our first time and we didn’t want to look like naive first timers, because, well, we were.
A helpful tip: If you don’t find that the meal is filling enough, place a few orders of noodles (I ordered Udon noodles).
Since we wanted to try everything, we ordered a couple different kinds of meat, seafood tempura, cuttlefish balls, tofu, tripe, vegetables, vermicelli noodles and udon noodles, etc. The bowl of veggies came out with cabbage, pumpkin slices, corn on the cob, baby bok choy, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Did you notice that each table had a monitor hooked up? You can pick any movie you want to watch for free as you eat. We actually played WALL-E and finished it by the time the check came. Of course, the movie menu on the screen was completely in Chinese, but you can scroll over the titles and a picture will pop up displaying the movie. Whew.
The decor was pretty nice too.
This was my favorite picture at Udu. Of course, it’s a picture of tripe, and for some reason many people don’t find this appetizing. Look how beautiful it looks though. Doesn’t it? Just agree with me.
So, in conclusion, Udu Cafe and Hot Pot was fantastic. YOU MUST TRY IT!
After being very happily content from hot pot, I dragged everyone to Pinkberry. Though Chris didn’t really need to be dragged, he was more willing than most would be after a big meal. A visit to NYC isn’t ever complete unless I get my Pinkberry. Or Red Mango. Or some kind of trendy frozen yogurt joint. If you haven’t heard of Pinkberry, well, I don’t know where you’ve been all this time. And once you try it, you will wonder where it’s been all your life.
Pinkberry serves frozen yogurt, that has a slightly sour, but refreshing taste. It’s actually really addictive. Like frozen crack. The 2 original flavors were just plain original, and green tea. They have now branched out with new flavors but I have yet to try them. I ordered a medium sized original, with two fruit toppings (mango and blueberry).
Along with fresh fruit toppings, they serve cereal toppings as well. Try it and you’ll see what all the hype is about. Oh, and they say it’s actually fat-free too. But check their website for nutritional info., or at least Wikipedia for more info.
Are you ready for this now? Not even a couple hours go by, do I drag everyone to Rice to Riches. FOR RICE PUDDING! Because I’m an evil person who probably single-handedly destroyed everyone’s healthy diet in one day. It’s pretty hard to accomplish gaining 5 pounds in one day, but I managed to do it.
I got a kick out of these signs. If you have trouble reading the sign on the black background, here it is:
Bathroom is for Rice to Riches Customers Only, Violators will be disgraced, tortured, and savagely beaten. If you survive, you will be shot.
Another sign on the opposite window goes: Eat healthy. Exercise. Die Anyway.
This was my kind of place…
This is our friend Tom. We dragged him away from his apartment because he was sitting in the dark organizing things and forced rice pudding on him. He didn’t complain. I think he ordered the regular rice pudding with chocolate chips mixed in.
Chris and I shared a bowl with two flavors. Mine was the Chocolate Hazelnut with toasted coconut, and his was the Rum Raisin rice pudding.
Chris looked like he enjoyed it. I think. I can’t tell from his expression. It might be a look of enlightenment.
My cousin and his fiancée got the Chocolate hazelnut with strawberry topping. It doesn’t look great in the photo, I know, but it was soooo good. At least mine was. It’s just bad lighting is all. And I know it’s touristy and all, just like Pinkberry, but it was well worth it. We didn’t hit any large crowds either, I guess it depends on the time of day.
After our bellies were full, but not full to the max (well, I’m only speaking from my belly, as it is a bottomless pit), we debated where to go for dinner. We walked a few blocks to Tomoe Sushi.
I’m really surprised no one said “Candy, I just need to lay down or something, I might explode, or puke or something. I never ate so much food in my life. Please, make it stop.” And if no one says that, it’s my cue that they do want to eat more. And we might as well finish the rollercoaster ride with a few rolls. Sushi rolls, that is.
I didn’t take more photos of the sushi we ordered, because it was crowded, and I didn’t have a whole lot of elbow room. And I didn’t want to be that girl with the enormous camera taking pictures of everything anymore. At least, in the sushi restaurant.
We ordered 9 rolls, to name a few: Soft shell crab, spicy tuna, tuna with avocado, shrimp tempura, shrimp with lettuce and mayo, spicy sea scallop, and I am too lazy to figure out the rest.
The rolls were great. Extremely fresh, melt in your mouth fantastic. I noticed that there were quite a lot of good reviews exclaiming this might be the best sushi joint in Manhattan. It just might be…Please, try this place. Get in before there is a line at the door, which happened once we were finished with our meal. We got in by 7pm.
This is a no thrills sushi joint. The place is small, service is quick, and sushi is very straightforward, fresh and delicious. It’s for people who just want great sushi.
Also a word on the price: I saw that some reviews said this place was pricey, but the prices are the same, if not LESS, than sushi restaurants in Rochester, NY. And the sushi here is, like, 10 times better.
After all that gluttony, clutching our stomachs and beginning to feel a little uncomfortable from the fullness, we walked. A lot. From the West Village to the Meatpacking District. Did I get that right? I hope my geography is correct. We took a walk along the High Line.
The High Line is a beautifully landscaped, man-made park built on an elevated freight train platform that starts from the Meatpacking District all the way to Chelsea. Apparently there is a line to get into the park during the day, but at night it wasn’t crowded whatsoever, and beautifully lit. Looking at pictures on their website of how the park is seen during the day, I think it looks way cooler at night.
Pictures from the High Line looking at the Meatpacking District.
These were a few of my favorite photos. Of course, Chris had to get in the way of all of them :P
The next morning, I left my camera at my cousin’s apartment and went to brunch. Whoopsies. But I’ll write a quick thingy about the place we went to.
Five Leaves is located on Bedford St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We heard good things about the place and wanted to try it out. Plus, it was within walking distance of where we were staying, and ensured that we would be finished and ready to leave the city before it got too late. The thing that really struck me about the place was the ambiance….it had a good look to it. Of course, I defeat the whole purpose of trying to describe ambiance without pictures. Imagine being totally at ease in a place where you didn’t feel like you had to look a certain way to fit in. Of course, that could be said about 90% of places in Brooklyn. But it was comfortable. Their website has some beautiful pictures to check out. Service was quick and friendly, and we easily got a table for 7. Of course, we might’ve just been lucky, but I’ll take it.
I ordered the BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) sandwich with fries. Not necessarily brunch, they had a menu that served breakfast and lunch. It was quite good, and hit the spot. Especially the avocado. I’m pretty sure I’ll be imitating this sandwich soon on my blog. So, try this place when you’re in Greenpoint. We need more places like this.
I hope I didn’t go overboard with this post. I didn’t post for days so I’m making up for it in this one enormous post. Then I’ll probably force you to go through withdrawal all over again.
Check out the following links for menus, prices and directions.
Fornino – 187 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211 at N. 7th St. $$
Udu Cafe – 37-04 Prince Street, Flushing, NY 11354 $$
Tomoe Sushi – 172 Thomson Street, New York, NY 10012 $$
Five Leaves – 18 Bedford Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn 11222 $$
Pinkberry – Check their website for various locations $
Rice to Riches – 37 Spring Street, between Mott and Mulberry St, New York, NY $
Cheap (or free) Entertainment
Barcade – 388 Union Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11222 Beers start at $5/pint, games at 25 cents
The High Line – Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues