Category Archives: Stolen Says

Stolen Says: Top of the Rock

Every once in a while, a good New Yorker has to come down from his or her holier-than-thou, nothing-fazes-me pedestal and partake in something known as the Double T – Tourist Trap. Knowing which Double T’s to take part in, and when, however, is an art, and one that all good New Yorkers have perfected in order to emerge on the other side completely unscathed. The factors in play? Location, timing, and of course, the company you keep.

One particularly beautiful pre-fall afternoon, my friend C visited the city from upstate. It was almost her birthday, and she had come to see an opera and to celebrate with L and me. As it turned out, C’s father joined us, and another friend, D met up with us as well.

I’m working backwards here – but there’s the company I was keeping when I dove into the DoubleT that Saturday afternoon. C from upstate, her father from Philly, L from Inwood, and D from the Upper West Side. The special thing about this group is that none of us were tourists. C used to live here (with me, actually, when we first moved to the city after college we were roomies in Sugar Hill), and her father grew up on Long Island, so the city and all its mysteries aren’t quite so mysterious to us. Which brings me to the main focus of the first point, the company you keep. In order to really enjoy the DoubleT, you have to be making a memory, not just visiting it for visiting’s sake. Of course, seeing the Statue of Liberty with an out-of-towner is refreshing as it can renew your excitement about living in this fabulous city, but it somehow doesn’t hold the same gravity.

In any case, we chose to do Top of the Rock that afternoon. When C and I lived together we had some guests from Germany, and as a thank-you for showing them a fantastic time they had bought us a gift certificate to Top of the Rock – so we thought it was about time we cashed in on it.

Central Park

Deck

In case you’ve been wondering this entire time, Top of the Rock is the top of Rockefeller Center, which is between 5th and 6th Avenues at 50th Street. Other attractions in or around Rockefeller center include the skating rink (open only in the fall & winter), Radio City Music Hall and the offices of NBC. Rockefeller Center is also the focal point of the hit comedy TV show 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan.

So. We’ve covered location (Top of the Rock), and company. Timing is also important, depending on the DoubleT you’ve chosen. The staff at Top of the Rock does an excellent job of regulating the flow of traffic and crowd control, so in this case it’s the time of year that comes into play. Fall is amazing. What better place to see all the changing leaves in Central Park than from a bird’s eye view? In addition to Central Park and its mass of oranges and yellows, from Top of the Rock you can see from one end of Manhattan to the other – and beyond. Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey and far up the Hudson River are all part of the view.

Manhattan

The other great place to get a bird’s eye view of New York is the Empire State Building. However, I’m a big advocate of doing Top of the Rock because when you take those iconic photos of our glittering city, you have the most iconic skyscraper in them as well. 😉

Empire State Building

The DoubleT – not always the necessary evil that keeps New York’s economy going. When the timing’s right, you can have the most fabulous adventure of all!

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Stolen Says: Rockwood Music Hall

If you are twenty-something living New York City, chances are you know at least one person who seems to know everyone. And if you are lucky enough, you’ll know two people who seem to know everyone – and when they are in the same room, it’s twice the amount of everyone for you to get to know. Sounds a little convoluted and overwhelming? Welcome to my life. But I love it, thrive on it and love making it all happen. Which is exactly why I love that I am one of many who know Nat Osborn. A talented musician and an all around brilliant human being, Nat Osborn is one of those people who really actually does know everyone. So when he has a gig at Rockwood Music Hall (one of his regular venues – another being the Lovin’ Cup in Brooklyn), he invites everyone he knows, I invite everyone I know, and it becomes a fantastic night of converging and greatness. Not to mention Nat graces us with his incredible music.

Every few weeks, Nat has a gig at the aforementioned Rockwood Music Hall, which is located just below Houston Street at 196 Allen Street  It’s right next door to Pala Pizza, so if you’re so inclined you could stop there for a quick slice of vegan (or non-vegan if that’s your flavor) pizza before you continue down the street to RMH to experience Nat’s performance.

Band

RMH is a cozy place – and I do mean cozy in every sense of the New York real estate term. It’s pretty tiny. But it has a great performing stage, and a fantastic old (but well-tuned and cared for) grand piano, which gives a unique, intimate ambiance to the performances here. There’s a one drink minimum per set, which is not outrageous, and the drink prices are fairly standard, so there are no surprises. The decor is bohemian chic and the staff are appropriately hipsters. But whether you are hipster or anti-hipster, it’s a cool little place to enjoy a glass of wine and to get a healthy dose of the next wave of up-and-coming singer/songwriters.

Menu

ConcertNat Osborn is definitely on the forefront of that next wave. This is a shameless plug, but you have to check out his work. His hooks are brilliant and catchy, but not annoyingly so – they’re of such a caliber that you absolutely will not mind having his melodies rolling around your head for a week. And from crooning solos with just his guitar or that old piano, he can swing a 180 to a 12-piece band that slams you with some fantastic funk & soul. He’s a collaborative and extremely charismatic guy, hence the knowing of everyone, and the seemingly random pulling of people he knows with similar talent on stage to contribute to the spectacular shows he puts on.  Check him out – he’s gonna be big (at least, if I have anything to say about it, and I plan to).

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Stolen Says: Wine and Tapas at Alta

If you recall from last week, I had a fantastic weekend bar/party-hopping and mingling with some fantastic people in some fun places (Pony Bar, Inc Lounge and Calle Ocho). I had started out that weekend with some dancing in the West Village at, of all places to be dancing, a little dive bar called Pieces.  In any case, there was (surprise, surprise) a birthday party happening, and Jbru and I made some new friends – one of whom (we’ll call him KS) I met for drinks and dinner this week.  This is my favorite aspect of New York – you never know who you’re going to meet or the places they will take you!

Restaurant

When deciding on a place to go this week, I suddenly got a craving for delicious wine and tapas, so I immediately thought of Alta. Tucked away on the lower level of a townhouse in the West Village (on West 10th Street near 6th Avenue), Alta is cozy, warm and welcoming, but surprisingly spacious!  They boast an excellent wine selection (I went with the 2003 Rioja), and some of the best sangria in town. Their food menu is also incredible, and my mouth is actually watering just thinking about it. With small plates ranging in price from $3-$13, it’s easy to share a few bites and a few glasses of wine to have a splendid, wallet-friendly time. I highly suggest the lamb meatballs and the fried goat cheese – maybe not the healthiest choice, but they’re so delicious! And if you balance it out with the broccoli rabe, you can satiate your conscience as well as your palate. Yum!

Fireplace

Alta NYC

After dinner, KS & I went to 49 Grove Street, a club at which KS’s friend is a promoter. I had a flight to catch the next morning and hadn’t even packed yet, so I intended to stay for one drink and then head home. But what is it that they say? The best laid plans of mice and men… I was having so much fun dancing in this lower level lounge, I didn’t get home until 2:30 a.m.! There was a slammin’ DJ, and if you ordered bottle service, it was brought to you with a sparkler stick. This made the lounge a bit smokey, but also offered such a festive and fun ambiance! So after a few hours of dancing the night away (on a Wednesday night, no less), KS finally put his foot down, dragged me off the dance floor and we headed to the N train at 8th Street, where we parted ways. Thank heavens for little miracles, for had I stayed any later, I never would have gotten packed in time. New York makes it so hard to pull away!

(All photos: nymag.com)

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Stolen Says: Pony Bar and Party Hopping

What have I been saying about New York? There’s always always something to do, and luckily always someone to do it with. It’s also, if you recall, still birthday season and this past weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Friday night I went dancing in the West Village with JBru to let out some of the week’s stress. It turned out to be a fantastic night, as planned! We ran into a football team having a birthday party for one of their team members, and made some new friends (I even got a date out of it – more about that next week).

Saturday afternoon I woke up just in time to make it to Pony Bar in Hell’s Kitchen for D’s afternoon birthday party. After a few hours of imbibing the various beers Pony Bar offers and a quick costume change, I headed to the Upper West Side for A’s intimate birthday dinner at Calle Ocho. Such an incredible atmosphere could only be followed by A’s party at Inc Lounge, at the Time Hotel. Whew! That’s a lot to pack into a weekend, yeah? But let me assure you, it was so worth it.  Let me break it down for you:

Pony Bar

Pony Bar, on 45th Street and 10th Avenue, is small – but by no means dive.  Rustic, rugged and all-American themed, the decor includes keg barrels and a canoe on the ceiling. The special feature of Pony Bar is its extensive and seemingly inexhaustible list of beer – all crafted and brewed in the US! They have a tally sheet that counts up to 100. The point of the sheet is to try every beer they offer – a full sheet without duplicates yields the lucky drinker not only the fantastic experience of exposure to the widest range of beers possible, but a Pony Bar shirt! And what’s not to love about a Pony Bar t-shirt? I was only there a few hours, but I can personally recommend the Pumpkinhead by Shipyard Brewery, the Atom Smasher by Two Brothers Brewery, and the Eco Cider by…a brewery whose name I’ve forgotten (oops). Each pint glass of beer will cost you $4 during happy hour, or $5 during regular hours. Either way, it’s a great deal, and a great way to become an American beer connoisseur. What better way to expand your palate than in the laid back environment of Pony Bar with co-workers or friends?

Canoe

Jack Nicholson

Next on the list was dinner at Calle Ocho on Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets. Specializing in a cuisine that artfully fuses South American with Cuban and Spanish culture, Calle Ocho brings the samba/salsa to the table on a beautifully arranged platter.  Also, the sangria is absolutely incredible! I usually reserve sangria for summertime, but this was such a refreshing throwback to the warmer months, and of course a fantastic compliment to the cuisine. Upon first entering Calle Ocho, it appears to be a cute but chic bar setting with an intimate dining area just up the steps in the back. Venture a little farther back, however, and that hallway in the back opens up into a huge dining space that, with the decor and lighting as it is, conjures the ambiance of a street side restaurant in Havana.

The food was, as expected, so rich in the best way possible. We ordered a sampler appetizer platter for the table to share, which consisted of yuca fries, sweet plantains (yum!) and of course black beans and rice. For my entree I settled on an item called the Gaucho – the description read: hangar steak, something something, gnocchi.  Naturally I thought, well, I love steak and I love love gnocchi so this is a natural choice – the “something something” I skimmed over, however, turned out to be a delicious piece of pork, and 2 different kinds of sausage! So much for going vegan (a declaration I’d made in the mirror the previous night). Other entree choices at our table were grilled tilapia, seafood paella, and a dense but delicious-looking chicken with vegetables and rice.  Everything was so beautifully displayed, we almost didn’t want to eat it!  But we did, and it was delectable.

Lobster Claw

After dinner we cabbed it back to midtown to Inc Lounge at the Time Hotel, on W 49th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway. Dim lighting created a high-end lounge ambiance – perfect for A’s party. With a guest list and a slammin’ DJ, she really went all out with this one. And what a fabulous way to cap off the weekend!

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Stolen Says: The Boathouse

Last weekend my dear friend J came to town, and we had a blast! J used to live in New York but moved to the other side of the country for various reasons. (She’s been mentioned here before – she’s the one I used to sit with on the glowing red steps above the TKTS booth in Times Square at 2:00 in the morning to bask in the energy of our glittering city.) In any case, it was refreshing to have a visitor who knew her way around the city and didn’t drag me to all the tourist sites I’ve seen a thousand times. Knowing me for the social butterfly I am, she was content to tag along where ever I went and be a part of the NYC social scene for a few days.

Some of our activities included a trip to Room Service, my new favorite Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, a housewarming party on the Upper West Side and, of course, a Sunday brunch (no visit to New York is really complete without a brunch). After brunch, J and I decided to take a little walk through Central Park with M, and visit a very nostalgic place for us – Loeb’s Boathouse.

the boathouse central park

Loeb’s Boathouse is often just called The Boathouse, but regardless of its title, it is definitely a must-see/do spot. The Boathouse is located at the edge of a pond in the mid-70s on the East side of Central Park. That’s my best guess – locations in the park are rarely an exact science, neither is finding them. It is a fantastic restaurant, but, as its name suggests, is also an actual boathouse! For just $12 an hour you can rent a rowboat or a kayak and spend a blissful afternoon floating on the water – it’s so relaxing, and a ton of fun!

When J and I were in college, we used to take weekend trips down to the city just for a day. J was an art history major, so we would start at the Met, and when we finished there, we’d venture into the park. For some reason, probably because of its convenient proximity, we would often find ourselves at The Boathouse. There is a quiet little path that winds around the edge of the pond, and we would walk it, thinking how romantic it would be to rent a rowboat with a lover and row under the famed Bow Bridge.

So when J came to visit, we decided we would really do it this time. I think we had avoided it before because we thought it would be too expensive. Of course, inquiring about the price might have helped, but as it was, we were pleasantly surprised to discover how inexpensive it is! And so J, M and I spent an hour that perfectly sunny Sunday afternoon rowing and trying to avoid running into the other rowers who had come to enjoy one of the first beautiful days of fall.

the boathouse central park

the boathouse central park

 

the boathouse central park

I highly recommend this activity – it’s really not that difficult (although, as M found out, it takes a little getting used to), and there is something about floating about with the hum of the city in the periphery that is so calming. Aside from other New Yorkers testing their boating skills, there are plenty of ducks, turtles, and banjo-playing men to keep you company. If the day is right, with a baguette, some cheese, and a bottle of wine, this is one of the most fabulous ways to spend a fall (or spring, or summer) afternoon.

the boathouse central park

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Stolen Says: Room Service for Rainy Days

Fall in New York City. On a clear autumn afternoon one can stroll down Park Avenue in the waning, golden sunlight and see the gorgeous turning of the leaves. However, with fall also comes those blustery, rainy gray days. On such days, my general policy is that if I can’t see the Chrysler building or Empire State building from my kitchen window – I don’t leave the apartment. Despite this self-implemented rule, these dreary days sometimes give me a hankering for great Thai food. So I call up L and we meet in the middle of our two apartments and head to Hell’s Kitchen to a chic little place called Room Service.

The thing I love most about Room Service is – well, wait. Which fantastic feature do I love the most? There really are so many to choose from! For starters, the atmosphere and layout of the restaurant is so chic, but somehow extremely relaxing. The smooth black table tops and myriad mirrors in ornate frames on the ceiling give the feel that you may just be in a Thai palace. The majestic chandelier that splits the restaurant in two in its glass display case only furthers this feeling that you could be royalty and that you certainly deserve to be treated as such.

The actual service at Room Service is amazing as well. Attentive but not overbearing, the waitstaff really does their best to take care of you; and their best is awesome.

And finally, the food. For such a chi-chi atmosphere (the bathroom doors are padded in leather – did I say it was extravagantly palatial?), the prices are surprisingly inexpensive. Pad Thai, a Thai staple I often order, runs between $7 and $9. The portions here are just enough to provide some leftover for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack the next day if you’re not ravenous. If you’ve really been looking forward to your next meal, though, one dish will certainly satisfy you.

The final touch on an all-around great place like this is their authenticity. In addition to the imported beer list, the menu boasts that its Pad See Ew is real Pad See Ew and even recommends special items to ask for from your waiter to make it even more authentic. I’ve never been to Thailand, so they could fool me any day, but I love to feel like I’m getting the real cultural experience when it comes to cuisine.

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Stolen Says: Stone Street Oyster Fest

If you are in New York City surrounded by skyscrapers but unable to find your way through oddly empty and criss-crossing cobblestone streets, then you’ve successfully found the Financial District. Wall Street, Ground Zero and Century 21 are all places to know and visit downtown. On weekends, when the traders and investment bankers aren’t rushing around in their power suits and ties, FiDi is amazingly silent. But if you stopped by the neighborhood this past weekend, you would have heard a small ruckus coming from what is arguably the best little street in this money-making neighborhood – Stone Street.

On any given Thursday from Memorial Day through September, Stone Street is a great choice for happy hour. The bars (Ulysses’ Folkhouse, Stone St. Inn – to name a couple) that line the three-block hotspot have picnic tables out on the cobblestones and take their business to the open air.  This past weekend Ulysses’ Folkhouse and other neighborhood joints took the merrymaking up a notch with the annual Stone Street Oyster Fest!

I met up with a co-worker, AJ, shortly before 5:00 on Saturday afternoon. She and her friends had arrived a little earlier and staked out a spot – which was quite fortunate, because as I rounded the corner from Broad Street and saw the throng of happily buzzed New Yorkers drinking Guinness and shooting oysters from the shell, I was thoroughly convinced I would never be able to find her. I swore I saw her about five times as I pushed through the melee, but my eyes were only tricking me (it didn’t help that every other person was blonde, like AJ). Eventually I found her, and we jumped right in with the Guinness and the oysters. At $12 for half a dozen oysters and Guinness galore, what’s not to love?

The fresh oysters in a half shell – so delicious! With a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of cocktail/tabasco sauce, they are one of the tastiest snacks you could throw my way. I almost couldn’t believe my luck when I learned there is a whole festival centered around these yummy creatures! (Naturally, though, this is New York, so… I can.)

For those who were not so keen on seafood, there was a wide array of other beer-appropriate food – delicious mac and cheese, pizza and fried veggie spring rolls.  AJ and E braved the crowd for a food run and returned declaring they had made a whole bunch of new friends on their way back from the food booth. Everyone wanted to meet the girls with all the fried goodness!

What better way to make new friends then to park at a random table with a of plate oysters? Sounds friendly and fun, but it can be quite the opposite. A guy randomly set down his plate next to us and started slurping his oysters without the slightest attempt at befriending us! Awkward. We bumped into old friends though, so this guy’s rudeness wasn’t really an issue. L disappeared into the masses for another glass of Champagne, and returned with M! I’m continuously amazed that in New York, despite it’s size, you’re always bound to run into someone you know when you’re least expecting it. I, on the other hand, had the more unfortunate experience of seeing an ex of an old friend instead of the old friend herself (is it bad that I ducked behind AJ so the ex wouldn’t see me??).

And that’s one of the things I love the most about events in New York. You never know who you may meet, or who you may run into!

All in all, it was a rockin’ event (crazy, slightly tipsy crowd included)!

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