What is it about New York that year after year attracts all kind of people like bees to honey?
Is it the multi-cultural possibilities that you can find all together? The food, all kinds, perfectly combined with the smells of the city? The unlimited entertainment possibilities? Parties? Night-life? Day-life? The skyscrapers almost touching the clouds? What is it?
I have no idea and it is hard to "define" a city like New York. It can not be boxed it. And in fact you have no right to try to.
New York is like a piece of the world in just one place. You can be whoever you want to be, and become whatever you have always desired and aspired, freely. You can eat whatever you have always wanted to eat because you will find it in this city. And this is maybe why people feel compelled to come, visit or give it a shot as a resident (at least for some time).
I love New York like the famous cliche, I can’t explain why. I love to come and visit but I do believe I don't have the skin you need to for living in this city.
In our last visit we stayed 4 days in the Up-and-coming NoMad, a neighborhood centered on the Madison Square North Historic District in the borough of Manhattan. We arrived in NY pretty late in the night, driving straight from Chicago for more than 12 hours (this has to be the subject of another post, because the driving was crazy😵💫)
This time Dylan and I came for work but still had the time to walk around the city and do what most tourists do. It was our first time together in New York longer than 1 day. We walked. We ate. We walked some more (we walked for more than 3 hours one day, the day was beautiful and sunny). We didn’t visit as many coffee places as we always do in all the cities we go, but we ate spectacularly this time. The few spots we visited for coffee were good.
A piece of advice: When you come to NY, make sure to come in a season you will be able to walk and enjoy the weather.
Something that always strike me about New York is New Yorkers. They are like a special kind of human being. Why is that? New Yorkers walk super fast, wherever they go. Straight faces, almost like they are mad, looking their phones while they walk, no smiles, no time for that. No sympathy. Just walking. And they WALK. Because it is hell to drive in the city, so they walk everywhere.
When you are walking in the city, you need to walk fast too, otherwise you will be taken with the mass, between the tourist and locals. It is a mix of people that pulls you up in many directions. Bicycles, skateboards and skates, cars, and people, tons of people…it is an absolute nightmare to think that you can normally walk on the streets. If you get into an elevator and say hello, good morning, simple courtesy, they just don't answer, but give you the look, like, Gosh 😒 what I was missing today, another tourist! I don't really think they don't have manners, I just see it like they are so into their own things that sometimes they can look like rude, when they are not.
This premise applies to many places, even Uber drivers. The only Uber we took while in the city was on our way to Long Island. We were invited to visit an espresso machine manufacturer and took an Uber to get to the company. As soon as the driver got to the pick up place I got into the car and said good morning, no answer. Dylan got into the car, same, no answer. And then the driver covered his entire face with a black ski mask, you could only see his eyes deep black, and mad! Then, he didn’t say a word the whole drive (approximately 45 min). And he didn’t say anything when we arrived to our destination and we both said thank you.
So, my question is this, why? Why always looking like mad? Why always with the straight face? This visit I had the time to talk to New Yorkers, born and raised, in the company we were providing training and in the Theater (yes, we went to Broadway to see Hamilton Musical, my favorite play).
Richard Rogers Theatre
They told me different reasons why.
First, they agreed with that impression. It does not matter the age, you can be old, young or in between. You need to be tough in order to survive in the city.
A 23 year old told me that you don't have time to socialize with strangers because you need to be focused on where you are going, It doesn’t mean they don't want to meet new people, because New Yorkers are very open minded people. They don't care what you do or how you do it. You mind your business and they mind theirs. And I love that by the way. The thing is that he was telling me for instance, he has 3 different jobs. When he finishes one, he needs to walk to the other one, reset his mind and be prepared for his other responsibilities. In the meantime, he needs to eat, relax (?) and keep going. It is kind of difficult to go smiling and being kind like a Winnie the Pooh when you have so much in your plate, right?
Another New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx, told me that another reason is that for instance in her case, she was raised to not smile or talk to strangers, because there are too many (strangers) in New York. And now that she is an adult woman, she believes is kind of late for her to change her mindset. She is super sweet, by the way. And nice. But she also told me, she came to our meeting and she knew that we were going to be working together. She said if I see you in the street I won’t behave like I’m doing right now with you. Noted.
I met an old male, seated by my side, New Yorker born and raised, told me that if you are not tough you don't make it in the city. He believes that once you make it in New York you can make it in any other place in the world, easy peasy. And although he agreed with the idea that New Yorkers look like they are always mad (he literally said he used to be one of them), he said that now that he is older and wiser he wishes that he could go back in time and be different. He said, with a beautiful soft voice, there is so much suffering, loneliness and separation between people nowadays. We should be more emphatic and kind to each other. Life is consuming people's lives. And I totally agreed with him, sad but true.
Other characteristic is that they are super straight with you. They will tell you what they think with no hesitation. For some people this can be harsh. But not for them. They just don't have time to flourish their words, what is the purpose of that?
I mean, I’m not saying that this is bad or good. I only come to New York as a tourist, I can’t imagine what it takes to live in the city that never sleeps. Too hard.
Now, let's talk about food. Service is another totally different scenario. When you go dining they are excellent, simpáticos, happy and kind to you. And I like that about this city. Service is really great in fine dinning. And read my words, fine dining. I'm not talking about the pizza places (or hot dogs, pinchos, or whatever you can think of) you find everywhere.
In all the places where we had formal dinning, we have no complaints. It was number 1.
Our stop for breakfast in our first morning was The Smith. Servers were cordial, kind and looked happy. Regular breakfast, BLT, (for Dylan), omelet (for me), some bread, butter, juice. No coffee. Nothing special to be honest. Not because of the place but because of what we ordered. We were kind in a hurry and didn't spend some much time (and energy) on the Menu.
For dinner, we visited an Indian Restaurant Mughlai Indian Cuisine on 3rd Av. I can't say that the restaurant was super good, nor was super bad. Would I come back? Probably not. We were the only ones on the place (6ish pm), and still the service was slow. We ordered Shrimp Tikka and Chicken Korma accompanied with Naan and rice. Food was tasty, but the truth is that we have had really good Hindu food (especially in Argentina. Oh Mumbai I miss you) and this was not on the top of them.
Later on we visited Patent Pending, in 49 W 27th St, a Speakeasy we visited for the very first time in early 2019 with very good friends from Argentina - who knew and highly recommend the place. This visit was months before the pandemic hit the world.
This time, we needed something extra to call the night. Dylan ordered a Secrets of Nature made with Single Malt Scotch and I had a Vermouth Antica. It was really good to see the place still alive despite the pandemic, we were worried that they could have been affected in a bad way. But whatever happened in these 3 years, the place managed to survive, it was full with people, just good vibes and the beautiful energy a Speakeasy always has, especially Patent Pending.
On our second day, after work we walked a lot. First stop, Grand Central Terminal. But before getting there, Dylan gave it a try to the classic NY pizza at Little Italy Pizza. He says it was good. That's it. No more comments🤷🏻♀️
Photoshoot on Grand Central Terminal
Later on that day after 3 hours walking, we went to L'ADRESSE, located at 1184 Broadway, is a restaurant which mission states "L’Adresse Nomad provides a cool and comfortable atmosphere and offers all-day dining for locals and visitors alike, no matter the occasion.".
Sadly, We can't remember the name of our server, an Ethiopian male who was the heart of the night. So nice and sweet that the whole experience was better thanks to him. We started with the Mushroom Flatbread (grilled Naan, truffle mushroom pate, asiago, mixed mushrooms), followed by Steak Frites (for me), Truffle Burger (for Dylan) and ended with Crème Brûllé dessert. Food was paired with wine and a super nice live Jazz music.
When you visit NY do yourself a favor, come and enjoy dining at this restaurant. It is one of my favorites from now on. I can't wait to come back.
On our last night in New York, one of the employees of the company we were providing coffee training told us about the restaurant where her husband works, L'Amico, which has an American menu and Italian influences. Just one word to describe the place: Amazing! The best pizza in a long time. We got there at 5pm and there were already people in line to be seated (they open at 5). Pizza and dessert (the best true Italian Tiramisu we have had in the States).
So food was incredible in New York, we really enjoyed it. But what about coffee?
Because we were busy working we kept ourselves close to the neighborhood we stayed in, NoMad. We were providing technical and coffee training to one of our clients, Ol'days NY, who opened their doors two weeks after our visit. It means we had plenty of delicious filter and espresso in our training. So, we visited like 3 or 4 coffee shops. Another interesting thing, in NY all coffee shops serve drip coffee and espresso + milk beverages, but no pour-overs. We didn't find any V60, kalita, Aeropress, etc. Why? People don't have time to wait for it. So, batches and batches of drip coffee are consumed daily by New Yorkers and tourists/visitors. I hope I can come back and make an extent review of coffee places.
Although We greatly enjoyed our visit, We could not wait to come back home. So many smells, so many sounds, and so many people. Weed is everywhere, mixed with sweat, food, sounds, people and air contamination.
I think that New Yorkers are part of the beauty that makes New York the city that it is. Along with so many other things. And speaking by myself, I can't wait to come back and spend another few days.
The view from our hotel Room, Broadway Plaza Hotel
Thank you for reading and if you like it, feel free to share it and leave a comment.
María Esther Thome-López