Back in the Borough: Making the Most of Final Weekends

I’m not gonna lie friends — as our weekends slowly whittle down during our last full month living here in the city, it seems like every single thing we decide to do is important. That’s why I’m pretty happy with our weekend choices from last weekend, if I do say so myself.

To start off Saturday, we had to break in some new hiking boots we bought for our trek up Machu Picchu, so we decided to do that with a heart-pounding, rock-climbing hike up Breakneck Ridge, which is where we went for my 30th birthday, ummmm, a few years ago :/

Anyway, Saturday was a glorious day for a hike, and here’s a bit of what we saw:

 

photo 1

photo 2

photo 4

_DSC6652

photo 6

photo 7

photo 8

photo 9

Needless to say, our shoes are more than broken in after that hike. You can take a bunch of different trails on Breakneck, but we chose the same one we did for my birthday, which is about 3 miles and includes a whole lot of rocks to climb, and a whole lot of spectacular views.

After working up a sweat that morning (way more exercise than I’m used to, friends), I was beyond excited for our dinner plans at The Monkey Bar with some of Chris’s family friends who are in town visiting from Australia. It had been my suggestion (of course), and I couldn’t wait to go there again. We had made the reservations online, and when we arrived were a bit sad to realize that the main dining room was closed, and we were seated in the bar area. It turned out okay, though, because the piano player started about halfway through our dinner (and was fantastic), and afterwards we asked the manager if we could take a stroll through the main dining room to check out the painting that lines the back wall. Not only did he oblige, but he handed over a smaller depiction of the painting that contained a key for who everyone in the painting is.

So we spent a couple minutes walking around the entire length of the room, checking out the painting. This was much closer than I got to it last time we were here!

Monkey_Bar1

Monkey_Bar2

Monkey_Bar3

Monkey_Bar4

Monkey_Bar5

Monkey_Bar7

Monkey_Bar9

Monkey_Bar10^^ Look at that tiny monkey at the top of my dessert plate! I mean … come on now! (Ummm, also, look at this fantastic dessert. And it was fantastic, my friends!)

After dinner we decided to stop off somewhere for a nightcap, and here, my friends, is where living in Manhattan really comes in handy. Because every now and then you might say, “Hey, how about a nightcap at that cute place we passed on the way to dinner with the jockeys outside,” and stumble into some place with so much history, just accidentally.

So the place we ended up, the pace with the jockeys outside, was actually the 21 Club. It was only fitting that we ended up here after dinner at The Monkey Bar (what with its own prohibition era history and folklore), because the 21 Club has plenty of its own amazing facts to tout. According to their website, ” ’21’ has never been a private members club. Even in the dangerous days of American Prohibition, the front door was always open to the public, although it’s fair to say that certain ‘guests’ wouldn’t be welcome. 

A receptionist or ‘screener’ would be employed to keep certain characters out, including gangsters (most notably John Thomas ‘Legs’ Diamond, who wanted a cut of the business) and federal agents (at least until prohibition was repealed in December 1933).”

Apparently the place has a disappearing bar from when they used to need to hide the booze at a moment’s notice, and it’s also been featured in more NYC movies than any other restaurant, including All About Eve, Sweet Smell of Success, Written on the Wind, Wall Street, One Fine Day, The Associate, Sex and the City, The Apprentice and Rear Window.

There are some pretty amazing facts about the place here, as well, my favorite being about the eclectic collection of toys that hang from the ceiling in the dining area. Apparently they started out as an ego contest. The first was a model plane from British Airways, which they hung over the table to impress investors. When Howard Hughes was dining there it caught his eye, and he insisted the place hang one of his planes as well. And so began the bragging-via-toys contest. These days the collection includes a model PT-109 boat from President Kennedy, a baseball bat from Willie Mays, a pool cue from the set of The Hustler, an Air Force One flyer from President Clinton, ice skates from Dorothy Hamill and a tennis racquet from Chris Evert.

According to the site, the staff dusts each of the 1,000 pieces on a regular basis, treating them as priceless antiques which, I guess you could say they are.

Bar_212

Bar_214

Bar_215

Bar_216

Bar_217

So Saturday was, for all intents and purposes, the perfect, old-school New York night. Exactly the kind of night I would like to have as we begin to wind down our time here. (And I begin to start crying every single day. Seriously. Don’t even get me started.)

Sunday we started what I’m sure will be a heart-tugging, emotional round of farewells to friends throughout the next couple of weeks. We met up with one of my best friends from high school and her (brand new!) husband for brunch at The Smith in the East Village.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Anyway, this week I’m doing some traveling in New Mexico, and I’m really excited to share all that information here soon, as well. But for now, bis bald, my friends! I’ll be back soon …

Back in the Borough: Eat in NYC

NYCBackground_Eat

Welcome, my friends, to a new series I’ve decided to start! (A few of my fave bloggers have been doing similar things lately, so I decided to steal the idea from them and make it my own.) For the next few weeks I’ll be using a couple of different posts to share some of my absolute favorite places in this beautiful city with all of you. Whether it’s food, drinks, activities, shopping — I’ve got you covered.

Of course no NYC guide can be that comprehensive. This September will be my 7-year anniversary calling myself a Manhattan-ite, and I feel that I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what this city has to offer.

Having said that, I’ll give it my best shot! Today we’ll be starting with EAT in NYC. So enjoy — and if you’re ever in town, please feel free to stop by some of these places because, in my humble opinion, they’re pretty stinkin’ awesome.

Where to Eat in NYC

  1. Jane Restaurant for brunch: Head to this SOHO gem super early, because day-um she gets packed! But for good reason, though — this place is seriously amazing. The Sunday brunch comes with your choice of one free complimentary cocktail, and their vanilla bean french toast is to-die-for.
  2. Eataly for lunch: A trip to Eataly is as much about the people watching and ambiance as it is about the food … but the food is not to be missed! If you can tear yourself away from everything that’s happening in the store (pastas and truffles and meats … oh my!), pick from the nine different restaurant options [we’ve only made it to La Piazza so far, but I hear Birreria, the rooftop restaurant and brewery, is pretty amazing as well] to relax and have a lovely glass of lunch wine. Who doesn’t love that?
  3. The Fig & Olive for a simple dinner: If you like Mediterranean food, you’ll adore the Fig & Olive. They bring a sampling of olive oils and breads to your table before your meal, and the food is so pretty, you almost won’t want to eat it.
  4. Monkey Bar for a fancy dinner out: I’ve waxed poetic about this place before, so I won’t bother you again except to say that if you’re looking for some place so old-school Manhattan you’ll feel like you’re back in a black-and-white noir film, this is the place for you. [And the food’s fantastic as well!]
  5. Jacob’s Pickles for Southern food: Sometimes a gal just has to have a big ole’ plate of biscuits and grits, and while Jacob’s Pickles is relatively new to our list of haunts, it definitely fills the void that’s been missing in my diet since I left college in Virginia. You might come for the comfort food, but you’ll stay for the pickle sampler plate — at least I do! [Just call me a Southern Bell! Actually no, please don’t do that.]
  6. Landmarc at Columbus Circle for the view: Forget the food (the food’s fine, really, but that’s not actually what matters) — you’ll be too busy looking out the window. The floor to ceiling windows overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park will keep you occupied for hours … you might even forget to order.
  7. Dying to try: Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: I’ve read about it. I’ve seen Instagram photo after Instagram photo of it. Now, I just need to try it. With dozens upon dozens upon dozens of vendors, this Brooklyn Flea Food Market seems like it has a food option for every taste. [I’m particularly interested in Blue Marble Ice Cream and Noodle Lane … I would like to try those, please.]
  8. Pizza and bagels: I know what you all are thinking. I can hear you all right now. “What the hell kind of NYC eats list is this without pizza and bagels?!” Well I left ’em off on purpose kids, I left ’em off on purpose. The thing is, every single New Yorker, if you were to ask her, will tell you her own favorite bagel and pizza place. Of course I could point you down the traditional, touristy route [“Hey, have you tried H&H Bagels … so good!” “That slice of pizza from Grimaldi’s was killer!”], but I just can’t stomach it. Instead, I’m going to be honest — both my favorite pizza in New York City ever and my favorite bagels in New York City ever are (or I should say were) right here in my neighborhood, probably because they’re easy and I’ve eaten them the most. The bagel place we frequent doesn’t actually appear to have gotten good reviews lately [it’s like our own hair band in the soup incident from Seinfeld — “Paco must be cooking!” Only true die-hard Seinfeld fans will probably get that], and Zesty’s Pizza, I tip my hat to you. This delightfully delicious pizza parlor lived on the corner of 95th and 3rd for six of my seven years here, only to have recently been shut down by a very ugly building owner who wants to turn that whole block into a high-rise condo [as if we need any more of those]. I’m still in mourning, and I haven’t found a good pizza substitution since. Sorry if those categories are so lame, my friends, but what can I say … them’s the breaks.

Bis bald, my friends! I hope you all have fun weekend plans — and get excited, because DRINK in NYC is up next!

Back in the Borough: Dinner at The Monkey Bar

photo 1

You guys … The Monkey Bar. What can I say? I have officially found my favorite restaurant in Manhattan.

If you come to visit NYC, and you’d like to go a classic, old-timey New York restaurant (and you’re willing to dish out some dough) — this is the place for you.

Okay, so some history first. On the heals of the end of Prohibition, the Monkey Bar opened in 1936 on the ground floor of Hotel Elysee in Midtown (which was, at the time, one of the fanciest hotels in the city). It quickly became the go-to hangout for old-school New York celebrities like Tallulah Bankhead, as well as the place “a number of significant events” occurred (says the site) — like when Tennessee Williams mysteriously choked on an eye-dropper and died there.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

The bar was purchased in 2009 by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and his wife, along with hotelier Jeff Klein.

And the mural. Oh this mural, my friends. Created by illustrator Ed Sorel, the three-paneled mural runs along the entire length of the back wall of the restaurant, and then onto some adjoining walls as well. It features many significant figures from the Jazz Age, those same figures that used to call the Monkey Bar their favorite hang out. You can click on the mural link above in this paragraph and it’ll bring you through the entire mural and explain little histories about all those on it.

One of the many, many things I loved about this place was how it felt like two completely different places. The front entrance (reached from the street) has the feeling of a really fancy, old-school bar, with a real live piano player in the corner and a bar with monkey murals in the background.

But then move through the bar area to the back of the joint, and the actual restaurant area is much more subdued and romantic.

Plus — the monkeys! Monkeys, monkeys everywhere! And yet somehow — they managed to be tastefully done.

(I apologize in advance for the graininess of these photos. As I mentioned, it was quite dark, and since it was, you know, a somewhat classy joint, I was trying my best to be discreet with my photo taking. Chris may or may not have been mortified.)

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 4a

photo 5

photo 5a

photo 6^^ I mean, look at this menu! So detailed!

photo 7

photo 8^^ The dessert menu was just as beautiful as the main one.

photo 9

photo 10^^ This mural guys. This mural.

photo 11^^I was convinced this was Marilyn Monroe. Chris said no.
Unfortunately he was right. (I hate when that happens.) It’s Mae West.

photo 12

photo 13

And the food was not outdone by the ambiance. I ordered a seasonal cocktail (The Harvest Punch, with rum, mulled cider, cognac, lemon juice and nutmeg) and Chris had the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. He says his was fantastic (I don’t know anything about that … I don’t like those kinds of drinks), but I can tell you right now mine was. We ordered a crab cake appetizer to share (best damn crab cake I’ve ever had in my life), and I ordered the Saffron Risotto for dinner. Chris got the Colorado Lamb Rack. We both thought our meals were incredibly delicious.

Discussing the joint on our walk back to the subway afterwards we were trying to decide what to rank it. Neither one of us could come up with any negative things to say about it. Even our waiter was polite and quick and lovely. Nary a negative thing to say, people. Not one damn thing.

Great job, Monkey Bar! You will mostly certainly see us back here!

Bis bald, friends!