A lot of people looked at us sideways when we told them we were going to New York for our honeymoon. But, we had several recent trips that were more of the tropical sort, and as much as we needed some unplanned relaxed time, weren’t really craving that lay-on-the-beach of trip. We felt like we could get our relaxing and get some of the big city food, art and architecture cravings satisfied in one of our favorite places – NYC. I am focusing this post (part one of NYC) on the Lower East Side (LES), where our home base was for the week.
The trip began with renting a great LES apartment (above) that we found through AirBnB – much like VRBO, you can rent someone’s whole apartment, have a kitchen, feel a part of the neighborhood – and pay less – which is especially key in NYC. We loved our little spot at Orchard and Broome, right in the heart of things.
Home base was a block away from the Tenement Museum – a place I think I’ve attempted to go to 3 other visits to NYC, that never quite worked out. A random thing to do on a honeymoon, admittedly, but I am glad it worked out this trip, and I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in history and architecture of the city. It is a tour-based museum, but unique in that they give the history through the stories of one of the actual families that had lived at 97 Orchard (above, middle), which makes it all a little more real for me. Our tour was about an Irish family that lived there 125 years ago, and the contrasts of them in the midst of the rest of the German Jewish families in the building.
An interesting spot to compare to the Tenement Museum in this historically Jewish immigrant neighborhood (that later became enveloped by Chinatown) is the Eldridge Street Synagogue, (above, left) the first ground-up Synagogue built in the United States in the late 1880’s. It has been beautifully restored, giving a glimpse into what must have been an otherworldly space when you compared and contrast it to the living conditions of the surrounding tenement neighborhood.
As for the food of the LES:
Doughnut Plant – oh man… I know it is a little sacrilege to say, but I am not a huge doughnut person. Or, I guess it is that I am picky about them. This place however, was so good we went twice. Unbeknownst to us, we chose perfectly when we picked the creme brulee (above, top right) – vanilla creme brulee filling, and a hardened sugar topping over the top of the doughnut – apparently it won ‘best pastry’ from the New Yorker recently. I keep saying it is worth flying to New York for this treat.
Barrio Chino – (side note, this is ‘China Town’ in Spanish) The owner of our apartment recommended this spot on her block for our first night when we flew in late. Lucky spot to have so close! Great spot to get acclimated, drink artisan margaritas (my favorite was the elderflower) and eat lovely tacos.
Classic Coffee – Wonderfully old-school NYC coffee shop – complete with the Greek style blue and white paper cups. We recommend the classic egg on a roll and egg creams.
Pickle Guys – Making barrel-cured pickles of a wide variety of veggies since 1910 – good snacking and a great glimpse into history of the neighborhood.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House – We were slated to eat at Gramercy Tavern the day that Shawn’s cold really decided to kick in. As much as we wanted to check that place out – a fancy dinner would have been lost on the sickie. On a recommendation from Chow.com we checked out a dumpling house a few blocks from our apartment, and came home with some amazing hot and sour soup, dumplings, and my personal favorite – the sesame crepe with egg – all for a teeny fraction of what Gramercy would have cost, but hitting the spot.
Just north of Houston, in the East Village, is where we had some of the best meals of the trip:
Prune (above, top left) – our first breakfast of the trip found us at this diminutive restaurant of chef Gabrielle Hamilton, whose book I had recently read (and mostly enjoyed – any one else find the ending abrupt..?), and I was curious to check it out in person. The presentation of the food was understated, but belied the happiness those simple dishes brought us (above, top right). My fried oyster omelette – something I wouldn’t normally get, and gambled on – was phenomenal.
Momofuku Saam Bar – Damn. David Chang knows what he is doing. This was our favorite meal of the trip – hands down (above, bottom left and middle). Everything from the signature pork-buns (a perfect example of the melding of his Korean heritage and southern upbringing) to the soft shell crab, to my brook trout – all of it was so flavorful, had great contrasts and surprises in each dish, and all the sauces were beautiful. It is really hard to put into words – but it was one of those meals that makes you dance in your chair – it was that good.
Milk Bar – Also David Chang, and an excellent spot for coffee and a pastry in the morning, or for some ice cream after dinner at Momofuku across the street, which we did all of that in one day. Cereal Milk soft serve is the signature – and so spot-on, like you froze the milk in your cereal bowl. The other flavor of the day was Blueberry Miso – with the miso just giving it a nice balancing hint of savory (above, bottom right).
We were sad we didn’t have more time to make it to all the rest of his restaurants. But, then again, it is always good to have a reason to go back to NYC.
Up next – posts from other parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn too…