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Photo by Shawn Hoke/Creative Commons
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Photo by Shawn Hoke/Creative Commons
Photo by Shawn Hoke/Creative Commons

A Bite of the Big Apple

New York is daunting for any traveler, especially as a visitor from our big little city. If you’re lucky, you know or have found sympathetic locals or knowledgeable Columbus expats who still have so much love for their native state that they want to be the guide they wish they had when they arrived, armed with nothing more than ambition and grit… and possibly a little hubris.

And what would (614) be, if we weren’t up to delivering their guidance through the 718, 347, and the possibly, the 929.

There are so many fantastic empathetic Humans of New York who will guide you through the city, the various boroughs, and steer you away from “tourist traps” (ex. Times Square). Just Say NO. There’s so much to see and do that there’s no way to cover it all on a short trip, and it is admittedly overwhelming, even to the most savvy of travelers. So for all who are curious about making the trip but have reservations (which you should be making before you even leave the state of Ohio) about what to do/see/eat while you’re there, here’s a few highlights (broken down by boroughs) to hopefully make your experience memorable in the best sense.

The Bronx

Arthur Avenue, also known as the Belmont section of the Bronx, is often hailed as the “real Little Italy” of New York, and by far the most well-known area of the neighborhood. If you are looking for speciality meats, cheeses, and even breads, this is the place to go.

Try pasta at Mario’s—it looks a little dated, but that is largely due to the fact that it’s been owned by the same family for five generations. It’s a red-sauce favorite, and their calamari cassuola is a gigantic portion of squid in marinara sauce—often a special and always a favorite with regulars. For drinks, particularly pale ales, stop by The Bronx Brewery. They are so devoted to this particular type of craft brew that it’s their sole product. If you plan on eating there, know that they have limited snacks in their tasting room, but they’ll be happy to provide you with menus of neighborhood favorites that will deliver as you enjoy a drink in The Backyard, their expansive patio. For seriously diverse eats, head towards the neighborhood surrounding the Bronx’s most famous attraction, Yankee Stadium. There you’ll find many varieties of West African food, soul food, and if you are a fan of shrimp and grits, Charlie’s Bar and Kitchen is where locals say the best is found in (but only during brunch). The Bronx is a fantastic destination for West African, South Asian, and authentic Mexican cuisine, but whatever you choose, go with an empty stomach, an appetite, and patience. Popular and iconic restaurants such as Bangladeshi favorite Neerob often have a line waiting outside before they even open, and other restaurants such as Papaye (an acclaimed Ghanaian restaurant that caters to visitors, as well as the largest Ghanian population in the country), will more than satisfy both your curiosity and your cravings. The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop, and it’s no surprise that it has a reputation for being tough. That said, it is also a welcoming borough full of families, tradition, and pride in its diversity. The food reflects this fierce pride, and it’s not for the the faint of heart. And yes, of course you’ll find some “traditional” American eats nearby and within Yankee Stadium as well as the impressive and renowned Bronx Zoo. Traditions of many food cultures are alive and well here, so if you’re the burger-and-fries traveler, you may consider sticking to Times Square, flush with bright new neons signs where chain restaurants abound.

Queens

If you’re flying into New York through JFK International Airport or LaGuardia Airport, then you’ve technically been to Queens. Home of both The New York Mets and The U.S. Open, Queens brings in a large amount of international traffic. As a result of such a booming economic presence there is a huge cultural, and naturally, culinary scene happening within Queens. The diversity is staggering in the very best sense. One would have a hard time not finding something to interest them in this authentic food destination. Columbus native Nik Bronder and his East Coast-born wife Julie Rubenstein Bronder lived in Astoria, Queens for several years and return three to four times a year. Nik highly recommended Gian Piero Bakery. They have an expansive selection of hand-made pastries and freshly baked breads. If you’re strolling through early in the morning, an espresso doppio paired with ricotta-filled sfogliatella (often called a “lobster tail” in English due to it’s layers of stacked crispy pastry) is ideal. Honestly, eating your way through this borough is like an epicurean dream come true. The grilled octopus at small Greek restaurant Agnanti is simply and beautifully cooked, as are most of their seemingly simple dishes. Dhaulagiri Kitchen is phenomenal. They make amazing seti roti (savory fried dough) and for midwesterners looking for something outside of their known favorites from our lovely city, try their Nepalese specialties like thali—a meal made up of curry-like dishes, rice, chutneys and more. It’s worth it—both the trek and the mild trepidation you may feel in this unique setting. But that is the point: to get away and break from your normal routine. If you are the adventurous eater and lover of global culture and cuisines, Queens is a food mecca that should be viewed as a destination from its airports, not just a stopping point before moving on to your next location.

Manhattan

This is more than a backdrop for Sex and the City, people. It’s full of world-class restaurants and art museums, and pulls people from all of the boroughs and around the country to its iconic image and idea of what New York City is to many. The Whitney Art Museum is breathtaking, both for the priceless works held within and on its newly renovated roof, as it is an architectural wonder and work of art in itself. It also houses Untitled boasts an aesthetically lovely menu if you choose to spend enough time there, which seems to fly by in this beautiful space. There’s plenty of museums to occupy both your mind and senses in Manhattan, from the well-established Metropolitan Museum of Art, to MoMA, The Natural History Museum, and The Guggenheim, as well as countless smaller galleries within my favorite neighborhood, Chelsea. You can spend an entire day going from gallery to gallery, many housed within multi-level buildings, and you still won’t visit them all. You will, however, get quite a workout and build up an appetite. Many fine dining restaurants will require reservations in advance due to their fame and limited seating, but many places will happily accept walk-ins. You may find yourself waiting only 45 minutes at most for phenomenal sushi at Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, or walking to Madison Square Park to indulge in a favorite cheap eat, Shake Shack, which even on a weekday will have lines of people waiting for over an hour. (They’ll tell you it’s worth it, and that they wished they had ordered more than the eponymous Shackburger, fries, and their famous concretes—a highly addictive Blizzard-like concoction. Forget your juice cleanse and indulge in this sweet treat: you won’t regret it.

It is true, New York is “the city that never sleeps,” and it is easy to see why in Manhattan. Restaurants happily take reservations and walk-ins after 11. Bars don’t close until 4, and with places like The Nomad Bar located in The Nomad Hotel, it’s easy to see why. Ask for Dominic, a cocktail genius from San Francisco by way of Hawaii. He’ll make elixirs you never thought possible outside of our beloved Curio at Harvest. Try the signature drinks, like a Montauk. Order food from their phenomenal restaurant and enjoy the buzz of two floors of this plush center of decadence. Or, if you feel like staying in, order any cuisine of your choosing from your phone from countless restaurants open at all hours all over the city. Feel like sustainable, gorgeous and fresh sushi delivered to your hotel in the middle of the night? Absolutely. It’s all amazing, but there’s also that beautiful and often photographed bridge calling you to visit one more borough, and by far the most popular among Columbus ex-pats who still love the Buckeye state.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn has long drawn artists, chefs, designers, and more to its ever-evolving borough, especially from Columbus. Ohio natives eagerly showed their ingrained sense of kindness and hospitality to offer their suggestions on navigating New York through their unique and empathetic lens. “There’s a big group of us expats here that every couple months go out to ‘Columbrunch,’” said Ohio native Jane Bruce, “the location of which usually changes but always something with plenty of space for us and cheap drinks. Mostly just involves reminiscing about Ladies ’80s, famous Columbus bums, and how cheap our rent once was. We look back at our memories fondly but it’s also nice to see everyone now and see how different things are now and how well everyone is doing.”

Milk Bar co-founded Odes Roberts, from Columbus by way of Toledo, recommended The Commodore in Williamsburg for huge, free-range, organic fried chicken biscuits and micheladas in an A-rated setting that resembles O’Reilly’s in decor and neighborhood feel. Also on the list (and a cheap-eat) is Xi’an’s Famous Foods. Get the hand-pulled noodles that New Yorkers and food critics alike travel from all over to try, along with the rest of their incredibly extensive menu. Smorgasboard, an outdoor food market is another must-visit. An entire food flea with so many vendors you’ll need to circle through the masses at least twice and then order from at least two or 12 different places. They have ATMs available, but avoid the fees and bring cash. Got all that?

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