Many families travel to New York City during the holidays. Bec and Jen took a late summer trip to NYC, and Bec offers some wonderful tips for a relatively inexpensive, and yet fun, dining in this very expensive location.
By Rebecca Borman
Whenever someone learns that I’ve made a trip to New York, I am inevitably asked two questions: What did you do? Where did you eat? Those are hard questions to answer succinctly, because I do and eat a lot! And, I think people are a bit surprised by my answer to the second question.
The expectation is that visiting a world-class city will certainly include some very fine (and expensive) dining. And, when I first started going to New York, that was the case. My first trip was with my daughter, the summer before her 16th birthday. And, we dined fancy! One night, we had dinner on the patio at Tavern on the Green. It was fun, and the atmosphere was very cool. Another night, we ventured to the Pool Room at the Four Seasons Restaurant. I don’t remember specifically what we ate, but the room was very posh, as was the service. We felt very special.
Since then, however, I’ve become less and less interested in eating at such high end places. Instead, I’ve started to develop some favorites that I don’t want to miss. The first evening in the city usually involves a walk down Restaurant Row, to Becco. As Kris has mentioned, we are big fans of Lidia Bastianich and her Italian cooking. Becco is her restaurant, and although I’ve certainly never seen her there, her presence is felt in the food. One of the specialties is a “Sinfonia di Pasta” (three pastas), which is served every day, although the pastas and sauces are never the same. They are always fabulous, and so is everything else on the menu. More than that, there is an energy in the restaurant that epitomizes New York. It’s always crowded with a combination of tourists and locals, which makes for a fun evening. And the extensive list of excellent wines for $25 doesn’t hurt, either.
The other “must” for me is a drink and maybe a nosh in the 8th floor bar at the Marriott Renaissance Times Square. Their martinis are always yummy, and sitting at the window and looking down over the activity below is wonderfully entertaining. The neon signs outside the windows remind me that I’m lucky to be in the center of an amazing and vibrant city.
But, otherwise, I tend to eat where my feet and adventures take me. I think Eataly will become one of my regular stops; I ate there twice on my most recent trip. And, I can’t miss lunch in Little Italy at some point. I don’t have a favorite restaurant; I just stroll along the streets, look at the menus and the food that folks are enjoying at the sidewalk tables, and I wander into the one that takes my fancy. I haven’t been disappointed yet. One evening, when Jen and I were on the Upper East Side, we happened upon Jacques Brasserie, where we had an al fresco feast of moules frites (mussels and fries) and watched the neighborhood people walking their dogs, carrying home their groceries, and winding down from their day.
And, when people ask about the expense of eating in the City, I assure them that there are a greater variety of inexpensive food trucks than you can imagine. Jen and I ate gyros twice, and they were delicious. No breakfast ever tastes better to me than the coffee and bagels from a corner—any corner—food cart (total cost: $2.50). And the food truck offerings are amazing. A few blocks from our hotel we saw two trucks next to each other. One of them sold assorted schnitzels and the other had grilled cheese. You can eat like royalty for next to nothing.
A family wanting to visit New York may have to pay a fair amount for airfare and hotel costs. But, if thrift is a priority, eating doesn’t have to cost a lot. Kids will have more fun eating casually or picnicking with yummy stuff from a food truck than they would dining at a fancy restaurant. And, honestly, these days, so do I.