When I decided to quit my “dream” job and move out of my apartment, I had a lot going on. It was hard to take a moment to appreciate that what I was really doing was closing this chapter of my life and saying goodbye to New York City. To so many people around the world, NYC is a far off dream, a challenge or a terror. However, for me, it is simply the city I grew up next to and the one I will always feel most familiar and comfortable to return to. Maybe, this is why it has been hard for me to motivate and explore it the way I do when I travel. Also, maybe this is why I have actually written very little about my life over the past 2 years here.
New York is massive and it is very hard to feel like a local anywhere. With friends all around the city, it’s hard to go to the same place twice in one month, let alone every weekend. In preparation to leave, I started to take note of the places I have discovered over the course of these past 2 years that will always remind me of this chapter of living in NYC. These are the places (and the people with them) that I will remember:
Ping’s Seafood- Chinatown
It all started with bonding over a love of Asian food and then an idea to go for roommate dim sum together. I’m not sure how we found Ping’s, but the place served us well for many happy meals and reunions when we no longer lived in the same apartment. If you’re in need of a recommendation for a good place in Chinatown, head to Ping’s for some pork buns, bok choy, vegetable dumplings and many, many orders of shrimp noodle (with extra sauce)!
Mehanata Bulgarian Bar- Lower East Side
I had heard of Mehanata several times before my friend Emily brought me there. You definitely have to be in the mood for Mehanata—the mood to dance to a live Bulgarian band. On Friday and Saturday nights the band plays until about midnight, followed by a DJ playing music from around the world. This bar also features swing seats and downstairs, an ice cage, where it’s all you can drink, if that’s what you’re into…
Taproom 307- Gramercy
My dad was super excited about Taproom 307 when my roommates and I first moved into our apartment. I was super excited too about the numerous varieties of craft beer on tap 😉 Right away, my roommates and I started a weekly tradition of Tuesday night trivia tryst (tryst= socialize with rounds where you had to work together with other tables). This led to meeting each other’s friends, becoming regulars enough to be recognized by the bouncer, hostess and several waiters, trying everything on the food menu and successfully achieving a record of 9th place one week. While we have dispersed and the Taproom changed trivia companies, those giddy weeks of Tuesday night trysting will always remain in my memory of young twenties life in NYC.
Pennylane Coffee- Midtown East
Have you ever wanted to enjoy really great coffee along with some of the world’s most sophisticated and multi-lingual diplomats? Then head to Pennylane Coffee, around the corner from the United Nations and my old office building! While I never was graced with a fancy blue badge, my coworkers and I could pretend that we were also exotic foreigners with flat white coffees, amazing pistachio cardamom bread, and on Fridays, doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant. Pennylane was always a welcome coffee break and also my home for several winter months of studying for the GRE. Thank you Pennylane, I will always visit you when I find myself in the far East.
Tudor Café- Tudor City
Tucked in Tudor City is a beautiful park that is nicely blocked off from too much traffic and sits perched against the backdrop of the United Nations building—AKA, not a bad spot for a lunch break. One of my first weeks of work, I read an article in the New York Times about Tudor Café. Several lunches later, I’m convinced that this is one of my favorite secret spots in the city. While they have plenty of sandwiches, their Algerian daily specials are especially amazing.
El Centro de Educación de Trabajadores- Hell’s Kitchen
El Centro was an amazing place where I found a great sense of New York City. I started going to their weekly intercambio or language exchange to practice my Spanish, but soon became a volunteer as an English teacher. Whether you want to teach, hangout, or learn a language—English, Spanish, Chinese—El Centro is a great organization, located in Hartley House, an NYC establishment. What I loved most about El Centro that the entire vibe is very laid back and friendly. Plus, the semesterly fiestas are very entertaining and full of spirit. At El Centro, I was able to meet a whole new world of New York City and found many good friends and a place to feel at home every week.
New York Public Library- Bryant Park
I think anyone who knows me knows how much I love the main Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue. Whether as a place for me to motivate to apply for jobs when I first moved to the city or a lunch break haven from my job to dream of new projects, the NYPL will always be one of my favorite spots in the city. Where else can you find so many people so focused on such a wide variety of things? For those who don’t know, sitting in the library is FREE and the free Wifi extends out to the tables in the lawn area facing 5th Avenue. Plus, the gift shop is a great place to get quality NYC or general birthday/Christmas gifts 🙂
Culture Espresso- Midtown
Just a few blocks down from the library is the coffee shop with the self-proclaimed “best cookie in NYC,” Culture Espresso. I’m a pretty big fan of cookies and after eating about 50 of them over the course of the past year, I can attest that they in fact are THE BEST. From the outside, these may look like ordinary cookies, but as soon as you break off a piece, you will realize that the gooey, chocolatey, warm inside is AMAZING. Culture Coffee also has very good coffee and the stylish staff will make you feel like you are having a Saturday treat in Williamsburg, rather than taking your hour-long lunch break in the heart of midtown. My local location, Culture Espresso is located at 38th St. and 6th Avenue, although there is another location (apparently with equally good cookies) a few blocks away.
Neptune Diner- Astoria
When I moved to Astoria, one of the beacons welcoming me from the Astoria Blvd. metro stop was Neptune Diner. A neighborhood institution, this 24-hour heaven of everything you can imagine on the menu became one of my favorite local spots for breakfasts with friends or impromptu dinners. Always quick and always with a seat to spare, Neptune will always be an Astoria favorite and I’m grateful it became a key part of my experience in the neighborhood.
Czech and Slovak Cultural Center- Astoria
While I had heard of Bohemian Beer Garden when I returned from studying abroad in Prague, it wasn’t until I came back from Znojmo 2 years ago that I made my friends trek there for some Czech food and beer on my first birthday back home. From then on, the Czech and Slovak Cultural Center, adjacent to the beer garden, became a weekly hangout of mine for my Saturday Czech lessons. Whether you’re interested in the language, the Center and Beer Garden have many great events throughout the year that are fun to attend. The Beer Garden the summer is packed with everyone from young people to families. Also, Czech out the silent discos on summer Friday nights!
I am grateful to have made many great memories at these places and thank all the friends who are tied to these places and memories for being a part of my New York City life 2014-2016. Now onto a new chapter and the always possibility that I’ll be back soon.