Ten years ago I was freshly graduated from the University of Delaware and ready to take on the world. No more small town living; this girl had her sights set on the big city! And by big city, I don’t mean NYC. I was wide-eyed and optimistic, but not totally out of touch with reality. Until I was making it big as a writer (or a spy), I was going to live in a more affordable city. Like Boston.

For anyone who has lived in Boston or traveled there, you realize what a big mistake I made. Boston may be cheaper to live in than NYC, but it’s still not affordable by any means (especially having just graduated from college).

Hindsight being 20/20, I now know that I should have spent more time researching the city and talking to others about what life is really like post-graduation before making the big move. Even so, I’m really glad I lived there. Once I was able to put some distance between myself and Boston (and eventually Seattle), I came to the very realistic and adult-like conclusion that I’m not cut out for the city. I grew up in a very small town, I went to college in another small town, and I now live in a small town. I love it and I accept that there is nothing wrong with a slower pace of life.

That being said, I do still enjoy mini jaunts into cities for a “break” from small town life. You can only eat Texas Roadhouse and Chili’s so much before you start looking around wondering what more civilized types are eating.

Met NYCWhen my boyfriend finally got a well-deserved vacation from medical school, we decided to take advantage of it with a trip to the closest big city. I’d been to the New York City before, but always for brief visits that were done on the cheap. Since the bf had never been, we decided to play it half-tourist and half-local. The tourist part of us took photos, went to Times Square, and visited other famous landmarks in the mid- to uptown part of the city. The local part of us ate at places that offered a somewhat authentic NY foodie experience… and we tried not to look up at the tall buildings too much.

So we booked our hotel and went into the city for a four-day, unplanned adventure. We simply aimed to knock out as much of our bucket list as possible:

  1. New York-style pizza
  2. Empire State Building
  3. Bagel sandwiches
  4. A really cool museum
  5. Street vendor hot dogs
  6. Central Park

We were able to hit up everything except the Empire State Building. And then we did some more (eating).

Day 1

When we got into the city, we were pretty hungry and yet not wanting to overdo it. Trusting in Yelp to guide us in the right direction (which it did throughout our entire trip), we discovered Patsy’s Pizzeria. Sadly, I didn’t capture any photos of the pizza we got there. Despite the lack of photographic evidence, it was perfect. A little greasy, perfectly salty and springy cheese, and flavorful sauce atop a thin-thin crust. Yum!

As we spent the rest of the night walking around Times Square and Rockefeller Center, we picked up some extra eats in the form of a hot dog and ginormous pretzel. They were good, but we knew that greatness awaited us somewhere beyond the bright lights.

Day 2

Toasties DeliWe woke up a little too late on day 2, so we missed the breakfast offerings at Toastie’s Deli. It’s alright though. We were able to order some tasty-ass deli sandwiches and coffee before heading out into the very cold day.

A special note about my Russian sandwich: I love the idea behind the Reuben. You’ve got bread, cheese, deli meat, some slaw, and Thousand Island dressing. However, I don’t particularly like the flavor of any of those ingredients except for the dressing. So when I discovered that there’s something called a “Rachel” and it’s the better-tasting version of the Reuben, I fell instantly in love. This one was especially wonderful because it added ham to the equation. The only thing that could have made it better was a small portion of crispy bacon.

Later that day for dinner we opted for Mexican fare at Casa Agave. We both really liked the food there—it was definitely the closest thing to “authentic” Mexican we’ve had since living on the West Coast—but it was way too spicy for my tender stomach. If you love spicy food, Mexican food, and authentic cheese-less food, go there.

Day 3

NYC BagelThis was my favorite day of our trip, food-wise and activity-wise. Not only did we stumble across the New York Public Library (which in my “I’m not planning anything” mindset for the trip I totally forgot about), we had two amazing meals.

Our first was at Best Bagel & Coffee. Normally, I steer clear from any restaurant that names itself the “best” of anything. Too much bravado usually doesn’t equate to a very good dining experience. I’d say this is the exception to the rule. With the perfect amount of cheese to my bacon and egg, this toasted whole wheat bagel made me want to reconsider this whole “I’m a small town kind of girl” thing.

Dinner was a tough call to make since it was our last meal and we didn’t want it to go to waste. We live in New York (the state, not the city) now, so we have access to plenty of Italian restaurants. We don’t, however, have a lot of Asian or Latin American food around us. So we were left pondering whether we should take advantage of New York’s plethora of options or go with my vote for Italian. After some careful consideration, I played the birthday card and won.

Tavola ItalianTavola was where we ended up that evening and it was superb.

  • We started with the special mushroom soup. It was thin-brothed but still somehow thick with chunks of mushroom and parsley throughout.
  • We each got a glass of red wine. Surprisingly, I did not end up with hives, a headache, or a runny nose. That’s when you know it’s good shit!
  • Then we had our respective dinners: salmon, asparagus, and salad for Boo; lasagna with a veal meat sauce for me.

I don’t talk much anymore about my time spent living and studying abroad since it was a long time ago, but I’m going to make an exception here. As I started my last year of college, I spent the first five weeks of it in Siena, Italy. I didn’t really connect all that much with the other students in the program since I was older than most of them, so I spent a lot of time walking around and dining on my own.

One of my favorite places to go was this little cafe in the Palio. Every day at lunch I would order the same thing: homemade hot chocolate (so thick and creamy and yet I never got sick from it) and lasagna. Unlike most U.S. restaurants that serve lasagna as a huge heaping pile of noodles and cheese, theirs was very much like the lasagna I had at Tavola—small portioned so that you could really appreciate the flavor and texture of the meat, cheese, noodles, and sauce. It was heaven.

Day 4

Day 3 was actually the last day we ended up eating in the city. We didn’t want to deal with any traffic leaving on our final day, so we just ate treats from the hotel until we could find a Wawa in New Jersey. Oh, Wawa. Why have I not written a blog about you yet? You make me so happy!

While this “vacation” was a bit on the shorter side, I’m glad we took advantage of New York City in the winter. With temperatures below freezing, a killer wind, and the threat of snow, I think we really lucked out in being able to see and eat whatever we wanted, when we wanted.