Remember when my Voyages used to feature little-to-no words? Yeah, me neither.
Work commitments recently packed me up and sent me off to the Big Apple for a week. New York City isn’t my favorite place on earth, but I knew that I’d have some time to kill so I wanted to make the best of it. First and foremost, that meant visiting some old haunts from when I lived there in college for a few months. Beyond that, I did some research (mostly by asking others to do some for me) and gleaned a few new spots to try.
Even though the song itself alludes to San Francisco, visiting New York City always makes me think of Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Piazza, New York Catcher.’ While there, I did in fact drink myself awake but did not get eloped… though I can’t safely say that I would have turned down the offer if it were presented in a coffee house awarded certificates. Okay… I’ll stop.
What I’m trying to say is that the theme of this here adventure is pretty much brews, books, and… well, other brews. Presented in the hybrid form of a Voyage and a Travel, these are my excursions. Enjoy.
It was very difficult for me to forego the American Museum of Natural History on this trip, but alas, it would not be a true Voyage without something new (feeling old and blue). The Whitney has been on my mind for a few months now for no other reason than the Edward Hopper collection. I’ll save the lengthy anecdote and fast-forward to the part where I copied (“interpreted”) his work for every single high school art class artist study project. I’ve only ever seen images of the art, so I was shocked to find that the originals are actually HUGE. Totally changed my perspective.
Tears were shed over the fact that I could get this close to Edward’s ACTUAL HANDWRITING. (Anyone else think that’s extremely cool???) Even though I came for the Hoppers, I stayed for the Calder: Hypermobility exhibit. Legend has it that Calder created the mobile. In the 1930s. Allow me to pause and check if anyone else is as shocked by that fact as I was (and still am)? I had always assumed mobiles were like fire… created long, long ago by an unknown sapien and now just a basic foundational staple of humanity. Turns out, no. Fairly recent invention.
Quick aside, this Calder exhibit had scheduled ‘activations’ of the art, which in short consisted of a man in a lab coat poking things with a very large stick. But only certain things, which is why my strategy was to linger towards the last piece he was going to poke so I could avoid the large crowd gathered around the first one and get a good look when the last one’s turn came around. As I stood waiting, unsuspecting of yet another mind-blowing experience, a man and his daughter approached to view some of the other pieces beside the one I was standing near. Subconsciously, I began to tune into them. “Yeah, we all had these when we were kids.” The man was flippant as he drew in a deep breath. My subconscious couldn’t help itself and gave way to full conscious. My gaze flickered over just in time to watch as the man leaned forward and started huffing at the art, which sure enough slowly started to move. This unauthorized activation occurred in the span of less than minute, whereas most other people in the room had been waiting for upwards of twenty. And while I don’t encourage this sort of rule breaking I suppose I can’t help but condone it. I should have known that an art museum is where I’d find the people who don’t play by the rules. My curiosity at what an ‘activation’ looked like was satiated. I didn’t even bother to stick around for the guy with one after seeing that.
Shockingly enough, this was my first time visiting Strand. I’m sure none of you underestimate my bibliove because of that, but I’ll admit that it felt like a rite of passage to visit this coveted NYC bookstore. It was just as overwhelming as I had anticipated. Spent the majority of my time in the rare books room, laughed at some witty magnets, purchased some new reads, and carried on with my life, bitter that I don’t get to be an employee here.
The Dead Poet
One of the first times I ever came to this bar, my best friend and I ended up getting into some kind of heated discussion which spanned multiple actual hours and myriad actual beers. I will be the first to admit that I do not recall any detail of said discussion, other than that I talked a lot, walked out of the bar arm-in-arm with best friend at the end of the night, and wore Budweiser stickers under each of my eyes a la eye black.
In my humble and inexperienced opinion, The Dead Poet is the best bar in New York City. It’s my comfort zone, the place I feel I’ve never left no matter how long I’ve been away. I didn’t make friends easily when I lived in the city, but boy did that never matter less than when I walked into this place. Suffice it to say, the remainder of my Sunday evening was passed here, curled up with a book and many a pint of the black stuff.
Previously the home of Pushcart Coffee (which I believe they still technically serve here? but it’s technically Unity coffee? either way it’s delicious?), this used to be my Sunday morning city spot. I’d pick up a copy of the NYT, tuck myself into the corner of the bar with a cold brew and a peach pistachio muffin, and see how many ridiculous yet fitting (in all senses) answers I could come up with for the Sunday crossword. The biggest redesign in the new space is the plant-lined bar and kitchen area. Extremely rad. Kicking off those Monday vibes, I pushed myself to try the raspberry chia bowl… then immediately regretted not opting for the waffle instead.
Also, apparently they serve hot apple cider here. ALL. YEAR. !!!.
This place confirmed that part of my aesthetic is in fact late-18th century in nature. Dark, dungeony, and filled with people much cooler than myself. My intention was to come by for a drink, so I pulled out my book to accompany my bourbon, got teased for reading by candlelight, and met some very interesting people representing Games for Change.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
Another part of my aesthetic? Victorian. Lillie’s was a little too hip for my comfort, but there was an old man named Brian sitting next to me (or rather, that I was sitting next to given everyone knew him by name… clearly he’s a staple) and I like to imagine that he’s the owner, or the son of the owner, or somehow personally connected to this place via the good old days of yore. My fondest memory of Lillie’s is that at one point I swear I overheard the bartender say to a server “herein lies the ruckus” before going to town with a cocktail shaker full of liquids and ice. I swear. Then again, maybe I was just projecting.
Let me just level set here… I don’t really care about bagels. I’m personally pretty indifferent to flavors (which is probably why I always opt for the plain variety), I don’t even really like cream cheese, and I’ll fare just fine if the toaster is broken. This particular East Village bagel spot came recommended as “pretty good” and I can confirm, pretty good it was. The bagel, for all intents and purposes, was fine but the playlist was on fire. Tears for Fears, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Phil Collins… my people. That’s the way you want to start a Tuesday.
The Supply House
Never spent much time on the Upper East side of Manhattan before, so on Tuesday evening I decided to stop in and try this place. The beer menu was great (drained a Montauk Driftwood Ale in mach speed thanks to the irregular city heat), the food menu was great, and the overall vibe was great. The hostess sat me beside the massive open window, so I carried on reading my book and living my life for a while. Have I mentioned said book yet? No? Well, this here Lady in New York was accompanied by “A Gentleman in Moscow” throughout her adventures. Highly recommend, Towles is a splendor.
After grabbing a quick bite, I set my sights on a stroll across Central Park from Upper East to Upper West for a nightcap at… you guessed it, The Dead Poet. This also allowed for the triumphant return of the NYC phone calls I used to bestow upon my best friend where I talked absolute nonsense for at least an hour. This time around: I declared I was going to apply for a grant to become a squirrel translator in the park.
A sweet tooth is meant to be indomitable and there is no such thing as too late for coffee. With these philosophies in mind, I ventured over to Cafe Lalo after finishing my last drink at The Dead Poet. I should have gotten a key pal first so that I could have been stood up, and therefore continued on my quest to live life like 1990s Meg Ryan would, but alas. Hindsight.
While “You’ve Got Mail” is truly iconic, Cafe Lalo isn’t all that great. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have every intention of returning with a rose tucked into my “Pride and Prejudice,” anxious eyes on the door… Told you I would have eloped.
Third Rail Coffee
Wednesday left me a little more pressed for morning exploration time, so I needed something I could grab and go with. That something was the age old classic: coffee and a doughnut. Stopped into Third Rail right at opening for a coffee so hot and fresh that I think my fingerprints have permanently been burned off (even now, weeks later, as I edit this, they feel remiss). Couldn’t resist adding a vanilla bean doughnut (apparently from Doughnut Plant, which is apparently notable). Let me tell you, this combo really carried me through that 8am call. Very rad vibe here (can you tell I’m in a “rad” phase?). 10 out of 10 would return.
(Also, stopped by a spot in the Times Square area called Cafe Grumpy with my team after said 8am call – tried the Ombre and would suggest not ordering it when you have to go back to work because you’ll end up spending a solid hour and a half wishing you were enjoying it outside.)
(Also, also, not pictured – Wednesday evening was spent with coworkers at Houston Hall and then a little underground bar called The Folly… let’s just say Thursday morning wasn’t much made for adventuring after that.)
And there we have it folks. A summary of… well, basically just brews and brews, with a dash of activities thrown in on a Sunday afternoon for good measure. Highly recommend trying a spot of two of these next time you find yourself in New York, New York. Don’t bother letting me know if you happen to be in vicious disagreement with anything I thought about them.