Though I only lived in New York the first decade of my life, going back to visit always feels like returning home in a way that I can’t explain. It’s as though everything is the way it’s supposed to be. My parents are from New York as are my uncles, aunts, grandparents and fifty-eleven cousins. The New York runs deep in my clan and I try to visit as often as I can.
One of my favorite things to do in New York is eat. The food in New York is like none other. While I appreciate a fancy multi-course meal like the next fine dining fan or food snob-in-training, those meals often come at a snooty price and I’m on a tighter budget these days. Luckily, there is plenty to eat in New York at non-frightening, down-to-earth prices and I took advantage during my latest trip to New York.
I never leave New York without having a slice of pizza. Our first night in the city, my sister C__ and I headed to the West Village to chow down at John’s Pizzeria.
Booth at John’s Pizzeria where diners etch in initials and notes
A medium pizza at John’s, no topping needed
So happy. (And tired, this was taken after a 5.5 hour plane ride for which I had to wake up at 5:00am. Travel to the East Coast from the West Coast is exhausting.
When I ordered one scoop of dolce de leche and one of peanut butter caramel at Cones and pronounced caramel as “care-a-mel” and no one looked at me sideways, nor were their objections of “it’s “car-muhl!” It was like New York opened its arms to me and said, “You’re home.”
I love diners, especially if the food is good. We stumbled on a quaint one in Tribeca called The Kitchenetteand their menu full of comfort foods. The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was good and I dig the decor and ambiance.
My sister at The Kitchenette
Desserts at The Kitchenette include pies, cupcakes and creme brulee.
This is me before the waiter told me my breakfast didn’t come with grits, like he originally told me.
Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The gravy was tasty.
The KMC – Kitchenette macaroni and cheese. My sister’s review, “They broke the cardinal rule of macaroni and cheese: Always include cheddar!”
The Kitchenette – Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. The muffin fell apart pretty easily, I was expecting to be able to eat it as a sandwich, but it required a knife and fork. Not bad, but not great.
My parents are big fans of Junior’s Cheesecake and passed the love down to me. While the Times Square location isn’t a replacement for the original Brooklyn spot, it’s a good substitute. It’s situated smack in the center of the Broadway district and they’re open late, so it’s a great place to catch a post-show meal.
Local beer – Brookyn Brewery lager
I love that in New York I can get a hotdog with sauerkraut; add spicy mustard and it’s my favorite way to eat one.
Strawberry cheesecake at Juniors
I first visited Luke’s Lobster a few years ago after finding out about it from the show Food Feuds. It won the challenge against another Manhattan restaurant famous for it’s lobster rolls, Ed’s Lobster Bar. While I’m no lobster roll expert, Luke’s Lobster roll is the best I’ve had, so the small restaurant required a return visit!
Side note: I randomly met the owner of Luke’s a few summers ago in The Hamptons.
I love a tasty, juicy burger and Shake Shack’s burger is one of my faves. The crinkle-fries are a bonus. I never have enough room for the shakes or the frozen custard they are also known for. I’ve had a taste of both though and they are equally delectable.
As a giant Golden Girls fan, when I saw the “Bea Arthur” on the menu at the Big Gay Ice Cream shop, all the other options fell away. It was about me and Dorothy Zbornak. Me and Maude.
Menu at Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
The Bea Arthur: Vanilla ice cream, dolce de leche and Nilla wafers
In a little less than five days, my sister and I walked nearly 15 miles all over New York City. This is a good thing considering how much we ate. Still, I didn’t get to hit every spot I wanted to. We did have to leave room for non-pigging out activities! I guess I’ll have to go back to New York soon!
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When I announced I was leaving Los Angeles and heading up to the Bay Area, a few people encouraged me to consider living in the East Bay.
[For those unfamiliar with the area, here’s a simple analogy. San Francisco is like Manhattan. It’s the flagship city of the area. Oakland is like Brooklyn, a sister city across the water, that is sometimes very underrated, a city ‘snooty’ residents of the flagship city wouldn’t considereven visiting, and one that has its diehard fans who will passionately defend its superiority. It’s affordability. It’s lack of pretentiousness. Both cities are experiencing a growing gentrification that dismay it’s original residents and is often attributed to the uptick in the overflow people who can’t afford to live in Manhattan or San Francisco. Then there are the other ‘boroughs’ like Berkeley and other surrounding small towns.
I should note that I am from Brooklyn.]
When I got a headache looking for apartments in the City, my very sweet friend, Kat, offered, “My friend has a great apartment in the East Bay! His rent is pretty good. I can ask him if there are vacancies in his building?”
“Thanks, but I don’t want to live in the East Bay. I don’t want to live to far from work. I want a short commute.”
Another friend, Jackie, excitedly suggested, “You should move to East Bay. I love it here!”
“I’m sure it’s great, but I want to live in San Francisco at least for a year.” I’m six months in. Some days I wonder if I should have just moved back to New York.
I’d been to some parts of the East Bay before like Emeryville, Pleasanton and Walnut Creek, but I’d been wanting to explore more. So, when Jackie suggested we go for a hike one weekend and asked, “East Bay or the City?” I answered vehemently, “East Bay, I get enough of the City everyday!”
I met Jackie at a party four years ago in Los Angeles. She’s big into the outdoors and co-hosted an awesome hiking group through which I met several good friends.
Last Saturday I hopped on BARTand met her in downtown Berkeley. Jackie gave me a micro-tour of the East Bay that I wish I could have had in San Francisco. Not a hokey, touristic double-decker bus ride, but the kind of tour only an enthusiastic resident can do justice. It was a great weekend for it with record-breaking high temperatures for this time of year (I believe somewhere in the 80s), which was perfect for me since I am sick of feeling cold and like I have to wear a parka all the time.
We began in Berkeley.
We hiked for about two hours in Tilden Park. On the hike, Jackie began her sales pitch of the East Bay. “So what do you look for in a city?” she asked.
“I don’t know, lots of things to do, culture, diversity, people with progressive views, friendly people, weather that’s not too hot or cold, great food options…”
She smiled at me with satisfaction and stated, “Hmm, that sounds like Berkeley.” It certainly was an appealing city.
At the entrance to Tilden, we spotted several painters using the view as inspiration. One woman even brought a pet bird with her.
There were beautiful views all around.
Being in the park felt like being somewhere far away from a city.
While in Berkeley, I played an habitual game of “I see black people.” As I take in my surroundings, I scan for others that look like me. It’s a way of quickly assessing just how much I may stand out and the probability of me needing to put on my self-protective armor. I don’t usually think about it much. Like I said, it’s habitual. But, after six months in San Francisco, I do it a lot. It’s not so I can segregate myself from others. I know other people of colors do it too. There is comfort in numbers. Jackie got in on the fun too, pointing out a cute black girl on our hike. I, of course, had seen her long before she neared us. Black-dar? I like when my non-black friends join me in the game. It indicates to me that they understand the crux of the issue or are at least sympathetic. If you’ve never had the experience of being the only obvious minority in a place, it may be hard to understand just how alienating it can feel. Berkeley’s makeup reminded me a lot of San Francisco’s, which is to say, I wasn’t impressed. However, when we crossed over into Oakland, there was a noticeable change in demographics. “I see MANY black people! And a black beauty supply! Hello Yaki!” Jackie grinned at me. Jackie is half-Latina, half-Armenian. Oakland has more than once been named “one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the US.”
We headed to Jack London square, a business & entertainment center. Ferries also dock here.
We moved on to Heinhold’s Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, the name of which was inspired by sailors who visited the bar before long trips on the sea. Several scenes from Jack London’s noves were inspired by the bar. This actually Jack London’s log cabin home that was imported from Alaska.
After Beer Revolution, we moved on to Heinhold’s where a quartet of locals joined us. (Friendly people? Check!) They had all once lived in San Francisco and didn’t like it. They said it’s full of rich hipsters. Or lame hipsters? Rich, lame hipsters? Either way, hipsters and unpleasant. They were ebullient with their love for Oakland and then realized they might be inadvertently encouraging yetanother San Franciscan to invade their city anddrive up the rent prices. I told them I wasn’t all that in love with the City and that it wasn’t the same city I first visited over a decade ago. They agreed.
I cannot express how comforting it felt to meet people who weren’t falling all over themselves to praise San Francisco. I felt validated. I’m getting tired of defending my less-than-excited & surprising even to me, reaction to San Francisco.
Between the acrid reaction I had to my year in San Jose over a decade ago, and my almost daily tension with San Francisco, I was beginning to think I am allergic to the Bay Area. But, my jaunt to the East Bay gave me renewed hope. I am not quite ready to declare an impending move east, though I did feel immediately more comfortable in Oakland. There is still part of me that hopes to find this magical neighborhood in San Francisco that makes me love it and unable to entertain the thought of leaving.
I moved out of Los Angeles, in part, because I felt like my life was stagnating. In San Francisco, I am growing, learning, becoming a stronger person, yadayadayadaimtiredoflifelessons. My life is definitely not stagnant, so the city is giving me what I asked for. As I told Jackie, “I am glad I moved to SF first. Because, if I hadn’t, I know I’d always be wondering what it would have been like.” But, San Francisco better be careful not to push this “growing pains” stuff too far, cause the East Bay is waiting in the wings to swoop in and grab me. And for now, the rent is cheaper over there.
I leave you with a ditty I came up with on a day when I was particularly NOT in love with San Francisco. Forgive the language, I came up with it while in physical discomfort.
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.