Ok, I have been here many many times before and I got to tell ya, Philadelphia is an underrated mini NYC. There may not be as much to do as in a city like New York and the crime rate is certainly much higher, but this city has got something in it that strikes me; it has some of the best eats anywhere in the country!! We all know that Philadelphia is famous for its Reading Terminal Market with stalls with homade amish pretzels, traditional philly hoagies, and other treats that will satisfy any tourist. I encourage one to go there and check it out, but if you really want to get a taste of Philly at its most authentic, take a trip down to South Philadelphia. One of my favorite places to grab a hoagie is a place called Sarcone's Deli. Located on the corner of S 9th street and Fitzwater, it is easily accessible by many southbound buses. There is also street parking as well. My favorite hoagie combo is called the Junk Yard Special. Google this place and your mouth will water after you see their several sandwich combos. They also make sandwiches with YOUR favorite combo of meats, cheeses, and veggies.
What do we think of when we think of Philadelphia, well we can say it was the birthplace of America, the constitution was signed here. It is also where Bruce Springstein's song, "Streets of Philadelphia" took place. That movie, Rocky Balboa took place here also. We can picture Rocky running up those stairs of the Philadelphia Museum, and Philadelphia has their beloved football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, which are more like the Philadelphia "Pigeons" to many New Yorkers. But anyway, Philadelphia, or "Philly" as the locals call it, has some great things to offer for a solid day or weekend trip. The "Italian Market" located along several blocks of 9th street has many authentic Italian foods. In case you were wondering, Rocky Balboa was running through here.
Philadelphia is a little over a hundred miles away from NYC, but it is very easy to get to using public transit. You can hop an Amtrak train for about 50 bucks, depending upon when you go, and that will get you into 30th station Philly in about an hour and twenty minutes. For about half the price, you can take the NJ Transit commuter train in which you would then have to transfer to the SEPTA commuter train in order to get into Philly. This method, all in all will take you about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. So pick your poison wisely. Philly has some decent intercity transit, with two subway lines running perpendicular to each other. Each line passes through Center City, which is like Philly's version of midtown manhattan, although it's 3 times as small, just for comparison's sake. Philly also has a very extensive bus system so there is a pretty good chance you won't be stranded.
When people come to Philadelphia for food though, they automatically think of getting a cheesesteak. You've seen the Travel Channel. You've seen those shows such as "Sandwich Paradise," or Food Paradise, whatever the hell it is. You see these people blabber about which cheesesteak they like the best, either from Pat's or Geno's, just to name the two well known competetors. Now listen, if cheesesteaks are you're thing, I would suggest exiting this page right now! Go watch the Travel Channel or go on Yelp for that matter. Although Anthony Bourdain made it clear that he would not even talk about cheesesteaks at all in his show of "The Layover" when he had like 36 hours in Philly or something. Me? I'm with Bourdain on this one. Cheesesteaks will NOT be covered in this blog. Did I make myself clear? Good.
Philadelphia has a very wide range of cultures and foods to choose from. First, I'll talk about the most iconic food store in Philly, the Reading Terminal Market. Yes, all the travel guides say that you must go here, but I'm telling you, this place is an absolute must! Once a formal train station, this colossal 60,000 square foot bazaar has got it all; from hoagies, to fresh produce, meat, and fish. There are also many amish specialties such as amazing pretzels and other baked goods. This is a must stop in Philly. Philadelphia is also know for having a very large Italian population, especially in South Philly. Head down to South Philly to the Italian Market, which runs along 9th street. This place has the true authentic Italian fare. The burning garbage cans add a tough, sketchty vibe to this place.
Okay, I know that this blog generally caters to things in and around NYC, but I'm going to break the rules because I just have to tell you about this place. It's a place with a strong French influence and in my opinion has some of the best and most authentic French style and international cuisine in the continent! It also happens to be a very artsy place with great venues to choose from and some great shopping. I'm talking about the great Canadian city of Montreal.
Now when I say I'm breaking the rules, I mean it! I would encourage people to fly up there or take the dizzying 6 hour 30 minute drive all the way up. The train ride up there is over 10 hours so I would not recommend that! So just take the Northway (I-87) all the way up there.
To get around, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) offers a decent bus and metro system spanning throughout much of the city (of course if you have a car, you can use that depending upon if the place you are going to is inaccessible via metro or bus. There is a downside though. Non of the trains or busses are air-conditioned... The trains have fans. So if you happen to go when there is a rare heat wave in the summer like I did, it can get very uncomfortable. The busses are worse because there are only windows, but I used the metro most of the time. The really awesome thing about the metro is that each station is filled with art. Each station has something different.
Now there is lots to do in this charming city, but I'm going to focus on a few places. Let's talk about the amazing and giant open-air markets. My favorite one of all is called the Jean-Talon market in the neighborhood of... you guessed it...Jean-Talon. You take the sleek metro orange line to Jean-Talon station. It's far from downtown, but the metro goes fast and there are several trains a day. Anyway, this market is about the size of a football field (I'm not exaggerating) offering the finest and freshest products from the province of Quebec, including amazing produce, local and international baked goods, and local maple syrup. Trust me, if you are a foody like myself, you can't afford to miss out on this. Jean-Talon also has the amazing chain bakery of Montreal, Premiere Moisson. In my opinion the best bakery in the world. Everything they make is amazing including signature handmade breads, pastries, and amazing sandwiches. The locations are scattered throughout the city and are consistant with each other, so just look for the Premiere Moisson nearest you. The other good market is the Atwater Market all the way across town. This market still has the amazing varieties of produce as Jean-Talon, but this place caters more toward meat, poutry, and other things. Atwater is good when it's freezing cold outside or on a rare hot day since there is an indoor area.
So these are some good markets to go to in Montreal. But I'm not done yet. Next post, I will be talking about a cool hip place to hangout and shop and also having some damn good Montreal bagels
If you are on your way out of the D.C. area and you need to catch an evening train or plane, then head out to Arlington, Virginia for some of the best Peruvian chicken you will ever have in your life. El Pollo Rico located at 932 N Kenmore Street is just a few stops on the Metro Orange Line from Washington D.C. Once you rise from the dark, waffle-like ceilings of the metro station, you're in a whole other world. It doesn't even look like downtown D.C. It's a neighborhood with actual homes!...and some apartments, so it's really different from downtown D.C.
The restaurant's location is in a neighborhood that is mainly comprised of residents from South America. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, it looks like a giant mess hall and everyone is speaking Spanish. Since their clientele is mainly Latin American, the employees speak very little English so it would be a good idea to brush up on your Spanish skills. If you walk in a little further and you will see 4 giant rotisseries with over 20 chickens spinning inside them. And the smell of those birds oh my god it's incredible! And the best part is... you get the best bang for your buck here. It's cheap and delicious! It is totally worth going out there for that chicken. You will definitely not be disappointed! But make sure you leave plenty of time to get there and back to the train or airport because it can take roughly 15 minutes to go to Union Station right after. When I went here, I wanted to pick up dinner for myself and I was rushing like crazy to get to the train station and I thought I was going to miss it! but it turned out that the train was running 40 minutes late! Thanks to Amtrak. But that did not surprise me. Amtrak is late pretty much all of the time... But that's besides the point. The point is that it's a great place to go when you're on a budget and it's delicious and I hope you check it out sometime.
Just a short trip from the hustle and bustle from Washington D.C. lies the quaint little town of Alexandria, VA. Founded in 1749, Alexandria is rich in history and is filled with wonderful boutiques, cafes, restaurants, museums, and an ancient torpedo factory, which is now a giant art gallery.
The main thoroughfare in Alexandria is King Street. This part is called Old Town. You take the Metro blue or yellow lines out to King Street in Virginia. A free shuttle bus is available and runs along King Street between the metro station and the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the marina, which is all the way at the end of the street.
I would recommend taking the shuttle bus one way only, either to or from the metro because I want you to take the time browsing through many of the shops that King Street has to offer. If you choose to walk down king street first, stop for some coffee at Misha's located at the corner of King and South Patrick street. They have friendly baristas that will give you a nice cup of joe. Now all you have to do is just stroll King Street. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. On the way you will find a wig store. Not only do they sell ones for women, but for men as well. The weirdest thing is that on one of them, they used a mustache and hair on a women's face...
Anyway...Once you get to the end of King Street, you come across this giant building labeled the Torpedo Factory. It used to be, as it is called, a torpedo factory, but now it is home to many different artists selling and showing off their work. You can even catch them while working! Just outside is the marina and it is very relaxing to chill their on a nice day.
After all of this, there is a great candy store that is a must go to, especially if you LOVE saltwater taffy! The place is called Candi's Candies located at 107 North Fairfax Street. Once you walk in to this colonial style entry way/building, you will say to yourself, "Okay, this is interesting, nice little store, ooooo looook they have my favorite candy," all that bullsh*t. You have to go though the brick archway, and you will be like holy f**k I've never seen anything like this!
In a relatively large space, there are roughly 40 barrels filled with different types of taffy including, maple, chocolate, banana, cotton candy, and popcorn to name just a few. It's just mind blowing when you walk in here! A great selection of regular candy plus a MEGA selection of saltwater taffy. What could be better!?
Well gang, that's pretty much Alexandria for you! It's a great little town just outside of D.C. with loads of history and is a great place to take the family!
We're headin out to the Jerzzey Shore bitchess... If you want to head out to the beach, but you don't want to go very far, AND you don't want to drive, then lather on that sunscreen and head out to Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. Point Pleasant is roughly 65 miles from the NYC area and has a gorgeous wide beach and a boardwalk full of entertainment for all ages. This place has your typical boardwalk concessions including food shacks, arcades, and several other boardwalk games. There is also a small amusement park, but that's mainly geared toward younger children.
So how the hell do you get here? Well I know. In theory, you CAN drive. If there is no traffic, it's faster to drive. But you know, if it's in the middle of the summer during the height of vacation time, you won't get too far! It will probably take like 4 hours or something to get down there. In that case, you can find out the driving directions on your own. I'm going to tell you how to use public transportation. I have to be honest. It does take a while. The trip takes over 2 hours each way. At least it won't be a hassle for parking. Also the bright side is that The beach near Jenkinson's Boardwalk(the boardwalk of Point Pleasant Beach) is walking distance from the train station. Don't take a cab! Put that money towards beach admission and the boardwalk attractions.
First, you take the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line train from Penn Station to Long Branch, NJ (another nice beach community). That trip takes about an hour and a half on a local train. You then need to transfer at Long Branch to the shuttle train to Bay Head. Point Pleasant Beach is the second to last stop on the Bay Head Shuttle and takes about 35 minutes from Long Branch. It's a trip, but well worth it.
It's a great place to spend the day whether it's to have a swim or chill on the beach, or play games on the boardwalk, you won't be disappointed when you go to Point Pleasant Beach!
A few blocks east of the trendy neighborhood of soho lies a place with loads of history and culture and plenty of cheap eats. It's a neighborhood that is quickly becoming gentrified and more and more people are starting to live there. In this blog, I am going to talk about three places out of several others that are well known on the Lower East Side.
To get to the Lower East Side, you have several options. The general area is served by the NYC Subway F,J,M and Z trains. So you will have no trouble getting over here especially from Midtown Manhattan.
If you guys love candy, well this place is for you. Economy Candy located at 108 Rivington St is by far the best candy store in NYC. It's way better than the touristy Dylan's Candy Bar uptown. Even though Dylan's is big and has a nice selection, Economy Candy is just more edgy and older. Anyway back to Economy Candy. Since 1937, this place has been selling decent quality candy as well as candy dating back to even the 50's and earlier for low prices. Just be careful because some of the candy they sell can be illigally patented. It's always best to get the original candy and not something with arabic letters on it (I bought a Kit Kat bar with arabic letters on it). It's just safer to get the real american brands because the candies with different languages on the wrappers can have well... you never know what they're made with or how they made them blah blah blah. But it's an awesome place and definitely worth going to even when you are not in the area.
After you've satisfied your sweet tooth, walk a few blocks down Essex Street to satisfy your sour tooth at simply The Pickle Guys at 49 Essex Street. This basement like room of salty, briny goodness does not just sell pickles, they sell pickled vegetables and olives as well. I personally like the full sour pickles, but which ever pickles you prefer, get them and they will be fantastic. And they're so cheap! You can get 4 pickles for like 2 bucks. So they're like 50 cents a pickle. Not bad eh? And everything is stored in barrels just pointing that out.
Just in case you didn't get enough junk food for one day, head over to Doughnut Plant at 379 Grand Street. This is not a Dunkin Donuts type place. In fact, that place can have a much greater effect on your health than Doughnut Plant, but I won't get into that. They don't have munchkins or anything like that. What they do have however are excellent doughnuts. They have several different flavors to choose from, ranging from chocolate to peanut butter and jelly and even Creme Brulee. The great thing is that the doughnuts actually taste exactly like the pure ingredients they're made with. When you take a bite out of one of these doughnuts, you will say, and I know I say this a lot, but you will say that these are the best damn doughnuts you've ever eaten.
The Lower East Side of Manhattan is rich in history and as well has some great culinary delights. So while you're sampling the history, check out these places and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
New Haven is known for Yale University, but it is also known to have the landmarks of some of the best food in the country. Particularly pizza and hamburgers. As you read through this, you will find out more about these little restaurants and their artisianal products as well as their generations of history, since some of these places have been around for 70 years!
New Haven is served by the Metro North New Haven line (go figure) and Amtrak. Though less comfortable and slower than Amtrak, Metro North is the way to go because it's much cheaper. The trip from NYC to New Haven takes roughly 2 hours. Some trains are nonstop and some require a transfer in Stamford, CT. You should try to get a Metro North train that goes to New Haven-State St as opposed to New Haven Union Station. State St station is right in the center of town and is walking distance to everything around Yale. There are all several bus connections at State St as well. At Union Station, you would have to take a bus or a taxi to get over to the main drag, which is mainly around the Yale campus.
Parts of New Haven are not that safe, but the area mainly surrounding the Yale campus has been revitalized over the years with many trendy shops and restaurants. So there is plenty to do to keep you occupied before or after a campus tour or in betwen classes or whatever. One of the many places that turned me on was of course, a record store. Not only did they sell records, but they also sold cheap nic nacs as well as incense. So it's a pretty interesting store that has been around for 64 years. It's called Cutler's Records and Tapes located at 27 Broadway. Unfortuately, this store is supposed to close on June 30, 2012 so go there before then. If you don't make it, no worries! There are plenty of other things to do in this city.
Now for the moment you guys have all been waiting for... THE FOOD! The food in New Haven is some of the best in New England and even the country. The best restaurants in New Haven are actually the oldest restaurants in New Haven and in the country. First let's talk pizza. New Haven-style pizza is a little different than regular American pizza. A plain pizza from your typical pizza joint would just have tomato sauce and mozzarella whereas a New Haven-style plain pizza would have tomato sauce, oregano, and a little bit of pecorino romano sprinkled on top. New Haven-style pizza is also referred to as "apizza," which was derived from the Neapolitan dialect. The Italian-American enclaves of southern Connecticut pronounce it, "ah-beetz."
There are three famous pizzerias in New Haven which are said to have some of the best pizza in the country. They are Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Modern Apizza, and my favorite, Sally's Apizza. Pepe's (as the locals call it) and Sally's are both located on Wooster Street a few blocks apart form each other. Modern is located at 874 State St and is nowhere near the other two. Every evening, hundreds of people gather outside these restaurants. Pepe's and Modern are open for lunch and dinner and Sally's is only open for dinner, but they still get plenty of business, and with those lines outside, you can be waiting for a minimum of 2 hours to get a table on any day, even on a Sunday. In my opinion, Sally's is the best of the three. You know why? because everything that is put into that pizza is beautiful. The dough is spongy and chewy, it's not overly cheesy (that's how I like my pizza), the tomato sauce actually tastes like real tomatos, I mean every single act that can go into making the perfect pizza pie is implemented into something divine. You can tell as soon as you walk into this place that they care more about the pizza than the upkeep of the restaurant. Seems like they haven't replaced anything since 1932 when they openned.
On to burgers: This place sells burgers that are different than any other burgers you had in your life. They are also cooked in a very unique way. This is the famous Louis' Lunch at 263 Crown Street. It happens to be the birthplace of the Hamburger Sandwich. They've been in business since 1895 and the store has not changed their decor since then. The burgers are very similar to a piece of high quality steak. When you bite into one, it actually tastes like steak. They are not served on a typical hamburger bun. They are served between two slices of white toast! And don't even think about asking them for ketchup! The only toppings they offer are cheese spread, one tomato slice, and one onion slice. They don't want any other toppings but those because any more toppings will affect the unique taste of the meat itself. They don't cook the burgers on a grill, they cook them vertically in cast-iron grills that date back to 1898. And that method of cooking gives the burgers a unique and delicious flavor.
Well, after reading this blog, you must have gotton a great taste of New Haven already, but... I would really suggest that you'd go for yourself because they really got the food concept down if you know what I mean. There's a lot of great stuff in this town, Yale included, but the food is really something special.
If you're an obsessive foody, or you just like food, Astoria is probably best place in the country for that. Astoria is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in New York City. It's even hard to believe that you are in NYC as soon as you set foot in this place. Astoria is primarily Greek. It has the largest Greek population in the U.S. outside of Greece. However, there are handfuls of italian and other immigrants that are settling here.
Astoria is accesible from the N,Q and the neighborhood is served by the stations Broadway all the way up to Ditmars blvd. You can also take the M,R trains to Steinway St if you want to start exploring Astoria from there. As soon as you arrive in Astoria, you will think you are either in Greece or somewhere in the Middle East, literally! You will right away notice the sights and smells of all the different cultures and foods that Astoria has to offer.
The streets with the most action in Astoria are Broadway, 30th Avenue, and Steinway Street. The best time to go to Astoria is on a warm weekend night (also could be a friday) when everybody is out and about. You can see men sitting outside in multiple groups playing backgammon and smoking Hookah pipes in the Little Egypt section on Steinway Street, which mainly extends from Astoria blvd to 28th Avenue.
30th Avenue and Broadway have may restaurants from almost every cuisine you can think of. They have many ethnic markets as well including a produce market and a meat market. The meat market is right off the 30th Avenue stop and displays lamb's heads in the window as well many many other different cuts of meat.
I noticed a pretty cool hobby shop. It happens to have several antique models from years back and they also have many new models. The man working there is a pretty nice guy and would able to help with your hobby needs. This place is called Rudy's Hobby and Art. I strongly urge you to check this place out. It's very interesting.
One of my favorite markets ever is here in Astoria and is called Titan FOODS located right under the subway tracks at 2556 31st Street. They have every Greek specialty that you can think of and each product is at its highest quality, but my all time favorite part of the market is the OLIVE counter. There are over 20 different types of olives and I swear to god, these, and I'm not just saying this, but these are the best f**king olives in the world!!! Okay well maybe outside of Greece. But as soon as you put one of their several olives in your mouth, your taste buds will take you to heaven. I'm dead serious! It's totally worth coming out to Astoria just to get those olives. There is also a great feta cheese counter with many different types. In my opinion, they have the best feta you will get outside of Greece. Here's the deal. Titan Foods has the highest quality goods from Greece you will ever get in the country period.
This next place is the best Greek bakery you will ever go to outside of Greece; with all the authentic Greek baked goods including spinach and cheese pies and my personal favorite, the Baklava! Artopolis Bakery is in the back of a small strip mall on 31st Street. Everything in this bakery is made from scratch either with local ingredients or imports from Greece. I've been to many middle eastern and Greek restaurants before, but their Baklava doesn't even compare to what this Baklava is all about!
To find out more about Artopolis Bakery, check out the interview with Regina, the owner of Artopolis.
You set foot into this place and you will never think you are in the state of New Jersey. I have never been to a town in NJ that is like Red Bank since it is so different from any other town in that state.
To get here, NJ Transit goes from NY Penn Station right over to Red Bank. The trip takes about 79 minutes on a local train. Broad St, White St, Monmouth St, and a little section of Maple Ave are the streets you should stroll when you go to Red Bank. Each street has a store that is unique to the other stores.
Red Bank has numerous art galleries and antique shops. Though interesting, I am not going to focus on those, but they are plentiful thoughout the town and you should go to at least one or two of them.
Now this place that I will talk about is probably one of the most unique stores ever; a hobby shop of all things. It's called Hobbymasters located on 62 White Street. You can't miss this place! There's a giant mural covering the entire second floor wall. This place happens to be the largest hobby shop in America! And in my opinion one of the best shops ever! This 7,000 square foot, two-story building has everything you can imagine. Trains, planes, helicopters, trucks, puzzles, rockets, telescopes, artificial foliage for train sets, boats, paints, woods, tools, and everything you need to build models! (They have thousands and thousands of different shapes and sizes of models) It's all right here at Hobbymasters baby!
This next place is also very interesting, if you're obsessed with comics and weird and creepy bobbleheads. Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash located at 35 Broad Street offers an array of comics ranging from old and the new. Some of them feature old characters while some feature newer charactwers. It's a pretty crazy place! In the back of the store they have bobbleheads in which some of them are the same size as your head! You will also happen to notice a 10 foot tall plastic jesus statue!
When it's lunch time, head over to Delfini's Deli located at 244 West Front Street. You can get a typical Jersey sub with anything you want on it. They also have other Italian specialties including different pastas, breads, cookies, tomatos, meats, you name it! And it's a great option for lunch.
After lunch, you can can walk all the way back to Broad St or catch a bus and go over to Ricky's Candy, Cones, and Chaos located at 86 Broad Street. And they're not kidding when they say chaos. A giant candy store that has probably the biggest selection of candy they still sell and make today. (I'll be writing about another candy store, but that one is way different than this one, you will see!) Once you step inside this place you will feel like you are 5 years old again. Cartoon piñatas, ice cream cone chairs, balloons, the colorful candies, and the best part is.... A really freakishly large green dinasaur greeting you as soon as you walk in! (it's plastic). Did I also mention that there are games in which you can win candy? I know there's a foosball table in which you can play with a gumball and there's also a pinball machine in which you play with a gumball as well. Just somethin to keep in mind. Once you get your candy, sprint out of there! because you don't want people to see you walking in there, depending how old you are. But please guys, go in there and you will get a kick out this place! Ratings for this store? Well... the picture says it all..
Red bank is a great town to visit! It's just over an hour from NYC and it has things that appeal to ALL ages. On a nice sunny 70 degree day, it's perfect because when the sun is out, everything looks gorgeous and it's very pleasant to walk around. If you go in the winter, you can try to catch a glimpse of the ice boaters out on the Navesink River. But all I'm saying is that this is a great little trip from the city and I'm sure you will love it!