Recently I rekindled my interest in the east coast cultural melting pot known as New York City. NYC is one of those places I admire for its rich history and gritty core, and I’m always in awe of its constantly evolving backdrop for creativity and innovation. A last minute weekend in this iconic city was, unbeknownst to me, exactly what I needed to finally embrace the change in seasons and accept the lack of desired changes in my life. Travel is like that sometimes, not the exotic, crazy, best selfie moments, but just the simple escape from one’s ordinary, everyday routine. Since some of you have been to NYC and are already familiar with the most well-known tourist attractions, this week I want to focus on a few of the restaurants that have me planning to visit again next Fall.
Eating – One of my favorite pastimes. I’ll try it all and sing a song while doing it!
First on my list is the Sugarcane. Located on the Dumbo waterfront in Brooklyn, this yummy find allowed me to taste my first sugar cane. Yes my roots are in the American South, but I had never actually bitten into a sugar cane. This raw bar grill’s original mojito and beet mojito were mixed with fresh and premium ingredients and came with a sugar cane that i had mistook for a straw. Thanks to the wonderful bartenders for setting me straight and putting me on the “tipsy” and narrow path. Because I’m indecisive, I decided to try a few tapas, all of which were delicious. The goat cheese croquettes were deep fried with a side of guava jam and were cheesy, but not something I’d order again. However, the bacon wrapped dates and open fire grilled sweet corn with spicy mayo and cotija cheese had me doing a happy dance; or maybe it was the mojitos. The vibe was chill, but energetic enough to hang out with friends. It’s directly across from the St. Ann’s Warehouse where you can catch shows such as “Oklahoma!” or if you’d prefer to, you can simply walk along the waterfront for a late evening stroll. Not familiar with the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn? Just remember it stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass so you should be able to find it once you see the bridge. Easy.
Next on my list is a hip, but very down-to-earth, Italian-American pizzeria and bar called Sauce & Barrel in Manhattan. I dined at Sauce & Barrel twice on one trip, so trust me it is good. On my first visit I went straight to the bar, because it’s a safe place when you don’t want to look like you don’t have any friends. I ordered a red wine and started salivating over the menu. They had the classics such as margherita and pepperoni, but my ever evolving palate was drawn to more eclectic pie options such as the Brussels sprout, asparagus and pancetta and egg pizzas. My indecisiveness kicked in again so I ordered what the bartender told me because I just couldn’t choose between the 15 plus pizzas on the menu. The mushroom pizza with the gooey fontina, pecorino, roasted garlic and truffle oil was so good that I ventured back the next day. I was hoping to sit at the bar again because I’d had some great conversations with locals about life, traveling and of course food. One lady that lived upstairs told me she eats there 3 times a week. Talk about loyalty. I decided not to be loyal to the pizza side of the menu and moved on to the pastas. The squid ink tagliarini with shrimp, calamari and Calabrian chili was an easy choice. I had squid ink pasta for the first time at a restaurant in Hawaii about five years ago and I’m still talking about that meal. Sauce & Barrel’s squid ink pasta did not disappoint. I savored this dish. I mean, I ate it so slow because I was scared I’d eat it all and miss the experience. I really wanted to turn up my plate, but since I was sitting in front of the window, I decided to keep it classy.
The last restaurant on this list made me feel like I was eating my last meal. Sylvia’s Restaurant, “The Queen of Soul Food”, in the historic Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan is definitely not for lightweights! Sylvia’s should be known as SYM, short for “Slap Yo’ Mama”. This southern cuisine was so good that I wanted to do just that. I have been to many soul food restaurants around the country and Sylvia’s is now in my top 5. Located in the heart of Harlem, on Malcolm X Boulevard, this gem has hosted many celebrities, politicians and dignitaries. I could see the neighborhood’s history and became immersed in the essence of art born out of the pains and joys of a people that refused to be oppressed and the businesses launched from determination and perseverance. Simply put, I felt at home. Inside Sylvia’s, I must say, I felt like a VIP with the friendly staff and huge food portions. For about $30, I ordered the gospel Sunday brunch and chowed down on light, fluffy biscuits that brought back memories of my Grandma Stella. This petite woman was a beast in the kitchen. She fried chicken to perfection, baked delicious cakes every 2-3 days, and made light and buttery biscuits from scratch every morning. Sylvia’s biscuits took me back to when I was a little girl, happy and content in in my grandma’s kitchen. The golden fried chicken, baked mac and cheese and collard greens were also amazing. I had been transported to my happy place through one meal and it made me feel all warm and joyful inside, like an old church hymn. That’s what authentic, fresh soul food does to you, and, well, it also makes you sleepy. After grabbing my Sylvia’s cookbook to commemorate my visit, I was ready for a good long nap. Clearly those who gave New York the nickname, “the city that never sleeps”, had never been sat down for brunch at Sylvia’s.
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