New York, New York: Day 3

15 Apr

The weather stayed beautiful for our third day in New York. We went to Balthazar, a breakfast place that Jules recommended from his last time in the city. On the way we saw a street blocked off for a photo shoot.

They had a whole bunch of people setting up and we had to move because they were getting our reflection in the glass. The people doing the shoot were really polite about getting us gawking tourists to move (and even nice about asking James not to take anymore photos). In general we were surprised by how friendly the New Yorkers we encountered were.

But anyway when we reached Balthazar it was doing a brisk trade in takeaway pastries. It had a separate (much less busy) entrance for dining in and we had no trouble getting seated at a booth. Inside it had this very French bistro vibe.

The breakfasts were pricey but very well done. I ordered a gruyere herb omelette ($16) which was super fluffy and a freshly squeezed orange juice ($6.25).

James ordered some buckwheat crepes ($17) and a couple of coffees ($4.50 each). He and Julian both agreed that the coffees here were very good – James couldn’t remember if they were Melbourne quality but he said they were much better than in Seattle, and again he wondered where Seattle had gotten the impression that it had great coffee.

The crepes were delicious but super cheesy, which would really come back to haunt James later in the day (foreshadowing).

Balthazar was a very upmarket breakfast place – there was even a toilet guy, which is totally my worst tipping nightmare. Fortunately it was James who found out – he went to the bathroom and came back looking slightly disturbed (maybe that’s me projecting) and told us. Intrigued, Jules and I both quizzed him, and James said that the guy turned on the tap for him, handed him a towel afterwards, and he put $1 into the guy’s basket.

I still can’t get over how weird that is. Seriously has anyone ever gone to the bathroom of a fancy restaurant and been like “aw man I have to turn on my own tap??” There is no value added – and you have to tip for the dubious privilege of someone listening to you go! I don’t tend to carry cash to the bathroom so if there’s a toilet guy I have to make sure I take my bag and have money. I am squirming at the awkwardness. The awkwardness!

*ahem*

Anyway after our early breakfast we went to the Museum of Modern Art. We got there about 20 minutes before opening time. There were heaps of people buying tickets but we got to go in the shorter Explorer Pass queue. People were milling around but we waited at the gate so when the lady said to make 2 lines we were actually first in line.

The strategy I’d read online was to get there at opening time and go straight to the 5th floor where the popular exhibits are. Most people make their way from bottom to top, so if you reverse it there are fewer people around. It worked out really well because we got to see the best exhibits when we were fresh and with hardly anyone else around. By the time we left the 5th floor there were small crowds around all the paintings.

The 5th floor was undoubtedly the highlight. They had The Scream by Edvard Munch, some Matisses, Rothkos, Picassos, Dalis, Monets etc. The Warhols seemed to be split between the 4th and 5th floors. The 4th floor was a bit more contemporary and had some paintings and artists that even I’d heard of.

As we descended the floors it got progressively less interesting. The 3rd floor had some architecture designs and photographs – I liked the photographs but the architecture section was dead boring. There wasn’t anything memorable for me on the remaining floors and I reckon if you’re pressed for time you could just do floors 4-5 and the special exhibit on floor 6 and be perfectly satisfied. Being a completionist in New York is just too difficult.

After our dose of culture it was time for some Grimaldi’s Pizza.

Again our off-peak eating strategy paid off. I think we got there around 3pm and although the place was packed we only had to wait a couple of minutes. Julian said that Grimaldi’s has expanded a fair bit since he last went 3 years ago.

Something I noticed with a lot of the restaurants we went to was that the customers were mainly tourists. I don’t know if that means we wandered into tourist traps or whether it’s just a by-product of there being 530,000+ tourists a day in New York. I can’t remember how much the pizzas were but they were neither crazy expensive nor cheap. It was cash-only and the service was very average.

We ordered one large pizza with Italian sausage, ham, peppers and olives (the pizza above) and another with pepperoni, mushroom, onion and anchovies. Again, note the cheese content of the meal.

The pizzas were very good (though getting soggy towards the end) and we stuffed ourselves with 5 1/3 slices each. The guys made much mock of me for being able to keep up with them.

Julian said that the pizzas were better before they expanded. They were still better than any I’ve had in Seattle, but not the best pizza I’ve had in my life, which is what I was promised! New York probably has enough excellent pizza places that it’s not really worth going out of your way to eat at Grimaldi’s unless you want to make an afternoon of it and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

You can walk across the bridge both ways but the view walking into Manhattan is much nicer. For ultra romance I bet it would be even nicer during sunset.

It’s a really nice walk (though quite busy) and the bridge is gorgeous. Why does James’ head look oddly tiny?

The walking area was suspended over the driving part of the bridge.

There was a subway station after the bridge so we got on that to go home. Well, Jules went home for a nap and James and I did some additional shopping. We dropped by the Rick Owens boutique to see if they had the leather jacket I wanted (unfortunately they didn’t) and then we went home to sleep before our late dinner. This blog post has gotten pretty long so I’ll do a separate post about the dinner, which was at a steakhouse that’s been rated the best in NY for 24 years in a row.

Oh and just to put a bookend on the dairy foreshadowing thing, for dessert that night James ate most of an ice cream sundae. Afterwards we went to a bar, which was where he started to feel really sick. He was probably really glad there wasn’t a toilet guy there cos that would have cost him a lot of money.

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2 Responses to “New York, New York: Day 3”

  1. Wen April 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    if you only pay $16-18 in a high-end restaurant for breakfast, you are living the dream! I paid $15 for my fruit salad in a hipster cafe in Balaclaca the other day and it was sooo mediocre! and yes we expenienced toilet lady in one of the restaurants in Shanghai and I was feeling very uncomfortable!! but we don’t pay tips for that!
    Anyway, very jealous of your NY trip!!;-)

    • pamperedhousewife April 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      Well we had to add tax and a 20% tip but overall New York was nowhere near as expensive as I thought it would be. I think it’s mainly the housing that costs a lot but otherwise it’s surprisingly affordable! Maybe we’re just too used to high prices in Melbourne.

      You and Kalo should totally go! It’s SUCH an amazing city.

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