Best Tacos in the East Village

Otto's shrimp taco

Otto’s shrimp taco

As a taco lover (some may even say taco-obsessed), I’m lucky to live in the East Village where the Mexican food options are seemingly endless. I have tried my fair share of the local taco joints, and here are my favorites:

Otto’s Tacos (http://ottostacos.com/)
141 Second Avenue
btw St. Marks Place & East 9th Street

Otto’s is the new kid on the block, serving up West Coast tacos with homemade tortillas and salsas. My personal favorites are the shrimp tacos, followed by mushroom tacos. Both are flavorful and stuffed with onion and fresh cilantro… mmm!

Otto’s is a great destination to pick up food on the run, with quick service but limited high-top and counter seating. Taco prices range from $3-$3.50/each, every day. Add chips and house-made guacamole for $3.75, and you’ve got yourself a delicious lunch or dinner for under $10.

Bait & Hook (http://baitandhooknyc.com/)
231 2nd Ave at 14th street

You might be wondering how a seafood restaurant made it into this post, but their Baja-style fish tacos are certainly worth noting. Bait & Hook is a casual bar/restaurant conveniently located near Union Square. The menu includes a nice selection of draft beer to wash down your meal. On Taco Tuesday you can snag $1 fish tacos with the purchase of booze. Tacos are $3 every day from 3pm to 7pm during Happy Hour. Enjoy!

 

What are your favorite tacos in the East Village, and other NYC neighborhoods?

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A day at the Finger Lakes Wineries

I took a break from blogging during the long winter months — it the worst winter I have experienced in NYC! But gladly I am back and, having emerged from my winter hibernation, I can continue sharing my adventures here.

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View from Leidenfrost VIneyards on Seneca Lake, NY

This past weekend I was part of a celebration for one of my best friends who is getting married. A group of 13 girls rented a beautiful house on Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, New York for the weekend. It was a magical few days, and my favorite part was visiting the local wineries. So, I’ll share my experience with you!

I always wanted to visit a winery but never had before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a low-key and wonderful day that was surprisingly inexpensive.  We chartered a van from a company in Ithaca which was only $45 for 5 hours per person, including gratuity. It was essential to get a driver so everyone could enjoy the wine with no worries about transportation. Here’s the run-down of the wineries we visited.

  • Bellweather Hard Cider: Our first stop of the day was the only spot we visited located on Cayuga Lake.  It was actually a cidery which was a nice way to start out day. We sampled 6 different ciders ranging from extremely dry Champagne-style cider to richer-bodied traditional cider. I was amazed at how inexpensive tastings and bottles were throughout the day. Of course I bought the Original Cider to bring home for later.  http://www.cidery.com/
  • Leidenfrost Vineyards: Our second stop had a beautiful view of Seneca Lake featuring both red and white wines. It was my favorite one of the day due to the view and super friendly staff. The Finger Lakes wineries are traditionally known for Riesling and other white wine but Leidenfrost has a broad range of both red and white. My favorite tasting was the Cayuga White Wine. I bought a full class and sipped it on the patio while enjoying the beautiful lake view. http://www.leidenfrostwine.com/
  • Finger Lakes Distilling: Our third stop was a distillery. Most of the group enjoyed vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy and liqueur samples but I opted to skip this one; I wanted more wine!! But it was neat to see the big copper stills where the actual distillation takes place. Who knew that making booze was such an art! http://www.fingerlakesdistilling.com/
  • Ryan William Winery: Our last stop was a small winery located in a peaceful farm setting. We enjoyed a casual tasting in a rustic tasting room. We tasted Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabarnet Franc. http://www.ryanwilliam.com/

We ended the day with a delicious backyard picnic of gourmet appetizers at Stonecat Café. It is one of the most well-known restaurants in the Finger Lakes area, and everything was delicious. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

 

Posted in Adventures, Drink, Food | 2 Comments

Best Places to Holiday Shop in the East Village

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and there are some great spots to find unique gifts in my neighborhood. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Exit 9 Gift Emporium – 51 AVENUE A
www.shopexit9.com

This is the place for the person on your list who has everything. From unique gag gifts to handmade cards, you’ll find something off-the-beaten-path for friends and family of all ages. They have a great variety of NY-centric gifts for the NYers in your life.

Some favorites:

Funky Manhattan Map $30.00

Funky Manhattan MapRyan Gosling Coloring Book $13.00

Ryan Gosling Coloring BookBrooklyn Cutting Board $50.00

brooklyn cutting board
2. Strand Book Store – 828 Broadway
www.strandbooks.com

This NYC staple is a year-round gem, but it’s also the perfect place to find gifts for the book nerds in your life (and for yourself!) this holiday season. Find new & used books at discount prices, along with a selection of gag gifts, cards and tote bags.

Some favorites:

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger $6.29
Catcher in the Rye

Hooty the Owl Tote Bag $14.95
Tote bag

Keep Calm and Write On Notebook $19.95
Notebook

3. Pink Olive – 439 E 9th St
pinkolive.com

What may first be considered a “shee-shee-foo-foo” type gift shop is actually a brilliant boutique with cute gifts for mom, baby, and hostess.  They have an outstanding selection of cards for every occasion, too.

Some favorites:

The Stache Baby Bodysuit $32.00
SONY DSC

“Je T’aime Paris” Paper Set $38.00
%22je t'aime paris%22 paper set

Sunday Brunch Recipe Book $19.95
sunday brunch


Seasons Greetings & Happy Shopping!

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History at home: The NYC Tenement Museum

tenement-museum-97-orchard-street-new-york-bfwAs a local in NYC, it’s hard to find things to do with out-of-towners that I haven’t already done 100 times. That’s why I was excited to visit the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side with family visitors last weekend.

The Lower East Side was a mecca for immigrants from all over the world, starting in the 1800s and even through today. At one time there were so many German immigrants living in the Lower East side that it was called Little Germany (Keindeutschland). The Lower East Side has also been a fist home to Irish, Italians, Polish, Ukranian and many other immigrant groups.

Visiting the Tenement Museum is not a typical museum experience, because you’ll tour through a restored apartment building, built in 1863. Several units are restored to different time periods, and your guide tells you the true stories of the people who lived there. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the immigrant history that so many Americans share.

I highly recommend the “Hard Times” tour ($22.00) which will guide you through the restored building and share the stories of several families who lived there. Unfortunately there is no self-guided option, and be sure to book your tickets in advance on http://www.tenement.org/ as they go fast!

Enjoy 🙂

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The Best Ice Cream in the East Village

The Best Ice Cream in the East Village

salty-pimpWe’re in the midst of an NYC heat wave. This, for most of us without central AC, is pure torture. That’s why every neighborhood needs its local ice cream shop for heat-crazed New Yorkers to get some relief. Lucky for me, we have several great spots in the East Village. Here are two of my favorites:

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
125 East 7th Street
(between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
New York NY 10009
Open till 12am 7 days a week.

Thankfully the line moves fast at this ever-popular East Village staple. Everything from the staff, bright store and fun ice cream names make this place a whole lot of fun. I rarely stray from my all-time favorite ice cream cone, the Salty Pimp. It’s a glorious combination of vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, and sea salt enclosed in a light coating of chocolate dip. Need I say more?

There isn’t any room to sit in the shop, but you can score the bench outside or head down the block to Tompkin’s Square Park for a stroll while you enjoy your cone. The staff is notoriously friendly and will run down the full menu for you while you wait in line. How sweet!

Van Leeuwen
48 1/2 East 7th St,
New York, NY, 10003
(at 2nd Avenue)
Open till 12am Mon-Thurs & Sunday
Open till 1am Friday and Saturday

If you’re looking for a gourmet ice cream experience, this is the place for you. Many New Yorker’s are familiar with the pastel-green/yellow Van Leeuwen Ice Cream trucks that hit locations across the city. But thanks to the convenient East Village location, which is dangerously close to my apartment, ice cream connoisseurs can enjoy Van Leeuwen in the same spot whenever they’d like.

Van Leeuwen’s ice cream is homemade in Brooklyn with all organic ingredients.  Seasonal flavors are regularly updated and made in small batches – so get there early if you want to try a special flavor like Passion Fruit, Sweet Stick Black Rice, or Salted Caramel with Bourbon.

My personal favorite is the mint chocolate chip milkshake, which is made with REAL MINT and tastes like pure heaven on a hot day.

Now get out there and cool down with a delicious treat… you deserve it!

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Perfect Day at Smorgasburg, Williamsburg

08-smorgasburg_AT_460x285Though I’m just one subway stop from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I hardly ever go there. This past weekend I learned that’s a huge mistake, because there’s so much fun stuff happening in the hipster neighborhood, from eclectic shops to cozy restaurants to the famous Smorgasburg summer food festival.

Williamsburg is much closer than you’d expect for many Manhattanites – it’s just one stop headed east on the L train from Union Square. We stopped by Smorgasburg and, let me just say, this is a MUST DO. It’s by far the best food festival I’ve ever been to NYC. Over 100 New York-based food vendors serve everything from buttermilk fried chicken to duck confit. Plus, the festival takes place in a park overlooking the East River & Manhattan skyline, so it’s the perfect spot for a picnic and a beautiful view.

Come hungry and try a little of everything, or at least as much as you can before you burst. After you’ve had your fill, take a walk down the charming streets of Williamsburg and check out “Artists and Fleas”, a weekly indoor market featuring local artists and designers.

Some highlights of Smorgasburg:

  • Schnitz: The sandwiches from Schnitz are huge and made on fresh pretzel rolls, with schnitzel (lightly-fried chicken, pork or veal cutlets) and other goodies, depending on which sandwich you choose. Share with a friend so you don’t get full from one spot; there’s still so much to try!
  • Lumpia Shack: Stop here for delicious Filipino spring rolls – perfect bite-sized finger foods for sharing, made fresh on the premises.
  • Dough (donuts): While we didn’t have a chance to try a donut from Dough, they looked outstanding and there was a line to prove it. If you’re a donut connoisseur, this is a must!
  • S’more Bakery: This bakery puts a delicious twist on the traditional campfire S’more, with grown-up additions like dark chocolate, caramel sauce and sea salt to a variety of flavors.

I could go on and on, but I’ll let you find your favorites and report back. Happy Smorgasburg-ing!

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Best Sidewalk Restaurants

Blockhead's patio

Blockhead’s patio

With so many interesting people to see in NYC, it’s no wonder that people-watching is one of my favorite pastimes. And where better to do it than on a restaurant sidewalk or patio, while munching on delicious food and enjoying the weather? In honor of the warm summer nights coming our way, here are a few of my favorite sidewalk restaurants:

Blockhead’s, Midtown West
The giant patio at Blockhead’s midtown west location is like a non-stop party for young professionals. After work, 20 and 30-somethings flock here to enjoy San Francisco-style Mexican food at reasonable prices (not to mention the amazing drink specials).

This patio is particularly comfortable because it’s not facing the street, but rather a courtyard of surrounding eateries in a city park setting. There’s no traffic but still a lot to see, thanks to the tequila-guzzling patrons.

The downside is that you should be prepared to wait, especially during evening hours. While you’re waiting, head across to the burger joint for a drink. If you’re extra nice, the Blockhead’s staff will call the bartender when your table’s ready.

Naples 45, Midtown East
Located near Grand Central, connected to the MetLife building, Naples 45 is the perfect spot for an after-work drink with the midtown east crowd. The large patio boasts its own bar with happy hour specials and plenty of seating for groups. There’s also apparently free pizza at happy hour before 7, though unfortunately I haven’t made it there in time to try it out.

While the Neapolitan pizza is a bit pricey ($35 for a Margherita pie) the atmosphere is fun and casual, so it’s a great spot to scope out the Grand Central scene and catch up with friends.

The Mermaid Inn, East Village
Since moving to the East Village, I’ve been anxiously waiting for The Mermaid Inn’s back patio to open. This cozy seafood spot is situated in between 5th and 6th streets on 2nd Ave. The intimate patio is a great spot to enjoy some apps, white wine and the trendy East Village vibe. The sidewalk tables in front our ideal for people watching along 2nd avenue.

From 5pm to 7pm, Happy Hour includes cheap oysters and discounted drinks. Happy Hour lasts all night on Mondays, but get there early as seating tends to fill up.

Enjoy!

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