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4 Days in New York

For the Thanksgiving long weekend, my hubby and I took a 4 day trip to New York City. As crazy as it was to spend part of the first and last day on a 5 hour plane ride to and from the Big Apple, this trip was another foodie adventure, sandwiched with lots of sightseeing and shopping.

Day 1 Highlights:

We arrived to spend the evening in Flushing, Queens – the heart and sole of authentic Chinese food and Chinatown. Although Manhattan has its Chinatown, Flushing is where the Chinese immigrants are. Bubble tea shops, Chinese food courts, karaoke lounges, supermarkets, and other local Asian businesses lined the streets of Flushing’s Chinatown.

Xi’An Famous Foods‘ original location started out in the basement of a Chinese mall filled will small hole-in-the-wall food stalls. This food court is old and crowded, with only a few seats at each food stall. It reminded me of an old Taiwanese night market or Chinese night market except that it was covered instead of outside. Xi’an’s famous lamb noodles were unique – we liked the texture of the thick long handmade noodles, however found the dish to be quite oily.

The second location where we had dinner was the New York Food Court – located at the corner of Roosevelt Ave and Prince St. Here you won’t find tourists, but locals, eating various types of Northern Chinese or Taiwanese cuisine purchased from the different food court stalls. We purchased Xiao Long Bao (juicy pork dumplings) from Bu Yang Dim Sum stall, and a Chinese Crepe from one of the stalls near the entrance of the food court. Both were delicious, affordable, and worth the visit.

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Day 2 Highlights:

Heading into Manhattan, where we were scheduled to see George Takei & Lea Salonga‘s near musical on Broadway, Allegiance, we took some time walking around Times Square, enjoying the zoo of tourists taking photos with the likes of the Naked Cowboy, people in costumes posing for photos for money, buskers, and even a street market where we enjoyed a lunch of Gyro kebabs!

I was blown away by Allegiance, one of the newest talked-about musicals that brings to Broadway the dark period of history of Japanese-Americans living in the United States during WWII and sent to internment camps. This musical blends drama, history, romance, and comedy all in one while casting Asian-Americans in lead roles. The singing, dancing, and storyline were phenomenal and worth the trip to Broadway to see! As my friend Greg Watanabe is in the cast of Allegiance, we had the opportunity after the show to meet the cast behind Stage Doors – definitely a Wow moment! Meeting Uncle George, the famous Lea, Glee’s Telly Leung, and spending some time with my friend Greg was a highlight in itself.

We also enjoyed some ramen and pork bao at Sapporo restaurant  in Times Square, Papaya Dog for my favorite Papaya drink and a quick bite hot dog (this is New York fast food at its finest), and Shake Shack in Grand Central station for some frozen custard for dessert, along with a side of their delicious crispy crinkle cut fries! Every time we come to NYC we love stopping at Papaya Dog and Shake Shack for snacks – it’s what makes NYC, well NYC!

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Day 3 Highlights:

Before we left Vancouver, we bought an Explorer Pass from Costco.ca – 4 NYC attractions for $109.99 CAD – well worth the price considering each attraction ranges from $20-40++ USD converstion per person. Day 3 involved using the Explorer Pass for sightseeing – we decided to go to Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center), Radio City Music Hall Backstage Tour, and Saturday Night Live: The Exhibit.

The Top of the Rock is definitely a must if you want to enjoy seeing the whole city from above. This is a great photo opportunity to have both Empire State Building and the new Freedom Tower in the background. The Radio City Music Hall Backstage Tour is a fun way to see the inside of this famous and iconic hall, while learning about the rich history of who has performed here and how the hall has lasted all these years. The Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition is fun to visit if you are a fan of the show but can’t get tickets to see the taping. You will see lots of props and costumes from the show, along as the Jeopardy set, Wayne & Garth’s living room, and a copy of the sound stage on what it’s like to see SNL being taped.

For food – we ended up enjoying a breakfast snack of Levain Bakery – famous in NYC for its baseball size cookies – we opted to try their walnut chocolate chip cookie and oatmeal raisin. Both were quite sweet, but really soft, chewy, and worth the trip to Harlem to pick them up. They also have a location in the Upper West Side as well. For lunch, since we were in Harlem, we went to Amy Ruth’s, old fashion Southern home cooking – last time we tried their Chicken & Waffles and fell in love. My hubby requested to go back just for chicken and waffles. This time I opted to also try their fried catfish and waffle. Now as I write this review, I miss the combination of Amy Ruth’s fried catfish and its fluffy light waffles!

For dinner, we ventured to East Village where David Chang’s famous Momofuku Noodle Bar is located.  After a 30 min wait, we were seated in a crowded restaurant filled with foodie’s dying to try his famous ramen, bao, and wings. We ordered a bowl of ramen, an order of his brisket bao, and chicken wings to share. His ramen – famous for its highly inventive, technically challenged smoky bacon and pork bone broth – was filled with flavors I hadn’t had before in ramen. Now I can understand why David Chang is famous for this dish! My hubby really enjoyed the brisket bao, explaining that it felt like eating an Asian pastrami bun.

Our last stop of the evening included a visit to New York’s famous hot dog joint, Crif Dogs, where my hubby enjoyed a couple of signature Crif Dogs – bacon wrapped hot dogs. We even learned that inside Crif Dogs, there’s a secret entrance to a speakeasy – Please Don’t Tell. We will definitely have to come back and try this popular speakeasy where you need to make reservations first before coming.

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Day 4 Highlights:

On our final day, we used our final Explorer Pass attraction on the 9/11 Tribute Center & Guided Memorial Tour. What’s unique about this tour is that it’s lead by people who were there during 9/11 – people who survived, had lost people in 9/11, watched 9/11 unfold, volunteers, etc. Going on this tour was very meaningful when told by people who volunteered their time after 9/11 to help survivors and one of our guides lived blocks away from the two Towers that collapsed on 9/11. It was an emotional experience to hear of what happened, but at the same time touching to see how NYC has survived, rebuilt the Freedom Tower, the two Memorial Pools, and surrounding towers.

For food – we had the chance to finally try the infamous Cronut – created by Dominique Ansel bakery in SoHo.  I had to preorder the donut online 2 weeks in advance and arrive for pickup during the selected date and time. Alternatively I could’ve lined up at 7-7:30am before the store opened up. I opted to preorder. Each month the flavor of Cronut is different. This month we had Horchata Caramel and Cinnamon spice. I found it flakey just like a croissant, yet sweet like a donut – however I found it quite rich, so couldn’t finish one to myself and had to share it. Afterwards, we had lunch at Rubirosa Ristorante – voted one of the top Pizzeria’s in the city. We shared a small thin crust Rubirosa Supreme pizza – tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, mini meatballs, and roasted garlic. For a small, it was still quite large for two people. I’ve also heard their spaghetti and meatballs dish is a must, however we didn’t have room after our cronut and pizza to enjoy a third dish.

Flying home in the evening – we decided to take Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy flight back from NYC to Vancouver – which was an enjoyable experience. With more recline and pitch, two seater with lots of room, we were welcomed onboard with champagne, hot towel, and amenities pack which included travel socks, eye mask, earplugs, and mini toothbrush and toothpaste. For dinner we had a nice hot meal – I enjoyed a lychee prawns, with mixed vegetables and rice, while my hubby enjoyed a chicken supreme, bread dumpling and mushroom ragout. Overall a wonderful flight to end a whirlwind 4 day trip. Until next time!

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This is my 5th Trip to New York City, and each time I try to experience something new and exciting, while revisiting my favorites! If you are going to NYC for the first time and need some tips, feel free to leave a comment/message and I’ll be happy to share! – @alicejhwong

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