Anthony Bourdain. He gave us a lesson on how to experience the very essence and soul, eat and smell the air of a place like a local. Anthony’s voice and inspiration for everything authentic motivated me for writing this article discussing why tourists visit New York as a tourist. Being a proud New Yorker for the past 20 years, I live and breathe real estate, but that does not stop me from looking past the lobby onto the street, into the kitchen, and experiencing the best of what the New York City offers.
Much has changed since I first landed. New York was distressed, just working its way through a recovery from the national savings and loan crisis.
New York is not for the faint or easily offended. If you are not a fighter, then do not bother taking on this heavyweight. New York makes you fight above your weight class, and that makes it great. At times it can make you better than you ever imagined, pushing you to excel at the highest level.
The genuine and authentic survive. The confused and weak are quickly discarded.
New York City
The center of the world. Everything big and worthwhile has either passed through or fuels the energy of this towering city.
The City of everyone, everything, all flavors, and all ethnicities. The good and bad are clear; the mediocre is usually a storefront with a sign “Out of Business.”
Why bother coming to New York City if you are going to do the old cliché tourist traps like Times Square, Macy’s, Penn Station, and McDonald’s?
Why not see New York and experience it like a local? Get on a subway or go walkabout and discover.
Experience a slice of pizza; dumpling, a great bowl of pasta; or the best ice cream the city has to offer instead. If you are gluten-free, lactose intolerant or vegetarian, perhaps, walk the best streets or sit on a park bench watching the passersby.
There are still places and areas for me yet to explore after 20 years. But from what I do know, tourists will have a far richer experience by distancing themselves from double-decker buses and big department stores.
New York is real-time and forever evolving. Like no other place, its energy does not stop.
The lack of fresh air, packed sidewalks, and bumper to bumper traffic, is this chaos attractive to you? Maybe, as a no-cost admission ticket to the largest urban zoo in the country. For those that work and must commute to Midtown daily, well, hopefully, you enjoy your job.
One’s view is subjective to one’s taste, but I can’t for the life of me understand why many tourists end up at McDonald’s? Do they think it tastes better in NYC or, perhaps, they do not have one at home? It is like when in Mexico, eating at a ‘Taco Bell’ when you have a fresh taco stand in front of you. Or, worse, not going to an ‘In-N-Out Burger’ once landed in Los Angeles.
When in NYC, try ‘Shake Shack,’ or go deep at the ‘Corner Bistro’ or ‘Spotted Pig’ in the West Village and enjoy their spin.
The first fundamental rule: do not be persuaded by a sign saying ‘the best pizza slice in NY,’ or ‘the best whatever,’ usually the experience will fall short. The best places often do not even have a sign to the name in front.
The second rule; if the restaurant is full of people that don’t look like they belong to the ethnicity of the cuisine, that usually is a blinking warning sign to move on unless you plan on eating like a tourist. Good luck then, and I hope you enjoy your lousy meal.
Avoid having regrettable experiences. Stop finding places to eat at or visit based on Yelp reviews. Yelp? That is like reading the yellow pages as far as I am concerned.
Act like a local. Find a hyper-local blog to read instead of a generic ‘national dumping ground’ for content. Of course, there are credible sources like Michelin for food, but there are gems without a Michelin too.
Get out of Midtown. Head downtown, the village, east or west or lower east side, Chinatown, or cross a bridge to Queens and Brooklyn. Go to the Bronx to catch a Yankees game and enjoy a hot dog.
After years of enjoying NYC, I prefer to avoid the crowds, unless I need my MoMa, Central Park, or Shake Shack fix, but there is an app for that. If you want to check out a list of my favorite things to do or eat in the City, you can find them on our New York list at foursquare. Keep it authentic and local!