Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It takes a lot of guts

On paper, last night's tourism plans seemed like a really sensible idea. For the first day of the Chinese New Year, the weather had turned bad on us, and standing on a street corner in the rain to watch a parade (however colourful and 'firework-y') didn't sound fun anymore. So we - or, more accurately, I - changed it up a bit.

We took the #6 train to Astor Place. Given its name, I always expect that this station is going to be fancier than it is. When you get up to street level at Astor Place, you're met with the smell of grilled meat (never a bad thing), and the neon craziness of falafel joints, gyros bars and tiny restaurant after tiny restaurant. And last night in the relative dark of 6pm New York, we were confronted with umbrellas, puddles, and street signs that seemed to go nowhere. So of course we took a wrong turn. I own up to this now because it was the one and only wrong turn we took last night. And for that, I believe we ought to be commended.

Reorienting ourselves, we ended up at Destination #1 - McSorley's Old Ale House. Established in 1854, McSorley's is the oldest still-operating saloon in New York City. It has swinging wooden doors, sawdust on the floor, and the craziest ragtag clientele you'll ever see. But I love me a place with history, and when we arrived the 'bouncer/host' found us a couple of chairs towards the front of the bar. The waiter came over and in his gruff tone asked, "We've only got two beers - light and dark. Which one would you like?". Like deer in headlights, we simply replied, "light". And so it was. We each got two small steins of cool, light beer and mmmm it was tasty. Really refreshing and just the tonic for a cold, dreary night. As Arnie said, "I'll be back".

But the Magical Mystery Tour did not end there. Destination #2 was a few blocks away, The Tuck Shop at the corner of 1st Ave & 1st Street. A couple of lamingtons and a James Boags beer? Um, yes please! Talk about an early Australia Day celebration.

Having hidden out there for a wee while, we headed to our third and final destination of the evening and perhaps the piece de resistance of J-Train's holiday. Katz's Deli is now one of my favourite spots in the whole City. It's been around since 1888 and I don't think you stay in business here that long unless you've got something special. Given the lessons I learned last time I was here, I restrained myself somewhat and just had the chicken soup and 1/2 pastrami on rye and baby, that was plenty! You almost had to roll me out of there. J-Train was truly prodigious, and managed to stuff in an whole pastrami on rye, and then a 1/2 corned beef on rye disappeared too. Is he bottomless? We also took home a bowl of matzo ball soup for later. Delish! As we rode the bus home, both of us succumbed to a scary food coma - vacant stares, the whole bit.

While we may not have seen any firecrackers or eaten any fortune cookies, I reckon our Year of the Dragon got off to a pretty great start!

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