Wednesday: I don’t really care how many times I visit this city, or if I wind up living there, or whatever my future may hold, I will never get sick of looking to my left before crossing into New York and looking at such an amazing skyline. It’s absolutely astonishing, even at midnight on a Wednesday. Loading off of the bus, I cannot help but look straight up into the Manhattan night and take it all in. I have arrived. I hop on a downtown Q train to Union Square to meet up with my buddy Brandon at a bar called O’Hanlon’s on 10th & 1st. As I walk to the front of the bar, a bear hug and a beer greet me. Light conversation is had as Brandon introduces me to a couple of his workmates Manny and Sam. Of course my favorite way to be introduced to people is a round of shots, and tonight, the drink of choice is Jameson. As the bartender is pouring, Brandon and I are talking about my upcoming trip to Europe, which will include a stop in Ireland.
Bartender: “Oh, well you’ll love the Jameson over there! I pretty much live there when I’m not here and what we have here is shite.”
Me: “Yeah, I’m sure.”
Brandon can feel the judgment in my eyes boring holes through this girl. I look at him, and he cannot help but crack a smile because he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Funny, I didn’t remember ordering my shots with a back of pretentious and pointless second-guessing.
Well, I’ve had all that I can take of this place, and it is roughly 3AM, so it’s about time to head home. We have a six or seven block walk to the subway station, and I didn’t have the forethought to use the restroom before leaving the bar. Halfway through our walk, I cannot hold it any longer and if you were walking by you would have sworn a fire hose had been in use on the side of this building. (Sorry, Duane Reade!)
Thursday – I wake up in Brandon’s apartment in which he shares with his girlfriend Halley in Prospect Park. I greet the two of them with a 10AM packed bowl before discussing our plans for the day. Brandon and Halley are both phenomenal chefs, so naturally the plan is to seek out some of the finest faire that New York has to offer. The two of them decide to take me to a restaurant in the Momofuku family that Brandon works for called Ma Peche. Upon walking into the restaurant, lit for some type of ambience, but I’m not sure what, Brandon heads down to the kitchen to drop off beer for everyone working. Apparently, that’s how they show appreciation. Personally, I just like dropping a fat tip on someone, but to each his own. We’re guided to our seats and are placed right next to two people, an older man and a younger woman. For the life of us for the first half hour of our meal, we were trying to figure out if she was his daughter or his girlfriend. Or both? Weird things happens in New York.
Our first course arrives, which is a double order of their Oxtail Buns, which were delicately braised and came on bread as soft as clouds. It was one of the most splendid things I’ve eaten to date. Immediately after this is sent out, we’re sent a complimentary second course of Trout Roe with a Coconut Cream, and Foie Gras with toasted Brioche and Malt. This too, was something I could eat over and over again. Much to the chagrin of our neighboring dining partners, we’ve gotten two courses to their one. She calls over the waitress.
Girl: “Um, excuse me, but we’ve been here longer than they have, AND have gotten more food than we have.”
Waitress: “I can assure you that all of your food will be coming out in a timely manner.”
Girl: “But I don’t understand why their food is arriving and ours is not.”
Waitress: “Let me go check on that for you.”
Which was actually the most polite blowing off of a person I’ve ever witnessed in service.
The man sat there, stoic, the entire time, only speaking when the girl addressed him in French. Through my limited understanding of the language, I gathered that he was annoyed, but that he understands how restaurants work and that she should calm down.
Upon arrival, our third course of Beef Tartare and Broccoli Salad was immediately consumed, leaving behind no doubt of our fondness of the cuisine. Quickly followed by the Bahn Mi Maison, and the Pork Belly Hero, which were hastily dispatched of as well. Last but not least came our Lamb Ramen, which was accompanied by a complimentary Pork Shank dish that we all were salivating over. I don’t think that lunch could have gone any better.
At this point, I’m full, I’m happy, and I’m ready for whatever else this city has to throw at me. But of course, lunch gets better. As the pair next to us departs, both Brandon and Halley’s eyes are the size of golf balls. Perplexed:
Halley: “We just ate lunch next to Joel Robuchon.”
Brandon: “Like Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon.”
Me: “You’re telling me, that without effort. Not even a tinge of effort, in my first 24 hours in this city that we have pissed off someone very well known and respected?
Halley: “Pretty much.”
Me: “Well, this is a fucking great trip already.”
Upon walking past us, our server Logan has heard what we were talking about and stands next to our table with this creepy grin on his face. In fact, he was just creepy in general. Also, I would retell the conversation we had if I wasn’t so busy being freaked out by this nearly robotic man. The gist of the conversation was that he was name-dropping people that no one gave a shit about, to try to get us to go to restaurants that I would prefer to lick dirt than eat at.
I parted from those two after lunch to meet up with an old friend, Claire, who is now living in the city. I know Claire from Charlotte, and if we could honestly stay in the same city for more than a couple of weeks at a time, we would be (if possible) better friends than we are now. I arrive at a destination selected by her, Taproom No. 307, which certainly lives up to its name. I order the house lager, which I later find out is made by a brewery in Pennsylvania called Lion’s Head. My friends and I used to drink this beer in high school. We felt classy because it came in bottles, but the price tag was a wonderful $10 a case. She arrives after she gets off of work. We immediately begin chatting, drinking and reminiscing. We hung out for a few hours watching the Penguins beat the Rangers, to the dismay of everyone else around us, as I was the lone Pens supporter in a sea of Ranger blue. The thing that kept us (me) there more so than the beer, or the game was our hilarious, foul-mouthed, and incredibly attractive bartender Danielle. I have never heard a girl say “cunt” more often than this girl, and I could not help but be completely enamored with her “I don’t give a shit” attitude. After a few rounds, and the ending of the game, Claire and I ventured further into Manhattan to an Irish pub named Paddy Reilly’s, where they feature live, native Irish music every night of the week. Not to mention that this bar is the only one in the world that strictly serves Guinness on draught. We make friends with a gentleman who sits down next to us, who is from Manchester, UK. He chats us up as we enjoy our pints, going on about subjects from his favorite bars in the world, to us rapping a few bars from the song “It Was Supposed To Be So Easy” by The Streets.
Good to the last drop, we finish our beers, say our parting words, and head our separate ways. The peaceful stumble to the train and the gentle vibrations of the Q back to Brooklyn synced perfectly to the rest of “A Grand Don’t Come for Free”, and as I stepped into the front door of Brandon and Halley’s apartment, I fell immediately asleep as my head met the couch cushions.