A Night Out In DUMBO

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With legends like the River Café and Grimaldi’s still packed, the closing of family-favorite Bubby’s, and the arrival of bakery One Girl Cookies and a massive carousel, DUMBO is a neighborhood transformed. Its age is found in its cobblestone streets, its youth in the people it attracts, and its timelessness in its brilliant views. As a former DUMBO resident myself, I’ve watched it evolve from an area without a Starbucks, to the arts and beauty capital of Brooklyn, with stars like Anne Hathaway and Uma Thurman moving in. So it is with much love that I recommend this week’s neighborhood itinerary: a night out in DUMBO.

Stop 1: Have a homemade pasta dinner at Bevacco.

Skip nearby Noodle Pudding and come here. This classy and romantic Italian spot nestled in Brooklyn Heights does one thing better than any other place in New York: it makes it so you don’t have to go to Italy. Every pasta dish at Bevacco has a texture that’s thick, homemade, fresh, and riddled with garlic, seafood, and marinara in a light, yet indulgent way. Hit signature dishes include the asparagus avocado salad with hard-boiled egg, the branzino with spinach and pink peppercorn sauce, and the crispy and sensational bucatini aglio e oglio with toasted garlic and thick al fresco, homemade pasta. Complete the Bevacco experience with their cream-filled Il Bombolone doughnut, and you’ll be back for brunch the next day – guaranteed.

Stop 2: See Mies Julie  at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Have you ever been quieted and invigorated at the same time? Have you ever seen a show, and thought to yourself, “Did I really just see what I just saw?” This coming Sunday, the off-Broadway play Mies Julie – a post-apartheid drama about a night-in-the-life of a black farm laborer and his “master’s” daughter –  performs its last show at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which means you have only seven opportunities left to have a theatrical experience in Brooklyn that rivals anything in midtown.

Stop 3. Grab a drink at reBar.

This neighboring indie and intimate gastropub theatre is home to a savory French toast bursting with brie cheese batter and egg, over a dozen beers on tap, and an award-winning cinema that presents new indie movies and panels every weekend. And reBar’s theatre, known as reRun, serves homemade, hot pretzels you can eat while you’re watching the movie. I know, it’s like heaven. In Brooklyn. 

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Easy, If Breezy, Chicago: A Brief Guide For New Yorkers

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Say the words "Windy City" and by free association, we all think: Oprah, Obama, deep-dish pizza, Da’ Bears, and "brrrrr."  But there’s so much more!Dazzling architecture, outstanding city views, cordial Chicagoans, quirky neighborhoods and sunny, 60-degree mid-November weather––those are just some of the highlights of my recent 48-hour family trip into town. By "family," I mean me, a thirtysomething free spirit, and my parents (just imagine the crazy side of The Fockers). Could Chi-town handle us?

Upon arrival into O’Hare, we jumped on the easy-to-navigate, not to mention uber-clean CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and transformed quickly from savvy New Yorkers to dopey tourists, as we tried to understand the no-change metro machine policy. Luckily a CTA employee was helpful and midwesternly, and got us through the turnstyle gracefully.

We landed at our hotel, the JW Marriott––the baller of all Marriott’s––in the bustling, business-oriented Financial District. Located in a renovated historic national bank building, the shiny, marble hotel lobby and lounge was a nice, warm welcome.At nearly 500 square feet, our airy room offered everything we needed: two beds draped with fluffy duvets, a spa bathroom clad in Italian marble with a stand-alone tub, and supersized terry cloth robes.

Service was top-notch. For example, after some slight confusion over our room temperature (I’ll take full credit for that one), the front desk immediately had an engineer at our door. We called down a few other times for more bathroom products and additional pillows; everything was "no problem." The concierge helped us with maps and routes constantly––we wouldn’t have made it far without him.

At night, we’d sit with our laptops or novels in front of a cozy gas fireplace in a quiet corner of the lobby. How charming for a hotel we assumed was strictly a corporate hang. Good people watching too––wedding parties, football fans, first dates. Refreshing (and free!) orange cleansing water in the lobby kept us hydrated and happy.

But let’s discuss beyond the hotel. 

The first place we went was Magnificent Mile; about a 15-minute walk away, which initially, alarmingly, sort of felt like Times Square. Streets were crowded, tourists were crammed together. I worried we’d entered a bit of a migraine. That is, until we stumbled upon the iconic Wrigley Building. Powerful, stop-in-your-tracks, absolutely stunning!

Lunch was at the famous Giordano’s Pizza. While we wanted to try Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza, they only offered deep-dish crusts stuffed to the nines. This concept, us pizza purists found unappetizing, so we chose a basic thin crust pie. It was decent, but we’ve had better, like Grimaldi’s in Dumbo. Just a small strike, Chicago. (By the way, what’s a New Yorker doing in Chicago if not to say our pizza is better?!)

We were then off to Wicker Park, an edgy neighborhood dotted with vintage stores, cute coffee houses and loads of shopping options. The locals were a mix of real-deal artists, grungy hipsters and Lululemonized stroller moms. One trendy term that could be applied? Très Brooklyn. We felt right at home.

We hopped the subway after a few hours, and then took a bus to Hyde Park to see the Obama’s house. This was really exciting, especially to be there right after the election! We tried to bribe the secret service at the edge of his street for more personal scoop, but no luck. Alas, we were perfectly content just checking out the nice-but-modest digs.

Meanwhile, Chicago and the Chicagoans were really growing on us! Locals kept helping with directions and advice, and everyone was just so nice and patient. Every so often, we’d catch a glimmer of glamour on the regal streets. My mother alluded to Champs-Elysées more than once.  

We stopped at the Willis Tower SkyDeck—in the former Sears building—and rode up to the 103rd floor. I pushed my fear of heights aside as much as I could, and I’m glad I did. The view was breath-taking as we could see about 40 miles of city landscape, plus Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Don’t think my dad didn’t try to also re-enact the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that was filmed here.

For dinner, we shared plates at the celebrated Sable Kitchen & Bar, a gastro-lounge in the center of the River North neighborhood adjacent to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar. Spearheaded by Top Chef alum Heather Terhune, her seasonal dishes were out of this world. The menu was well balanced, as there was something for all of us, which, with a vegetarian mother and a meat-n-potatoes father, doesn’t happen often.

We started with the Butter Lettuce & Apple Salad with radicchio, grapes, smoked cashews & almonds and sherry-apple cider vinaigrette. Easily, the best salad of our lives. Our other favorite dishes were the brick oven flatbread with rosemary, brie, and house-made ricotta, butternut-squash apple soup, mini wild mushroom veggie burgers with red onion jam, and short rib sliders. This would definitely, no question, be our new family go-to spot if it were in New York. The food was fresh, flavorful and mouth-watering. Service was exceptional as the food came out perfectly timed to give our stomachs a brief rest. The dining room felt both calming and luminous. The staff was professional, warm and had serious culinary swagger. If you go to Chicago, you’d be crazy not to run here!  

We also had a lovely breakfast at Hoyt’s Chicago, inside Hotel 71, near Millennium Park. A sweet spot, with a nice street view. I very much appreciated that Hoyt’s is also part of my illy coffee cult.

At the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave. Chicago embraced us New Yorkers in a way we never expected. I’m happy to say, it’s a city I’m now totally in-sync with and can’t wait to touch down here again.

New York Openings: Rosco’s, Dieci Pizzeria & Osteria, Grimaldi’s

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Pizza. It’s no secret what it means to New Yorkers. To say we take pride in it is to restate a cliché that stretches back generations. Brooklyn’s newest pie palaces all nod to tradition, updating a classic form with the fresh ingredients of today. From Prospect Heights (Rosco’s) to East Williamsburg (Dieci Pizzeria & Osteria) to Coney Island (Grimaldi’s), the city’s pie horizon is only getting broader.

 
Rosco’s retro-styled spot is an ode to the classic Brooklyn pizza joint. A streamlined menu emphasizes New York-style pies, with Sicilian options and organic toppings. Beer (craft or root, growlers to go) and wine are on hand to wash it down. 
 
Pizza heavyweight Grimaldi’s has established a beachhead on the boardwalk. Pictures of the old and new Coney Island set a casual mood. Pizza comes hot from a coal-burning brick oven. The usual Grimaldi’s house rule are in place: no slices, no reservations, and no credit cards.
 
Dieci Pizzeria & Osteria brings a taste of Campania to East Williamsburg. Sustainable pizza ingredients get the wood-burning oven treatment. The menu fills out with antipasto, panini, and entrées like braciola stuffed with raisins and pine nuts. The outdoor space is as quaint as a southern Italian courtyard, should the weather ever break.

Longer Line, Better Food?

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This morning as I was lying in bed, Epicurious asked me an interesting question. What’s the longest I’ve ever waited in line for something edible? I usually scoff at the masses perennially lined up outside of Grimaldi’s in DUMBO. It’s just pizza, after all. And everyone knows the best time to get a slice at Artichoke is when you’re too drunk to notice its scalding cheese is ravaging the roof of your mouth.

Eater has their choice for longest line in New York. But does longest line equal longest wait? In Montreal, smoked meat emporium Schwartz’s is never without a procession of people. I hear the line up for a Pink’s hot dogs in Hollywood is a killer, while Tommy’s Hamburgers has a snake of line, but it moves. And to answer the original question, the longest I’ve ever waited in line for something edible was three hours this morning, for a bacon and egg McGriddle. They’re that good.