City of Blinding Lights {Part 1}

As most of you know, I will be relocating back to Florida at the end of the month. It’s something I’ve had on my mind for a while now and it just feels like the right move for me. I will certainly miss New York City but I thought it would be a great time to document some of my favorite things about the Big Apple. Since food is obviously the greatest thing about the city, I thought I would start off by discussing my favorite restaurants and bars.

Five Favorite NYC Restaurants

1. Empanada Mama – This is by far my favorite place in the city. Empanada Mama is the definition of “hole-in-the-wall.” It only seats about 30 people but it is definitely worth the wait. They serve over 50 different kinds of empanadas. I recommend the Hawaiian (pineapple, ham, and mozzarella cheese) and the Americano (hot dog and cheddar cheese). We can’t forget about the green salsa they serve with them. I wish they would send me a lifetime supply of it, I could eat it on everything.

2. Peanut Butter & Co. – This little Greenwich Village place is a great lunch spot. Everything on the menu contains some sort of peanut butter. From the classic PB&J to my favorite, The Elvis, which is peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon on grilled toast. To complete the experience, you must order a cold glass of milk to go with your sandwich.

3. Shake Shack – If you’ve been to NYC and haven’t been to Shack Shack, you’re missing out. These are easily the best burgers in all of Manhattan. Although there are several locations in the city, I recommend the one in Madison Square Park. You can enjoy your burger, crinkly cut fries, and peanut butter shake (the best) underneath towering trees and twinkling lights. Plus, you never have to fight for a table here.

4. The Meatball Shop – This Lower East Side hotspot definitely serves the greatest meatballs I’ve ever had (besides my mom’s, sorry). I’m a huge fan of the Smash- a sandwich where you select the type of meatball and sauce. The best part is the buttery garlic bread it’s served on. The classic tomato sauce on the beef meatballs is my top pick.

5. Dinosaur BBQ – Although I’ve only been here once (but have a second reservation for this coming Friday), it still makes my top 5 list. This phenomenal barbeque place is located up in Harlem right on the Hudson River. The night I went for dinner, we waited at least an hour and a half for a table but it was totally worth it. Everything from the ribs to the Syracuse style salt potatoes to the mini iceberg wedge salad served with their homemade dressing is delicious. Only word of advice, make a reservation a few weeks before you plan on going so you don’t have to wait!

Five Favorite NYC Bars

1. Bourbon Street – Is anyone really surprised that this is number one? Ever since my first month living here, this has been my go to spot on the Upper West Side. It reminds me of a typical college bar back in Orlando. Decent music, good mix of people, and $1 beers almost every night of the week. Plus, it’s only a short subway ride from my apartment. You can’t ever go wrong with Bourbon Street.

2. Brother Jimmy’s – There are several locations but the best is also on the Upper West Side right across from Bourbon Street. Thursdays are the best time to stop by and enjoy the happy hour specials. Their specialty drink is called Swamp Water and is served in a fishbowl complete with a plastic alligator. I love the Southern feel of this place and their barbeque isn’t too bad either. They even have specials for Southern residents on Wednesday nights. It’s like it was meant to be.

3. Blockheads/Mother Burger – The frozen drinks are the reason these spots made the list. They have $4 margaritas and frozen pink lemonades every night of the week. The mediocre Mexican food at Blockheads is nothing to write home about and the food at Mother Burger is decent, but I really love the specialty drinks. Plus, this location has a giant outdoor space which is perfect on a warm, summer day.

4. Pier i Cafe – This place is only a 10 minute walk from my apartment but I just recently discovered it. It’s hidden below W 70th Street right on the water. It’s located on a pier (hence the name) and is the perfect place to watch the sunset with a big group of friends. I felt as if I was back in Florida minus the palm trees and white sand.

5. Le Bain at The Standard Hotel – I’ve been to several rooftop bars but they are usually full of trendy people and overpriced drinks. Although Le Bain is quite pricey and has a tough door, it is worth the trip to the Meatpacking District. The main floor of the bar is closed in and consists of about two overhead lights (you can’t even see your feet) and a small pool overlooking the lights of the city. They even offer a bikini vending machine in case you forgot your suit. The top floor mimics a backyard with astro turf, upscale patio furniture, and white leather couches. The cucumber lemon coolers are totally worth the $14 price tag.

{Honorable Mention} Angels & Kings – This East Village bar was my absolute favorite spot in the city until it got shut down about 3 months ago. Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy owned this bar as well as the ones in LA, Chicago, and Barcelona. A&K had a lounge-type feel, full of red velvet couches and black furniture. This was the rockstar hangout so it was clear why I was a frequent visitor here. RIP.

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