New York City – Times Square

Renaissance Time Square
Hotel is located in the middle of Times Square. The play some cool, upbeat music as you walk in – makes you feel very hip. It’s a small check-in area but once you are all checked in, you take an elevator to the main lobby.

It was a great location – you are able to catch a cab, subway or bus anywhere you need to go in the city. It’s about a 10 minute walk to Rockfeller Center and of course right in the Theater District.

We have stayed in New York City a few times and the hotel rooms are generally smaller but the rooms here were larger. We didn’t feel cramped at all. The decor is simple, clean and modern. We had a great view of the city from our room too and we didn’t hear a whole lot of street noise. It was also clean which is a high on my list of things I look for in a hotel. The shower had a modern mosaic design which was nice. We would definitely stay there again.

It was nice to have the R Lounge and bar inside the hotel as well if we wanted to get a quick bite or drink at the bar. The concierge was very helpful. His name was Omar. We were planning to stand in line at the main Ticket Stand in Times Square for some broadway tickets and he suggested we go directly to the theaters. He also helped us pick out a few shows to see and printed up some discount tickets. We ended up seeing Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages. We were able to great seats to both shows and probably saved around 30% on the tickets. The line at that ticket stand was ridiculous and it was COLD outside. So glad that Omar helped us get some tickets to some good shows. He also gave us great directions to Greenich Village to get to our Food Tour.

Quick Tip: There are all kinds of restaurants and little hole in the walls on every street. You can definitely find great places to eat that are reasonably priced or even inexpensive. We like to use Yelp and of course your hotel concierge can make some recommendations.

Evergreen Diner – Theater District
The concierge at our hotel recommended this place. It’s a diner and it seems like it’s always busy. Pretty standard food – we went there for breakfast and had eggs, toast, potatoes and bacon. Coffee was ok. I think it was just under $25 with tip for the two of us. Pretty reasonable prices for being in the middle of Time Square.

Margon’s – Theater District
Found this place on YELP – think it’s a tiny, family owned business. It’s so tiny we missed it walking down the street and had to turn back around. Glad we turned around because this was exactly what we were looking for breakfast. Eggs, bacon, potatoes, tostada, cafe con leche – Yum. This place was cheap for NYC in the Theater District. We definitely paid less than $20 for breakfast including the tip. We saw them making the Cuban sandwiches before we left and ended up coming back there for lunch. We ordered the Cuban Sandwich and it was really good too. They offer a lot of traditional dishes cafeteria style like arroz con gandules and pernil. They gave us a free sample of some chicken drummette which I really enjoyed too.

R Lounge – Renaissance Time Square
Light fare here (appetizers, salads, sandwiches) and some pretty pricey drinks. Our drinks were about $15 each. Best thing about this place is the VIEW. You can see all of TImes Square from here. Definitely hold out for a seat by the front window. I recommend making reservations too. It gets busy early because people stopping in pre-show. We had some cheeseburger sliders which were good. Enjoyed the drinks and the view more!

Empanada Mama – Hell’s Kitchen
Busy little place in Hell’s Kitchen. We were actually lost and stumbled onto this place. Is was so busy there was a line out the door. We were lucky to find a small table for two inside. This place is tiny – you are practically having a meal with your neighbors. The empanadas were really good – I would definitely try the cuban. That was my favorite and the waiter recommended it. In addition to the empanadas, we ordered some tostones which were delicious too.

Magnolia Bakery – nearby Rockefeller Center
Extremely busy bakery near Rockefeller Center. All of their cakes and pastries looked delicious. I only had a cookie and coffee which were average. Jonathan ordered the carrot cake which he really enjoyed. It’s a pretty touristy bakery and seems to always be busy but the line moves pretty quickly.

The MET (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Features fine art (ancient to contemporary) exhibits and special exhibitions. The museum is so big that you could probably visit a few times and not see everything in there. From Times Square, we had to take a couple of trains and walk a few blocks to get there.

Rockefeller Center/Radio City Hall

Quick Tip: Go directly to the theater to purchase your broadway tickets. Check with your concierge or online to find some discount coupons.

Rock of Ages
Fun and energetic show with all the classic rocks songs from the 80’s. They try to create a rock concert feel at the show and some people stood up and danced. I loved it!

Jersey Boys
Show was about the backstory of the Four Seasons and of course featured Classic Four Seasons music.

Overall it was a great trip. We stayed from Thursday through Friday which was an adequate amount of time to enjoy the city. I could have probably stayed n extra day just to shop! The weather was perfect too – right around the 50s most of the days. We had one rainy day but not so bad that we couldn’t walk around the city. I think November was an ideal time for us to go. We went the weekend before Thanksgiving so we missed all the extra holiday visitors in the city plus the snow storm that was coming in the day we left. I was glad to have brought some comfortable boots because you pretty much have to walk to get anywhere.20140104-211857.jpg

New York City Food Tour

Quick Tip: Early morning weekday flights (around 6am) are pretty empty. We had a row all to ourselves.

We flew into LaGuardia which is a pretty short trip to the city. Our departing flight was out of JFK and that takes at least 30-45 minutes to get there. Cab fare is a fixed price but still more expensive than the cab ride from LaGuardia. We arrived early on a Thursday morning and decided to go on a mid-day food tour since check-in at our hotel wasn’t until 3pm.

I did some research prior to the trip and we decided on a Central Greenwich Village tour through Foods of New York Tours. Many of the other tours we looked at seemed to be more snack type items like a little dessert, sample of coffee, etc. The official name of the tour was Central Greenwich Village (and a bit of SoHo) Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour.

We stayed in the Times Square area and we were able to take a single train downtown just a couple of blocks from our meeting place. Raheem was our tour guide and he was very knowledgable about the neighborhood and it’s history. We also walked through Washington Square on our way to the last few stops in SoHo.

Be sure to come with an appetite because they served up some decent size portions at each of the stops. There is also an opportunity to order some wine and cocktails at a couple of the stops. Below is a list of all the stops we made during our tour.

Cafe Dante – Oldest Italian Cafe/Eatery in Greenwich Village
We enjoyed an Italian Mortadella & Mozzarella Sandwich on Ciabatta Bread at this cafe. It was delicious and I was actually a little full after eating the half size sandwich. The ciabatta bread was so tasty and toasty right off the press. Raheem told us this was an old school type of cafe – no electronic devices and laptops allowed. They believe in not being distracted by the different types of media available today and just want you to enjoy your book and your cup of coffee and/or food while you visit.

Masala Times – Indian Street Food Eatery
This little place was quite busy and we sampled a generous size Indian Kati Roll. A kati roll is authentic street food like you would find on the streets of Bombay. It consisted of scrambled eggs, peppers, seasoned heavily with cumin wrapped in buttery type grilled tortilla. Place had signage with funny comparisons between Bollywood and Hollywood movie scenes.

Monte’s – Homestyle Italian Restaurant
This was our initial meetup point. Authentic Italian restaurant which had been there since 1918. When we arrived, Jonathan was pretty hungry so we ordered an appetizer while waiting for the rest of the tour group to arrive. Jonathan chose a portabella mushroom with a balsamic vinegar sauce. I have to say it didn’t look very appetizing when I saw it but turned out to be pretty good. Raheem had mentioned that most good Italian restaurants were no longer located in Little Italy so don’t go there expecting to find authentic Italian restaurants with grandma cooking in the kitchen. Supposedly many Chinese business owners have bought up some the restaurants in that area. We circled back here mid-way through the tour for small bowl of Bolognese pasta. We were able to pair with a glass of wine or beer for an additional $10. I enjoyed the pasta but would strongly recommend it with the grated cheese they had on the side. I can’t recall the type of cheese it was but it wasn’t Parmesan.

Porto Rico Importing Co – coffee and tea shop which offered every type of coffee bean you could imagine. It smelled yummy in there. We didn’t get a sample of anything at this stop but Raheem gave us a few minutes to shop.

Minetta Tavern
Quick stop in front where Raheem told us about many of the well known poets and writers such as Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings used to frequent this steak house. It’s supposedly a great steakhouse with great reviews online.

Cuba – Cubano Restaurant
This was one of my favorite stops since I love a good empanada! We sampled a couple of different types of empanada and of course some maduros. We were able to add on mojitos at this stop for and additional $10 and they were really yummy! The restaurant was really cute – I remember a lot of brick everywhere. We sat in a private room where they had a bunch of pretty white curtains hanging from the ceiling. Reminded me of the early scene from Mr. And Mrs. Smith with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt when they got together in Cuba.

Sullivan Tea and Spice
Stopped in the visit this historic store front and shopped for a few minutes. Jonathan and I had to purchase some truffle salt which smelled delicious – perfect for seasoning popcorn, potatoes, etc. I added it to some homemade mac and cheese and it was pretty good! They had a wide variety of cute jars and tins to choose from for each of your purchases. The back door was an original door with speak easy opening.

Raffetto’s Pasta Shop
Quick stop here to visit this pasta shop that has been open since 1906. Jonathan and I love all the fresh foods that you can purchase daily in the city. How nice would it be to stop by here and pick up some fresh ravioli for dinner on your way home from work?

Rabbits – American Eatery
This was a tiny little place on the edge of SoHo. We sampled a pureed tomato soup there. I was too full to try it and Jonathan said it was ok. Reviews online are varied from real great to mediocre. It was a tight squeeze for all of us in there and I didn’t get a good look at their menu. They do serve breakfast and lunch – mostly sandwiches I think.

Once Upon a Tart – Bakery/Cafe/Eatery
At this stop, we sampled a French Chocolate Pear Tart. I was still too stuffed but Jonathan said it was pretty good.

Popped in really quickly where Raheem introduced us to the Chef – Abby Hitchcock. She used to be the chef on the Martha Stewart Show. Raheed said that she hosts dining in the dark events quite frequently too.

Washington Square
You can see the Empire State Building in the background behind the mini Arch of Triumph.

Central Greenwich Village food tour

This video is mostly from our Central Greenwich Village Food tour.

We had at least 8 different bites, and I liked everything but the Indian food. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

To find out what we ate and where we ate it, read Rachel’s post on New York City – Food Tour.