New New York

If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere, says the song "New York, New York".I'm in complete agreement! Although not a native of NY, I came here as an immigrant and learned to love the apple, worms and all!

New New York

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 23, 2001

200 words? I'll never make it...I need more space! Would you believe the Sunday New York Times? It definitely ranks in the top 5 for me. Walking in Manhattan on a sunny day, let's choose West Broadway; or Orchard Street; or Mulberry Street in the village; or South Street Seaport ; or on the upper West Side around 86th Street; shopping..I need 1,000 words leeway on this; Corona in Queens with its Latin flavor; the street festivals ; the culture, culture , culture. Flea Markets especially the one in Belmont Racetrack; the NY Book Festival; the Gift Show at the Jacob Javits Center; the restaurants in their infinite variety; arriving at JFK; leaving from JFK; Lincoln Center; how much room do I have left?${QuickSuggestions} Don't come to New York with prejudice. Also, don't come to New York for a day; it's too huge a concept to swallow. Book ahead from wherever you live and use the net as some deals are amazing. You can find hotels for under $100 in Manhattan and don't discount the classifieds in the NY Times and the Travel Section as well. Don't drive during rush hour, and if you can manage, don't drive at all in the city. Public transportation is fast, safe and crowded, but you'll get there. If you're staying for a week, get a Metro Pass for same. Staying Longer? get the unlimited kind. Explore beyond Manhattan; famed Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn; Astoria and Bayside in Queens . Buy the City Pass which will discount your museum tickets.${BestWay} Take the bus or the subway. For very short hops in the city at night, take a cab. If you're visiting for the first time, and wish to drive, you'll be a wreck by the time you leave.

For more on New York go to these journals:

Weekend in Manhattan
World Trade Center

For venturing ouside New York City

Long Island


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 31, 2001

The rates now may be slightly higher, but this hotel was one of our best finds. The entrance is so "timid" that you''d miss it unless you knew exactly where it was.

One of the greatest joys of living in New York is being able to stay in the city overnight. And both Chuck and I did that a lot. If both of us were working for a stretch of time, or if we wanted to spend an entire weekend here, we''d make reservations and off we went.

The first time we went to the "Cosmo" as we affectionately called it, we got a duplex room. This means that the bed was upstairs in a kind of alcove; watch your head in this type of situation. It was actually very different from anything we had ever experienced. There was a TV upstairs, but it did get a bit tricky if you had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Stairs were steep. The hotel was exceptionally clean, and provided the necessities. We did come equipped however, with our luxuries. That means soaps, bath gels, shampoos, conditioners, and a hair dryer.

The closet provided was a bit small, but adequate for a couple of days'' worth of clothing. There is a small desk with a light and one armchair. In addition to the A/C, they have overhead fans which are heaven in the summer months, as it does get quite hot. The people patronizing the hotel were mostly young tourists. The people at the desk were always super friendly and polite. No room service, no restaurant on the premises: however, you are literally surrounded on all sides there by cafes, restaurants, a green grocer across the street that had fresh flowers. On one occasion, we did get a "normal" room where everything was on the same level. Wasn''t as much fun actually, and there was no view of the street, but rather a wall. It''s one of New York''s greatest bargains!

If you are driving, parking is murder. What we did is find a spot, and left the car there, and took the subway wherever we wanted, except when we would be going to a night club. The World Trade Center is a stone's throw from here.

For other New York hotels:

Essex House

Cosmopolitan Hotel
95 West Broadway
New York, New York, 10007
(212) 566-1900

Boubon Street Café

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 23, 2001

The Bourbon Street Café has been tempting me for the past couple of years, everytime I drive on Bell Boulevard on the way to something else. The name always takes me back to New Orleans, when a group of us were actually on Bourbon , listening to a live singing trio and dancing in the streets.

Unlike most of the other restaurants on this stretch, it occupies a rather large space. The reason for that is that they have 2 rooms for dining and 1 large room for the bar area, where the noise is deafening. One of the things that Chuck and I found most unpleasant during our dinner was that we couldn't hear each other unless we shouted. They have a pitiful glass separation that doesn't even make it to the ceiling to project some feeling of privacy. Forget it.

The decor is somewhat cajun with plumed masks on the arches, and something they refer to as art on the walls. The lighting is awful because they haven't decided whether to turn them off, or down. So they're in between. The booths are very comfortable, with very high leather backs. So much for ambiance.

The food was fantastic. It's American/Cajun mostly, and I've got to tell you, that lobster bisque is deadly. It's so creamy, with a slight sherry taste coming through and filled with morsels of lobster that I didn't want to finish it. Believe it or not, they serve the bisque only on Saturday and Sunday. Chuck had a Caesar salad with chicken which he seemed to appreciate quite a bit. He had the house red wine which seemed to go down unhindered. For the entrée, we shared the blackened catfish which was a bit overdone, but delicious, and a bit on the spicy side as expected. I ended the meal with my Earl Gray addiction.

The menu is interesting; jambalaya is featured, and I wonder if it's as good as the one I had down in New Orleans. The salad area is basically Caesar with variations. There is plenty of pasta and chicken/shrimp dishes. It should have been prawns actually, if they wanted to stay true to the theme. The usual burgers and steaks and a kid's menu.

Interestingly, they offer a jazz Sunday brunch for $12.95 which touts eggs benedict (my favorite, when I go for real eggs), pecan waffles with apple butter, omelettes, and Bourbon Steak & Eggs. My daughter had brunch here with her aunts, and reported back that it was great.

Another major objection we both had were the TV screens in the dining area. It was as if we were in the tower of Babel. Extremely noisy. I'd go back just for the bisque. It's awesome.

Bourbon Street Cafe
4012 Bell Boulevard
Queens, New York, 11361
718) 224-2200

P. F. Chang's

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 25, 2001

P.F. Chang's has various locations throughout the US. Although it claims that its cuisine is traditional Chinese, I thought it was more like pan-Asian, or some sort of fusion Chinese. It is always crowded, but even with the 30 minute wait we were given, since they are usually in major malls, one can always browse for the waiting time.

The decor is interesting; large stone lion statues are prominently displayed on both sides (symbol of guardians during the Tang Dynasty) of the dining room which is cleverly divided by the bar area. They also had a replica of one of the soldiers whose army they uncovered in a buried city. Further authenticity is revealed by hand painted murals, and several fine examples of calligraphic art also adorn the walls. The atmosphere is lively, and the service is attentive, although they are unforgivably slow to get your bill. Chuck waited over thirty minutes to pay for the meal. That is inexcusable.

We took Julie, our French exchange student, with us and she was flabbergasted at the choices offered to her on the menu. In fact, she read it several times and eventually, I ended up ordering for her.

We started with the Harvest Spring Rolls which were lightly fried and melted in your mouth with a filling of shredded veggies. Next came the Malaysian Chicken which was out of this world: a mixture of coconut milk, peanuts raisins in a curry sauce with extra shredded coconut and plum sauce raisins on the side. Needless to say, I sprinkled the whole thing on the chicken. We also partook in shrimp double pan friend noodles, which were a bit reminiscent of pad thai, but crispy instead of soft. That too was excellent. You can enjoy wine, which is anything but traditional Chinese. The dessert menu is very interesting and very American. Cheesecake, cappuccino? Also a selection of blended teas. The bar area was humming with activity, mostly with couples or couples in the making.

Enjoy a fine glass of wine from our extensive wine list and be sure to save room for our wonderful American desserts. Treat yourself to savory sweets such as New York Style Cheesecake, the Great Wall of Chocolate -- six layers of sinfully rich chocolate cake -- and the Temple of Heaven -- a flourless chocolate espresso dome adorned with fresh seasonal berries. Round out your experience with a cappuccino, espresso or after dinner liquor.

P F Chang's China Bistro Inc
1504 Old Country Road
New York, New York, 11590
(516) 222-9200

The Cheesecake Factory

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on September 3, 2001

You don't need to be in New York to experience the Cheesecake Factory; they are in several other states/cities, usually nestled in a large mall. When they first opened, I imagined them offering mega portions of decadent New York cheesecake; well, not far from the truth, however, there's a lot more to them than meets the eye.

Aside from listing 34 varieties of cheesecake in their dessert section, they have a most interesting and eclectic menu. I'd call it fusion. Certainly nothing American about some of the food they serve. Before I go into the type of foods, let me whet your appetite with unusual cheesecake conconctions: Southern Pecan Cheesecake; White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle; Tiramisu Cheesecake; Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake; White Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Nut Cheesecake; Oreo Cheesecake...had enough?? If you're not into cheesecake, you can have ice cream, or carrot cake, or chocolate mousse cake. You also have a good choice of espresso based drinks, teas, and frozen "smoothies".

We walked in there for lunch and were spooked by the size of the individual portions. We decided to share the Pad Thai and it was exquisitely prepared. There were limes on the side, so if you want to enhance the lemongrass flavoring of this dish, squeeze some lime on top. No need to go to Bangkok! The people next to us were enjoying angel hair marinara, Straw & Hay linguini; Tuscan Chicken Salad. They took more food back than they were able to ingest. I think this is the case with most everyone who comes here.

Aside from the Italian specialties, you'll find a half dozen hamburger styles, steaks, Thai foods, Vietnamese food, omelettes, some cajun specialties, chicken dressed with orange, marsala, madeira, teriyaki, peanut sauce, etc...Oh, I don't want to forget the pizza menu, and the long appetizer list. So, cheesecake, yes, but not all inclusive.

Decor is fusion as well; some tropical plants, some art deco (lighting); some romanesque (stained walls).

The wait staff is particularly pleasant, although not always prompt. By the way, they ship their desserts, and if you want to order one of their marvels, you can call them at 1-800-330-CAKE. Bon appetit!


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 31, 2001

Iguanas opened less than 2 years ago on a very competitive stretch of tar called Union Turnpike. I have seen restaurants born and killed on Union; sometimes, as I drive by, I will wonder out loud how long such and such has been there.

The first time we went to Iguanas (it has become a fave for the whole family), we had read a review in one of the Queens news journals, and it sounded fun. The owners greeted us at that time, but those days are gone. There is a bar, naturally, whose raucous noise you can't escape, but the music on the dining side makes up for the distraction. On weekends, there is a Mexican guitarist to enchant you with old ballads from south of the border. The decor is a bit overdone, with gold sundial, masks, garlic and fake hanging vegetables and a fish tank at the entrance. You get free hors d'oeuvres at Happy Hour, but I don't know what those are, since I never get that happy.

What I like the most are the tables with their very bright and cheerful cloths onto which they have installed a glass barrier which is quite smart as it cuts down on the laundry bill. The virgin Piña colada is good, and I hear that the margaritas are terrific. The menu is ample: quesadillas, flautas, guacamole, pico de gallo, chimichangas as appetizers. Chorrizo, Steak, Shrimp, or Chicken in a variety of entrees with rice and beans, vegetables, etc.. I do recommend one item on the menu which is fabulous especially if you are not dining alone: it's called the Tower, and that's exactly what it is: a 3 tiered tower which on the first level offers meat filled tacos, second level has crusty-melt in your mouth chicken flautas, and the third is quesadillas with sour cream and guacamole. We tried the cheese cake chimichanga, and were shocked to see an entire plate of rolled cheeke cake in dough (6 large servings). It was delicious, but the greater part of it went into a doggie bag. There have been times prior where the food was absolutely awful: too greasy, burned, etc..I think they must have changed chefs in the last month or two.

They also redid the facade of the restaurant in green which definitely calls for attention.

Iguana Mexican Cuisine
17911 Union Turnpike
New York, New York, 11366
(718) 969-5447

AMC Empire Theaters

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 23, 2001

I host foreign exchange students in my home, and had promised this particular student to take her to see a movie in Manhattan. She had studied English for 6 years in her native France, so I thought a movie like Shrek shouldn't be too difficult to appreciate.

You can get there fairly easily by subway; the E train stops at 42nd street, and has an exit near 8th Avenue. Or if you take the wrong exit, as we did, you can walk for a block or two, and have the neon signs blow your mind. The relatively new Tussaud Wax Museum is right on this block as well. We were going for a 6pm showing, so rivers of people were spilling onto the streets, as usual.

If you've never been here, you'll be amazed. There are 6 floors, connected by escalators and an elevator which is in dire need of some speed. There are 26 screens in this structure; Shrek was showing on the 6th floor, so we had to take the elevator. Tickets are $9.50 for adults and slightly less for children. The reason for this, I assume, is that the seats are not ordinary: they all have high backs so you can really get comfortable. Also the screens are humongous, and it almost feels like an IMAX. What I liked the most is that they do away with the coming attraction bit. It drives me insane.

Shrek is a delicious movie made hilarious by the contributions of Eddie Murphy's voice as the donkey. If you wish to distill the whole thing down, it's an ogre meets princess story, ogre/princess fall in love, ogre gets princess. The fiery dragon turns out to be a lady who has the hots for the donkey. Cameron Diaz lends her voice to the princess and the ogre is very believable in Mike Myers' voice. The characters are almost lifelike. Go for it!

As a postscript, it's good to know that you'll be assaulted by restaurants when you get out of the movies, so take your pick. We did TGIF.

AMC Empire
234 West 42nd St
New York, New York, 10036
+1 212 398 3939

South Street Seaport

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on August 28, 2001

This is one of my favorite destinations, especially when the weather is warm. The Seaport has changed faces so many times since I've been living in New York. You can still smell the odor of fish if you park behind the seaport and walk your way into the hub; the street has been repaved in cobblestone with shops on both sides, and restaurants offering al fresco dining. What the Fulton Market used to call home is now an immense shopping center with a food court of amazing proportions. I liked it best when it housed a meat market primarily, and then there were some gourmet shops of coffees, bakeries and the like.

On weekends, especially in the summer, there are always innovative acts of one man shows, jugglers, fire eaters, magicians, break dancers, and ad hoc musicians who just beat on a variety of plastic containers and manage to produce rhythms.

One of the greatest acts is that of a Latin dancer with his life-size doll partner, if you're lucky to catch him. He will bring tears to your eyes. Mid-summer, they have a week long craft show with tents which are set up on the cobblestone walkway. There are also free music concerts and dance cruises departing from the seaport. We have been there during the day, and at night. Expect some great seafood dishes, although the clam chowder will never come close to Boston. There are also a couple of sea-oriented stores with gifts from the sea. They also have some amazing natural stones for sale, as well as innovative jewelry made with shells and the like.

If you need brand names, you'll find them here, mostly indoors. Sharper Image, Bath & Body, Victoria's Secret, Banana Republic, Coach Leather, Express; The Body Shop and Abercrombie and Fitch are on the promenade. There is also the Seaport Museum which you can visit, the Nature companpy also has a store here which is fun to shop as there are always interesting things to learn. If you don't want to shop or eat, you can go to the second or third level, sit on a bench and drown in the breathtaking view of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge.

South Street Seaport and Seaport Museum
Fulton & South Streets, Pier 17
New York, New York, 10038
(212) 732-8257

Bastille Day-French Independence

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on September 3, 2001

Very French; there is a need to expand this venue a couple of more blocks because there really was no room to navigate at all. The music and dance stage took up some room, plus they had cordoned off a section for children's races in the street, and that also took up more room. I expected French music here, but instead, we got reggae, which is just as well. Chuck and I got up on stage and let it all hang out. The kids were the best dancers, as you'll see in the pics.

They had French appetizers available, but nothing substantial, as the French restaurants lining the street on both sides were participants. So, we went into one of them and had a fabulous lunch and were serenaded by a French crooner who sang La Vie En Rose and other oldies. The place was packed with people. There was quite a bit of publicity for French companies and products; also a chance to win a trip to Paris. Hereagain, you can inhale some French culture in New York without some of the rudeness you encounter on the streets of Paris by dog-toting women. This happens every year, so plan to be there! July 14th is the date.

Bastille Day - French Independence
East 60th Street
New York, New York

Strand Bookstore

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Ishtar on December 24, 2001

This is a bibliophile’s dream and nightmare at the same time. It is cluttered with books, although they have made a commendable attempt at labeling sections for easy viewing. You know that you are nearing Strand’s because of the sheer number of outside bookracks that line both sides of the store, since it’s very conveniently located on a corner. Whatever the subject you will find it here and then some.

I always start with the outside racks, just in case. It’s really hard to see every single book that’s out there, although I’d love to. You can find paperbacks sometimes for 50 cents! On the other hand, if you are looking for rare books, you need not go elsewhere. Strand is famous for their claim of "8 miles of books" and I wouldn’t doubt it. They occupy 5 of 11 floors at this location. I haven’t been upstairs or downstairs yet so you can imagine; and to boot, I live here. If you think it’s impossible to exhaust a subject, you need to pay Strand a visit.

The nightmare part is made up of the very narrowest possible aisles where you can barely squeeze by, and if you were 8 feet tall, then you could browse the books that are stored all the way up there. They’re not all vertical mind you.

And if you’re looking for a place to sit, or a cappuccino to go with that great photography book you found, forget it. This is not Barnes & Noble or Borders. However, it is one of the few extremely successful and enduring independent bookstores around. It was founded in the late 1920’s and is still owned by the same family. They have another store downtown Manhattan on Fulton Street, but I’ve never been there. They are very conveniently located just minutes from Union Square , so if you’re taking the subway, this is the stop you’ll need. Their website is impressive, and you can shop on line, download their catalogue (how on earth does anyone do this incredible work?) and since they also deal in used books, you can buy or sell. Books are usually priced at 50% off and sometimes more. I am a passionate reader and I do like the fact that Strand does not judge a book by its cover. There are books on view here that would be censored elsewhere. Freedom of speech and the press is practiced here and one thing you really don’t see here are children. They would probably get trampled; if not stacked along side the books that have not been put away yet! And as books arrive continuously, the situation of disarray is eternal. The staff is responsive, but not terribly well mannered especially when they tell you to get on line to pay for the books. If you don’t take it personally, you’ll come back again and again.

Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway
New York, New York, 10003
(212) 473-1452

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