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2 Short Trips to NYC: Broadway, Opera, Tenements, Hotels, Cholesterol

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Apr 26th, 2015, 06:55 AM
  #1
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2 Short Trips to NYC: Broadway, Opera, Tenements, Hotels, Cholesterol

It costs just $5.50 to fly from Boston to New York. Here’s my report on 2 April trips. (More about the $5.50 fare later on.)

First trip was a mid-week one-nighter staying at the Holiday Inn-Lower East Side on Delancey St, pretty much at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. The Lower East Side is very much in transition these days, pulled one way by gentrification and the other way by the denizens who have been around for a while. I much prefer staying in a neighborhood instead of Times Sq, and this hotel fits the bill. The welcome at the hotel was pleasant enough, and the room size surprisingly generous for NYC.

Late lunch/early supper was, of course, at Katz’s Deli, an easy 5- or 10-minute walk from the hotel. I didn’t expect a crowd at 3pm, but the place was mobbed. I guess people needed to bulk up on their cholesterol numbers. Whatever. The pastrami was as delicious as usual, an ideal NYC meal. Back to the hotel to change, then a subway ride uptown for tonight’s show, The Audience with Helen Mirren. (Oh – another big plus for the Holiday Inn is that it’s just a half-block from the subway.)

I’ve been a fan of Mirren ever since I first saw her on TV 25 years ago or so as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. She plays Queen Elizabeth in The Audience, in a series of imagined private conversations with many of the Prime Ministers who’ve served during her reign. Mirren is terrific, and the staging -- especially the on-stage costume/make-up changes -- is worthwhile, but the play itself didn’t do much for me. Lots of parallels with Bryan Cranston and All The Way – great performance by a star, and not much else.

A late breakfast the next morning at Shopsin’s, in the Essex Market a block from my hotel. Shopsin’s is a place that cannot conceivably be duplicated: the food is delicious, and the ambience is preposterous. (To find out more, see the documentary “I Like Killing Flies.”) I had Bombay Blisters on my Sisters (sunnyside-up eggs, cheddar cheese, rice, beans, greens, tortillas, chickpeas, potato curry, and undoubtedly more). Kenny Shopsin wasn’t there, which made life easier for everyone involved I suspect. Anyway, if you’ve never been to Shopsin’s it’s very much something to do. Just be aware of the rules before you go.

After arranging for a front-end loader to take me back to the hotel, I hauled myself 2 or 3 blocks over to the wonderful Tenement Museum (corner of Orchard & Delancey) for much of the afternoon. The museum is actually in an old tenement house, and it’s an eye-opening place. Very definitely worth going out of your way to visit.

Second trip was Fri and Sat nights at the Waldorf. I wouldn’t usually stay there (one of the least interesting locations in NYC), but I had a 2-night weekend freebie at any Hilton worldwide courtesy of the Hilton Reserve credit card, and a combination of bad luck and my own mismanagement meant that I couldn’t use the nights for upcoming trips to Italy and Hong Kong. The lobby is nice, in its own way, and the soap was ok, but it’s hard for me to think of a good reason to stay there again.

The main reason for going was to see the new production of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci at the Met. Of the operas that I know, none has music as sumptuous as Cavalleria Rusticana. The soaring harmonies in Inneggiamo and the ear candy of the Intermezzo are wonderful, and the Met chorus, orchestra, and soloists did them justice. Yeah, the tickets are expensive, but it was surely worth it to me. I’m not as crazy about the music in Pagliacci, though it was nice to see a new take on the production.

A wonderful surprise was seeing Hand to God, which was very much a last-minute decision. This is a riotously funny play (most of the time, anyway), and one of the most incredible performances I’ve seen in a long time by the male lead, Steven Boyer. So now two of my all-time favorite shows prominently feature puppets of one sort or another (this show, and the incomparable War Horse). Who knew?

The second trip also had a major food highlight: the hamburger at DB Bistro. Back some years ago – and I’m talking about the 1950s – I’d occasionally get taken to New York City, and my very favorite place to eat was called Hamburger Heaven. I didn’t think there was any chance that HH was still around (which alas is true), but reading about them online brought me to an article written by another Hamburger Heaven fan, who both rued its demise and spoke glowingly about the burgers at DB Bistro. He was right: the DB burger is as good as it gets. Oh lordy, lordy. Well yes, it isn’t cheap ($35, but it does include fries!), but isn’t a 4-hour smile worth thirty-five bucks?

Now, about that $5.50 flight between Boston and New York. For all of the (legitimate) complaints about frequent flyer programs and the problems of getting award tickets, there are still some very easy targets out there. One of them is using British Airways miles (called Avios) on short flights. Unlike long-haul flights using BA awards, there’s no surcharge on short flights in the U.S. on BA partners such as US Airways. And BA awards are mileage-based – a 1-way flight between Boston and New York costs only 4500 Avios, plus $5.50. Plus, there’s almost always very good award availability for such short flights, because most people using awards tend to go for longer-distance flights. And it's easy to get BA miles without ever flying on their airplanes -- 50k miles is usually available as a sign-up bonus with the BA credit card, or get 50k Ultimate Reward points (and transfer them 1:1 to BA) with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
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Apr 26th, 2015, 07:03 AM
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Will be in Manhattan tomorrow (which I suspect you already know) and thanks for posting your report. Confirms my own plans perfectly.
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Apr 26th, 2015, 08:43 AM
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Yikes, I just scrolled thru yelp pictures and the menu at Shopsins. It's certainly an LSD inspired menu.

http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/shops...LMtmwEhMwASgWw
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Apr 26th, 2015, 12:38 PM
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What a fun review:

We (college roommates from decades ago) just did a long weekend in NYC, last weekend in March. Terrible, cold, windy, but so what, Its NYC!

We had a Katz Deli experience, our first. Let's just say, next time we will know the rules. Reuben sandwich was fantastic.

We, too, saw The Audience and loved every minute of it. Have you seen The Woman in Gold?

Finally, also our first visit to the Tenement Museum. We scheduled two separate tours, and were disappointed that there was so much overlapping of information. NEver the less, a worthwhile experience.
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Apr 26th, 2015, 01:02 PM
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Great reports - we stay in the LES when a friend's apartment is available and have come to really love the neighbourhood. Glad you enjoyed Essex Market and the Tenement Museum!
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Apr 26th, 2015, 06:53 PM
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Great report. Next time try the black label burger at Minetta Tavern.
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Apr 26th, 2015, 10:14 PM
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For inexpensive burgers in the East Village

Black Iron Burger
Paul's Da Burger Joint

For one step up in price and a bit fancier:
Brindle Room
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Apr 26th, 2015, 10:17 PM
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What a fun trip report! Katz's is one of my earliest childhood memories. Sounds like two great weekends.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 10:12 AM
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mclaurie, I'm looking forward to trying the burger at DB Bistro - we were sorely disappointed by the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern last year (and we had been looking forward to it for a year)
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Apr 27th, 2015, 01:18 PM
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We all had burgers at PJ Clarke, original on 3rd avenue. Delish!
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Apr 27th, 2015, 04:46 PM
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@Sf7307 & @McLaurie - If you are burger fans, you must try the offering at JG Melon's on the UES. No frills, but positively excellent!
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Apr 27th, 2015, 05:38 PM
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What fun! I love Katz's, and I love staying in various neighborhoods. We had a great stay in Chinatown last year .
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