There was a lot of time to kill during my trip to the East Coast. After all, most of my friends have Real Jobs and are busy during the day. The ones who don’t have Real Jobs either have kids, or internships or, you know, their lives keeping them busy. So, that means that The Boy and I had a lot of time to check out restaurants, stores, museums, and other awesome places about which I want to shout from the rooftops!
Shouting on the rooftop of my apartment building would be way frowned upon. So, I’m taking to my blog instead. Here are some awesome places I went to during my recent trip to New York, Maryland, and Virginia that now bear the Teresa Jusino Stamp of Approval:
GIT YO’ EAT ON!
Alba’s Pizza and Restaurant (Astoria, Queens – NYC) – This was absolutely the very first place I had to go eat when I got to New York. Seriously, the first. The pizza’s amazing, and the staff is totally warm and friendly. They also get bonus points for having legit Queens accents. 🙂
S’Mac (East Village, Manhattan – NYC) – Do you like mac and cheese? If not, I seriously question your life choices. But if you DO, S’Mac has an awesome, tasty selection of mac and cheese made to order in individual iron skillets. My recommendation? The Buffalo Chicken mac and cheese. It’s The. Best. Then again, if you’re a first-timer, it’s always good to start out with the Sampler pan so you get a little bit of everything (except the Buffalo Chicken and the Masala). Really, there are no wrong choices here.
Dutch Boy Burger (Crown Heights, Brooklyn – NYC) – I never thought I’d have a burger for breakfast until I had a breakfast burger here and NEARLY DIED from how good it was. It’s a super-cozy diner that’s connected to Franklin Park Bar (so you have access to that bar, and share a small game room where you can skee-ball to your heart’s content), it has great food, and fabulous service. In particular, there’s an awesome server there named Zach. If he’s ever serving you, tip him SUPER WELL. Because I said so. 😉
Tom’s (Crown Heights, Brooklyn – NYC) – No, this isn’t the Tom’s Restaurant from Seinfeld or the Suzanne Vega song (I’ve actually been to that diner, and it kinda sucks. I had one of the most boring, tasteless meals of my life there). This is the better one. The Tom’s Restaurant in Brooklyn that is only open for breakfast an lunch and knows how to do brunch. There’s always a line on weekends, but the line is worth it, because the restaurant staff bring food out to the line as they wait. I had small servings of french fries, fruit, cookies, and silver dollar pancakes served to me as I waited. I basically had breakfast before going in to have breakfast. And then the breakfast I had in there was extraordinary. These are legit the best pancakes I’ve ever had. Two words: Harvest Pancakes. Make a note, then go there and shove them in your face.
Martha’s Country Bakery (Forest Hills, Queens – NYC) – I was so happy to be able to go back to one of my favorite bakeries in the city. Sadly, my “home” Martha’s in Astoria was undergoing renovations during my trip, but I got to hang with two of my best friends in the Forest Hills location where we indulged in their tasty treats and wonderful coffee drinks (including Red Velvet Hot Chocolate!).
Tiffin Wallah (Gramercy/Murray Hill-ish, Manhattan – NYC) – My favorite mid-range Indian restaurant in NYC. It’s vegetarian, so don’t go there expecting rogan josh or nothin’. BUT their food is spectacular and the atmosphere is really chill. Also, they give you a free meal on your birthday, so if it’s your bday, make sure you have ID on you! 🙂
Nimba (Crown Heights, Brooklyn – NYC) – It’s not just the coffee (which is cold brew and tastes amazing), nor is it the food (their breakfast sandwiches are incredible!), nor is it even the hip, low-key atmosphere that makes you want to curl up on one of their couches or sit at one of their tables to read for hours. What makes Nimba stand out is its incredibly friendly and helpful staff. They make it a point to learn people’s names and remember them. They are so super-sweet to talk to. And at one point, when I ordered a breakfast sandwich that required eggs, and they’d run out, a woman who worked there ran to the corner store to get more, whereas any other place would’ve been like “Sorry, we’re all out.” I’m a Queens girl through and through, but places like Nimba make me sorry that I didn’t live in Brooklyn for a longer period of time.
Brick Cafe (Astoria, Queens – NYC) – this is now one of my favorite brunch places in Astoria. It has a warm, almost rustic atmosphere, and all the food, from the brunch-specific menu items to their gnocchi and their desserts, is really well done. It’s a great place to sit and while away a couple of hours on a Saturday morning with some good friends, which is exactly what I did. 🙂
Ayse (Everedy Square – Frederick, MD) – OMG, best meze EVER. What is meze? Basically Eastern Mediterranean tapas. 🙂 But seriously, the food is amazing here. It’s a bit pricey, but if you can splurge a little, your money will be well-spent. Also, the atmosphere and decor is upscale without being stuffy, and definitely gives off a Grecian vibe. Seriously, as I dined, and the sun streamed through the high windows as I glanced around the blue and white dining room, I felt like I was in every photo of Greece in every travel magazine I’ve ever seen, totally forgetting it was autumn in Maryland. 🙂
The Perfect Truffle (Everedy Square – Frederick, MD) – This place is right next door to Ayse and was the perfect dessert after a great meal. These truffles are gorgeous to look at and taste amazing. I recommend the caramel apple truffle!
Amphora Diner (Herndon, VA) – A cozy diner that doesn’t feel like a greasy-spoon hole-in-the-wall, or like a Denny’s. 🙂 I really liked this place. The meal my lunch companions and I had was great, but what I really want to recommend is the Amphora bakery! Their Double Chocolate cake is soooooo good, and seriously, the gigantic chocolate chip cookie I got there is totally one of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten in my life. And it was also the side of my head. I approve.
GIT YO’ DRINK ON!
T.G. Whitney’s (East Side, Manhattan – NYC) – I went here for karaoke on a Friday night and was not disappointed! Karaoke host, Matt, is one of the best karaoke hosts I’ve seen (and I’m a bit of a connoisseur), doing an awesome job of balancing out the evening to make sure that everyone got to sing, and that there was a good balance of songs throughout the night. The environment is super-chill, and the regulars are really nice. At the end of karaoke (at around 1:30am) one of them bought whoever was left in the bar a round of shots. Now, that’s what I call karaoke camaraderie!
Whiskey Tavern (Chinatown, Manhattan – NYC) – I’d never been to this place before until this trip, when I went there for my friend, Diana’s post-wedding brunch, and I fell in love! It’s her favorite place, and I totally get why. The staff is amazing, and really takes the time to get to know you. The bar is spacious, and there’s a great outdoor seating area in back. I definitely hope to go back there to do some more casual drinking.
Barcade (Williamsburg, Brooklyn – NYC) – I’ve written about this place before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Varied beer selection, and old-school arcade games (Frogger, TMNT, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Tetris…) that you can still play for a quarter! Also, it’s a green business that’s powered by wind power, so smaller carbon footprint, and it’s a huge space with picnic tables that allows you to sit, or roam around deciding what game to play without ever feeling cramped. I also love the tiny details like having shelves in between each game so that you have somewhere to put your drinks while you play. If you’re a geek who loves to drink, this will become your Mecca.
GIT YO’ SHOP ON!
Curious Iguana (Frederick, MD) – As The Boy and I walked around downtown Frederick, we happened upon this adorable bookstore, and I had to poke my head in. I’m so glad I did. Curious Iguana is the epitome of why independent bookstores should never go away. They have a great selection of books, the layout of the space is fun, and the girl behind the counter was actually knowledgeable about books. When I asked her for specific things, she knew exactly what I was talking about, where to find it, and she went and got it for me herself. That should be the rule, not a special thing worthy of commendation, but in a world of superstores where employees are paid too low to be inspired to care and books are only one of many things they sell, it was nice to go to a place where books are still special and both they, and the store’s customers, are treated with respect. I ended up buying Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. Apparently, I was having an Indian Author kind of a day. 🙂
Brainstorm Comics & Gaming (Frederick, MD) – This is apparently downtown Frederick’s only comic shop, which is fine, because this store is pretty awesome and should be able to meet most geeky needs in town! 🙂 The store is huge, and caters to comics and gaming (with a definite Warhammer focus, but they have other games, too). But most importantly, there’s a huge section of Doctor Who stuff, where I got the shirt in the above photo. If you happen to be in Frederick, go to there!
Purple Passion (Chelsea, Manhattan – NYC) – Screw Fifty Shades of Grey. If you want to actually learn about BDSM and whether or not there’s anything in that for you, a store like Purple Passion is a great place to start. It looks teensy and kind of dark from the outside, but once you go in, it’s a huge, well-lit space filled with clothing and apparatuses for all of your BDSM needs. The staff is also extremely helpful and friendly, creating a warm, open environment where you can totally ask whatever questions you have, no matter how stupid or lame you think they are, and they will fill you in. They also have regular workshops and events designed to help you learn how to use all the neat new toys you just bought! 🙂 Yes, they have a website, but the selection in the store is much better – and really, for custom stuff like corsets, in-person is better.
GIT YO’ LEARN ON!
Museum of Sex (Flatiron District, Manhattan – NYC) – It’s a great space and, like the TARDIS, it’s bigger on the inside. Of the three exhibits on now, I really loved the “Universe of Desire” exhibit, which examined how people talk about/seek out sex online, and “The Sex Lives of Animals,” the title of which explains it all. This exhibit was actually really fascinating and illuminated the huge variety of sexual activity in the animal kingdom, particularly that of the bonobo, which is one of humanity’s closest relatives. No, humans are not the only beings on the planet who have sex for pleasure. Yes, homosexuality does exist in nature (in 500 species!). Yes, gender is fluid in nature (in many species, the females initiate sex or the males carry babies, sometimes switching depending on the needs of their immediate group). And yes, DUCKS ARE THE MOST VILE CREATURES ON THE PLANET AND I WOULD TOTALLY BE IN FAVOR OF WIPING THEM OFF THE PLANET WERE IN NOT FOR THE FREAKING ENVIRONMENT. (Seriously, though, ducks are rapist necrophiliacs with ridiculous corkscrew cocks. They should be stopped at all costs.) The Museum of Sex is a great way to explore sexuality, and by doing so, exploring human nature. And next time anyone tells you to “go fuck a duck!” you should be HUGELY insulted and punch them in their fucking mouths.
Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, Queens – NYC) – Holy Entertainment Industry Geeks, Batman! This place is the spot if you want to get down and nerdy about film and television (or even video games! Those are moving images, too, and they have old-school arcade games on display). In addition to having very thorough displays focused on every film/TV department (the Screenwriter section was a little sparse, but whatever. The few scripts and notebooks they had – like a marked up copy of Citizen Kane, or Larry David’s Seinfeld notebook – were pretty rad), they also have hands-on exhibits (like a booth in which you can ADR dialogue), and memorabilia from your favorite shows and films! There was a Breaking Bad exhibit when I visited! Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take photos – but it was pretty damn cool to be thisclose to Walter White’s jacket, or the pink teddy bear that was floating in the pool. 🙂 If you love entertainment, it’s a great place to go!
But if you do nothing else in New York City, make sure you get a “New York Breakfast” which consists of a cup of coffee “regular,” and a sausage, egg, and cheese on a bagel or a roll. You can get this at just about any bagel place/deli/bodega with a grill. Seriously, when I had one of these for the first time in a year, I nearly cried. They just don’t make ’em like this anywhere else.