Monday, March 17, 2014

Last days in New York - Katz's Deli, Big Gay Ice Cream, Smorgasburg

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I finally come to writing about the last few days of my trip to America last year. Our last two days in New York following July 4th were relaxed and pretty easy going in the steamy summer weather. 

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We did the stroll through Central Park, watched remote controlled boats in the ponds, chased squirrels (or maybe that was just me) and waited patiently for our turn to take pictures of the 'Imagine' mosaic (Brad got rather pissed at me when I started photo bombing his attempts). 

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Honestly, New York is so spoilt to have such luscious park in the middle of their little island. 

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From Central Park, we made our way to the Museum of Natural History, where I was surprised to see such a long queue, that moved relatively slowly…for what is supposed to be a free museum. However, they queue you up to strongly recommend you make a 'donation' of $25 per person. 

Note though, that Brad and were towards the end of our trip, and feeling the pinch, so between the two us 'donated' $10 to the museum to enter instead. You just have to ask them to donate a different amount. 

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Goodness, what a museum though! Animals, dinosaurs and the history of humans, covering the many cultures that exist now, there was so much more to the museum than I expected! 

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This display made me a bit sad to see, as this are black rhinos which were declared extinct in 2011. 

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My favourite part though was definitely checking out all the dinosaur fossils and bones, with one of the most comprehensive collections I have ever seen!

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An additional bonus with the Natural History Museum, is that there's a Shake Shack around the corner, where Brad and I indulged in a late lunch. I was once again disappointed by the fries, but loved the 'Shroom Burger with its thick and crispy portobello mushroom, and swooned over the peanut butter shake. Really, why don't we have anything like this at home?!

Although Brad and I get along well and generally like to do a lot of things together, one activity that we can't seem to do together…is shop. Mainly because I can dedicate a day to just looking, touching and trying on stuff (and often not buying anything if you can believe it!) and Brad…well, just doesn't care for it.

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So for the rest of the afternoon, I did a manic shopping session while Brad rested up in the hotel, before we met up again to hit up Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side for a late dinner. Again, I had somehow not visited on my last visit in 2010, so I was definitely well overdue! 

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If you haven't heard of Katz's Deli (and assumedly have some interest in food), you clearly must be living under a rock. Founded in 1888 it's well loved by both locals and tourists for it's range of sandwiches (the pastrami being one of the most well known), soups, hot dogs and range of other goods. 

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It's also famous for 'that' scene in 'When Harry Met Sally…', which they are clearly proud of, with a sign pointing to the exact table. 

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Katz's is delightfully old school, the servers are slightly gruff, the walls are unabashedly filled with memorabilia and the place clearly hasn't seen a face lift in more recent times, which just adds to the character.

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Upon arrival you're given a ticket, which you must hold on to, as that's how your bill is tracked and calculated when you leave. You then approach the appropriate counter for what you want. Don't worry, if you get mixed up the men behind the counter very promptly tell you where you need to be. They're maybe not the most smiley bunch I've come across, but they are efficient at what they do. 

Now, I'm not sure why, but Brad and I got two sandwiches. Bad move.

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Both the pastrami sandwich and the reuben are absolute beasts of sandwiches. Chock-a-block full with meat, easily 3 to 4 inches tall. 

It's pretty full on.

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Whilst I certainly enjoyed the pastrami, charred and juicy, with a nice smokiness to it and a healthy smear of mustard, I found that it was just a bit too much meat after a while, with not much variance in flavour. Which is why I enjoyed the reuben much more, with the tang of sauerkraut and delightfully sinful melt of cheese. Oh and that corned beef, mmhmm!

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Don't forget the pickles, they're simple to die for, and if you're having it with the pastrami, definitely make for a nice reprieve from all the meatiness. 

Brad somehow managed to finish one whole sandwich on his own, and half of another, but complained for the rest of the night that he felt like he had eaten a small cow. Hehe.

We then walked a few streets down to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, because who doesn't like rainbows and sweets together? 

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Even at 10 something at night there was a surprisingly long queue for the little ice-cream shop, but fortunately a fabulous door lady kept us company and in line, letting people in as people went out. 

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The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop is filled with unicorns, rainbows and a variety of delicious ice-cream treats with cheeky names such as 'Salty Pimp', 'Cococone', 'Mexican Affo'gay'to' and many more. What I love though, is the care that goes into these treats to make them a little more interesting than your average soft serve. 

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My 'Salty Pimp' has vanilla ice-cream laced with dulce de leche, a bit of sea salt and coated in a thin chocolate shell. Just delightful, with hints of caramel popping up here and there. 

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Brad got (or maybe I made him) the 'Monday Sundae', a nutella lined waffle cone filled with ice-cream, dulcet de leech, a bit of salt and topped with whipped cream. Wicked. Delicious. 

On our trip we were very fortunate that the Statue of Liberty reopened while we were there, as it had been closed prior for repairs after Hurricane Sandy hit earlier that year. So on our last day in New York, Brad had managed to reserve some tickets online before our trip to see Lady Liberty herself. 

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It's a lovely way to spend a morning, and as always with these things, make sure you get the earliest boat you can out, as it can get quite busy! 

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We also explored Wall Street, where Brad tried to stick it to the man, and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, which proved to be more work than expected in the heat!

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For lunch, we made our way to Smorgasburg, a weekly food market which is many a food lovers dream. With gorgeous views of Manhattan across the river, the only problem was…how do you decide what to eat?!

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While Brad camped out on the grass with an umbrella to shade us from the heat (it was THAT hot), I scoured the market and picked up a lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound, a mini halo halo from the Lumpia Shack (that could've had a bit more ube in it) and an adorable frozen lassi 'pop' that really hit the spot. 

Later on in the day, Brad once again retreated to our hotel room to rest up, as I ran around town doing some last minute shopping and regretting that I didn't buy a leather jacket when I really did want it. Ah sigh. 

Looking back at the length of our trip, we did so much, but yet so little, which is simply just a testament to the density and richness of New York. I didn't buy everything I wanted to, eat everything I wanted to and Brad and I didn't even hit up any bars while we were running around Manhattan and goodness, don't even talk to me about Brooklyn, our only exposure with it was Smorgasburg! But I guess next time we visit, maybe it'll be a little less tourist driven, and we can focus on just being and existing in New York and kicking it a little more like a local. Until next time...

366 Columbus Ave
Manhattan, NY

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

205 E Houston Street
Manhattan, NY

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

127 E 7th Street
Manhattan, NY

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi Ashley,

    I'm loving reading your posts about America (and everywhere else, of course!)

    I'm planning a trip to the US this year for around the same time it looks like you were there, and at the moment we're trying to decide whether to aim to be in New York around 4th July weekend - someone mentioned it might actually be less hectic then as people get out of the city for the holiday. How did you find it, crowd-wise?

    thanks heaps!

    1. Hey Bec, how exciting! I personally quite enjoyed being in New York over the 4th of July, hard to say if it was less hectic, the streets are still pretty busy and the Shake Shack next to Times Square always had ridiculous queues, but I do recall not having any queues for the Empire State Building etc.

      New York is fun over the 4th of July though, the fireworks down by the Hudson are beautiful and I love seeing the Empire State Building lit up in red white and blue. If it works out with your plans, worth being in town for, but if it doesn't, no big deal either :) Hope that helps!

      If you want any other food suggestions feel free to shoot me an email, I had some recommendations from friends that I wasn't able to visit, but happy to pass on!


  2. This post excited me! I've never been to the States but I'm planning to head there at some point and New York is DEFINITELY the first on my list. Those sandwiches look amazing (and huge!)!

  3. Wow, I'm glad it's now going to be at least a year or so before we head over to the US ... I think it's going to take all of that for us to decide how much time to dedicate to NYC! So much to see and so much that I'd be disappointed if we missed, to be balanced against what we will miss elsewhere if we spend more time there ...

    Love your recaps and photos though, it's been like taking a mini holiday with each one :)

  4. Wow he ate 1 and a half of the sandwiches .. respect