Banchan, Vegetarian Fried Chicken and Caviar: A Travel Writer’s Message from New York City Kitchens

I practically grew up in New York. Summers in Crown Heights at Chassidic Day Camp, followed by years of living in a cockroach infested room, then a cramped basement apartment while attending high school. By the time I moved to Brooklyn right after my 19th birthday, I knew the city like the back of my hand. It was in the past and a fresh start after I got out of the foster care system. The city has a way to strengthen your skin and build your character as you fight for survival.

After a few years trying to make a name for myself in the auto industry, I met my beautiful wife, Judian Morgan.

We eventually moved to the Midwest, hoping for a chance to buy a home and build our own little slice of heaven. When we left Brooklyn, we had almost nothing – a car full of suitcases, boxes, and a plastic container with our certified tortoises in it. On my return as a travel columnist, my trusty blue monos bag in tow, with its invitations and accessibility, was a lot weirder than any of us expected.

We had a great time enjoying the finer things the city had to offer, and spent most of our time in Manhattan. While I could go on for hours talking about the life we ​​had when we lived there, this story is about the present, not the past. Let’s talk about experiencing some of the glitz and glamor that New York City has to offer and can be enjoyed at any size.

Where I stayed: Conrad New York Midtown

While New Yorkers try to stay away from Midtown unless they have no other choice, tourists flock to the brightly lit and slightly chaotic destination. If you’re staying downtown, Conrad makes an excellent and luxurious home base. Entering the hotel feels magical on its own, being brought home by the first class customer service of all the staff we encountered during our stay.

The suite we stayed in was quite large, at least by NYC hotel standards, with the largest gold-adorned mirror in the entryway I’ve ever seen in a hotel room. The room features large windows that let in plenty of natural light into the space, but as one would expect in New York, there isn’t a lot of view beside the adjacent windows. White linens line the bed, which is very comfortable, and the air conditioning in the room is controlled, allowing you to adjust the temperature to your liking. And best of all, the water pressure is great! You will enjoy every moment you spend in the room between adventures.

Quick info: If you like staying in Conard but aren’t interested in Midtown, Conrad has another downtown location.

Dinner place: Benjamin Steakhouse Prime

Benjamin Steakhouse has old school charm. Founded by two ex-employees Peter Luger, both named Benjamin, this steakhouse is predictably upscale and gloomy and has a slightly noisier vibe than a traditional steakhouse. You will dine in a spacious dining room with a remarkably high ceiling, at tables covered in white linen and surrounded by comfortable armless chairs. There is also an outside patio.

The kitchen is also run by veteran Chef Arturo MacLeod, 20-year-old Peter Luger, who shines in the areas where Peter Luger doesn’t quite excel (like sides, applications, seasonings…).


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We started our meal with oysters and lump crab, with all the fixings, which were beautifully presented and tasted amazing. This was followed by a steak for two, a perfect dry medium-aged Porterhouse with a beautiful crust – pre-cut for easy eating. It was accompanied by asparagus prepared the way we liked it: fried.

There was also cheesy and sticky macaroni and cheese. The service staff serve family-style food and are quick to refill your plate when you’re done. Everything was just perfect.

Church Council

Seafood has always been my favorite. Fried, raw, grilled, baked – anything that contains fish is jam. And the meal at Vestry is a master class in seafood of every variation. Their selections are bright, full of flavor and are simply divine.

The restaurant is well deservedly awarded with a Michelin star (and it also happens to be my favorite Michelin-starred restaurant, which says a lot).

The dining room is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows and simply decorated with round wooden tablecloths decorated with small candles and elegant cutlery. The atmosphere is luxurious and lively.

Small plaque at Vestry (Jodyann Morgan)

Dinner started with hot, crunchy bread served with melted miso butter on contact. The menu features finger-sized meals, small plates and large plates, as well as dessert.

Pop-up tartare is served on a fish shaped potato chip, creating a lovely textured experience. It was served alongside other bites, including a handmade shiitake roll with kochi rice wrapped in wasabi paper.

In addition to the menu, Vestry offers caviar, a simple serving—the highlight of the flavor bombardment that characterizes each little pearl of caviar—and served with fresh cream and potato blini. The small plates we tried included the melt-in-your-mouth Cchūtoro with yuzu, fresh wasabi, and watermelon radish.

Although not every great restaurant offers desserts that live up to the rest of the menu, Vestry is unlike any other. Definitely leave room for the chocolate tart with passionfruit and cocoa.

Our main course was the only meat on the menu, Wagyu beef with trompet royale, potato purée and miso mustard, which was expertly prepared like the rest of the menu.

Although not every great restaurant offers desserts that live up to the rest of the menu, Vestry is unlike any other. Definitely leave room for the chocolate tart with passionfruit and cocoa.

Yoon Hyundai Galbi

Korean barbecue restaurant was founded by Yoon Haeundae Galbi, Bobby Yoon, grandson of the Korean chef who devised the “Haeundae Cut” method of tenderizing meat, which is used on all of the restaurant’s grilled short ribs. In his grandfather’s restaurant in Korea, they grilled meat on charcoal, but New York City regulations do not allow this, so a gas grill is used.

“Although our New York City restaurant is a contemporary recreation of the restaurant in Busan,” their website reads. “The traditional roots on which Yun Haeundae Galbi was built are still intact.”

The restaurant – with its wood-and-stone-clad walls and high ceilings – is visually stunning.

We ordered the premium meat package, which included two different types of short ribs, brisket and dry ribeye, as well as banchan, small side dishes to enjoy with the meat. The meat was expertly cooked at the table as we watched, lest we overcook or mistreat it. The roast beef feast wrapped up with potato noodles cooked on the grill with some leftover fat and broth added. Dessert was a refreshing Asian drink of pear with date cinnamon – the perfect light end to a wonderful meal.

Pure Great Barbecue

For a quick lunch when you have a craving for a different type of barbecue, stop by the Pure Grit quick joint. Just blocks from Madison Square Park and just outside Baruch College, the just-opened restaurant features a full vegan menu that’s also gluten-free.

I’m not a vegetarian (so I might have a slightly different idea of ​​what amazing barbecue tastes like), but I fell in love with the “chicken” sandwich, which is made with bold vegan chicken served open openly on a crunchy corn-waffle. It was topped with pickled red onions, pickled slices, and a coleslaw, before drizzled with hot maple syrup and BBQ ranch sauce.

Things to do: Comic show by Fourteenth Company

Feeling upset? Splurge to get tickets to the Fourteenth Company’s comic show. The dimly lit and smelly venue is located in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is easily reached by train from most areas of the city. You will be greeted by the members of the company in full uniform, so as soon as you walk through the door, you will feel as if you have been transported to another world – more sensual and mysterious -.

The show itself was for two hours with several intermissions. During that time, a story carefully created with different aerial works and dance styles was told. This is an immersive experience that you won’t soon forget.

Squash factor: Morgan and I found the sofas, which are for two, too small for us both (Morgan wears a US size 18 and I am a size 24-ish). We managed to make it work, but it was a little uncomfortable.

ephemeral tattoo

Getting a tattoo can be a huge life-changing decision, especially if you’ve never gotten a tattoo. At Ephemeral Tattoo, this decision is made easy, due to the unique and proprietary ink to create a tattoo that is very real but temporary that disappears within nine to 15 months. I have quite a few traditional tattoos, so I decided to get a tattoo of something fun I wasn’t sure I wanted to permanently paint on my body: a dolphin hopping over my belly button.

Get a tattoo in Ephemeral (Godian Morgan)The tattooing process is almost the same, although traditional shading is not an option. Instead, Ephemeral uses a dotting technique to achieve a shading-like effect. While I had a great experience, I think I’ll personally get a traditional tattoo next time. But if you want a temporary tattoo while you’re visiting NYC, make sure you get on the waiting list ahead of time or you won’t get an opening.

Squish factor: If you are worried about getting a tattoo on your stomach, let me check on you. The tattooing process was almost painless. I have tattoos on my arm, as well as my shoulder and leg. Getting my “fat stomach tattoo” was the easiest and least painful tattoo ever.

Adriana Hollow Tattoo

I highly recommend booking an appointment at Adriana Hollow Tattoo for highly realistic, vibrant color work and highly detailed tattoos. I planned my entire trip around getting a big tattoo on my forearm from Adriana, who has been tattooing me for over 6 years and is responsible for most of my ink.

Adriana is an exotic tattoo artist who is an active ally of fat people. She loves how tattoos help people feel beautiful and restore their bodies after trauma, which is why she especially enjoys covering up scars. Adriana’s work is loved, so she keeps very busy. If you’re looking to book an appointment, follow her on Instagram to get notified when her books open, usually in March and September.

Squish factor: Adriana tattoos in a studio that requires stair climbing. If this is not available to you, be sure to reach out to her, and she will see if there is another option available for the dates you want to book.

Greenwich Village Food Tour

Can I admit to something that might invalidate my “food card”? I don’t really like pizza, with very few exceptions. I found one such exception while doing a Greenwich Village Food tour from The Tour Guys. It was a simple slice of Bleecker Street Pizza which was so perfect. This is one of the many reasons I love doing food tours!

This tour includes much more than just good pizza. You’ll try the “taco” naan stuffed with your choice of protein from paneer tikka masala to curried lamb and salmon pakora. There is customizable macaroni and cheese and cannoli. The tour guide weaves together the dishes of the day with the history of the neighborhood, stopping to point out locations and distractions that contribute to the story. The speed and distance are toned down shorter than many of the other rides I’ve taken.

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