- Trip Report: 36 Hours in the East Village
- Train Review: Amtrak to New York City
- Hotel Review: The Ludlow Hotel
During our usual summer trips to New York, we divide our time between our two families -- one family located near the Finger Lakes, the other near the capital. This summer, however, we had Baby J in tow. Knowing we had built-in babysitters -- shout-out to Grandma, Grandpa, Nonnie, and Poppy! -- Adam and I decided to steal time away for ourselves by visiting my little brother in New York City. We looked at our schedules and decided that the three-hour trip was worth it. As soon as we could, we booked our room at The Ludlow Hotel, bought our ticket on Amtrak, and packed our bags. We dropped off Baby J with Grandma and Grandpa, and headed for the train station to start our weekend as Erica and Adam.
And so our 36 hours began.
The train took almost three hours to get from Albany to Penn Station, but we enjoyed the ride. With free WiFi and comfortable seats, we enjoyed looking out the window at the changing landscape. We opted to take Amtrak over driving since Adam nor I are that comfortable with driving through the streets of New York. Plus, after the fees to park the car overnight, the round-trip train tickets wound up costing less.
Penn Station was a zoo when we arrived, but Matty met up with us and helped us get from the train station to the subway. Although I was confused by the underground maze, Matty, who has lived in New York for over five years, confidently got us to the train that would take us to the Lower East Side. Four stops and three blocks later, we arrived at our home for the night: The Ludlow Hotel.
The Ludlow Hotel was discreetly located between Houston and Stanton; in fact, the entrance was so nondescript, the only indication was the hanging sign that reads "HOTEL." Once greeted by the doorman, we stepped inside, seemingly stepping back in time. The decor screamed 1920's and gave off a feel that is best described as industrial luxury. We checked in, put our stuff in our room, and made our way to our first stop: drinks at Cooper's.
Before we arrived in New York, Matty created an itinerary of places we had to go. On his list was Cooper's Craft & Kitchen, a gastropub located in the East Village that offers a killer beer list. Originally, we planned on drinks and an appetizer only, but after perusing their brunch menu, we immediately changed our minds. Adam and Matt ordered the grilled cheese & smoked tomato bisque, while I went for it and ordered the breakfast poutine, a heavenly dish of handcut fries, cheddar curds, bacon & oxtail gravy, pickled chillies, and, if all that weren't enough, a poached egg on top. Delicious is an understatement. My mouth is still watering from the overload of saturated fat and gravy.
Having brunch and beers under our belts, we decided to continue the party at Hair of the Dog, a sports bar located on the corner of Stanton and Orchard. The bar, already packed at 4 PM, had a college football vibe; music thumped loudly while ESPN played silently on the TVs mounted on the walls. Because our dinner reservations were creeping closer and we still needed to get ready, we ordered one beer each, and left to our respective places to get changed for our night out.
After getting ready, Matt took us to two of his favorite spots in Alphabet City: Loverboy, a hip bar known for their cocktail slushies, and ABC Beer Company, a low-key taproom with a fantastic beer selection. Both spots were just what we needed before dinner: Loverboy was casual yet trendy, with natural light and big, open doors that allowed for a steady breeze. ABC Beer Co. was dimly lit with a billiards table, plush sofas for seating, and a bar that offered an extensive beer menu from local breweries. While we enjoyed each spot, as lovers of beer, we became sort of obsessed with ABC Beer Co. The beer, the atmosphere, the pretzels -- everything made ABC Beer Co. bar a spot we did not want to leave.
With stomachs growling, we grabbed an Uber and headed to E 12th Street for dinner at Hearth. The Tuscan restaurant's name echoed its atmosphere: warm and inviting, much of what you would expect from your Italian grandmother's home. We sat down and immediately ordered wine. The wine list, although not extensive, had delicious options. Being true Italians (or wanting to be, anyway), we ordered two full-bodied reds because everything goes with red, right? We sipped on our wine and ordered off of the menu, rich with local options that appeased everyone's taste buds. We enjoyed the calamari, potato gnocchi, corn campanelli, garlic bread, beef + ricotta meatballs, and warm summer vegetables. The gnocchi, the campanelli, and the garlic bread were so delicious, we ordered several rounds of each. We would be remiss not to enjoy more than one serving.
While we loved the restaurant's vibe and food, the only drawback was the tiny portion sizes. For an individual with a very petite, dainty appetite, the portions are perfect. For normal adult humans with actual, human-sized appetites, you would need at least (at least!) an appetizer and a meal to fill your stomach. Still, our group enjoyed sharing plates, drinking wine, and just being together in the quaint, Italian restaurant.
After dinner, we decided we wanted to try out a speakeasy called Please Don't Tell. Unfortunately, the next available time slot to get in was not until 1 AM, which was a little too late for us parents (we can't help that we're usually in bed by 10!). Instead, we opted for a speakeasy with a much shorter line: The Blind Barber. In order to access the bar, you needed to walk through an actual barber shop. The entrance was really cool. The next part - actually being in the bar - was not. It was crowded, noisy, and sweaty. Plus, when the drinks came, the bartender did not make the fiery drink made with jalapenos well, leaving the crew with tears and burning esophaguses.
It was 11 PM and we were looking to cool things down after the spicy drinks at The Blind Barber, so we headed to Rue B, a jazz bar located only a few blocks away. We stepped inside to a three-man jazz band playing to a half-filled room. Some people sat and talked, some listened, some swayed to the beat -- it was like nothing I have ever experienced before. At Rue B, a spot for jazz musicians, aficionados, or just lovers of music, everyone was just enjoying sitting together, listening to jazz, sipping on their appropriately-named and priced cocktails. The Fred & Ginger, a cocktail made with Vodka, Jamaican ginger beer, lime juice, hit the spot. As we drank our cocktails, we snapped our fingers to the beat, swaying with the other listeners as the musicians played their tunes.
At around midnight, the band stopped playing and so we decided to head home, but not without hitting Motorino Pizzeria first for some magherita pizza and one final cocktail. The restaurant was kind; even though they were getting ready to close, they sat us, serving up some delicious pizza. It was a little pricey -- $15 for a pie -- but totally worth it. The doughy yet crisp crust, melty mozzarella, and fresh basil helped to soak up some of the evening's libations, bringing our hangovers to slightly-less than terrible the next day.
Once we were up and functioning the next morning, we checked out of The Ludlow and headed to Saxon + Parole for brunch. We ordered bellinis and Bloody Mary's for our hangovers, and french toast, the impossible burger, and a BLAT sandwich, plus fries, for our stomachs. We enjoyed our meal for the most part, even though the french toast was soggy and the Bloody Mary's were meager in their make-up. The atmosphere was cool and the staff was friendly, but it was not even close to the meal we shared the night before at Hearth.
Brunch finished and we reailzed that we had about two hours before we needed to head to the train. Since the weather was beautiful, Matt suggested we stop by The Standard Hotel and share a good-bye cocktail at The Garden at the Standard, a beautiful, lush terrace located on Washington Street. We all agreed and headed to the Eden-esque patio. The Froze was worth ordering (who can beat a frozen Rose on a hot Sunday afternoon?) and the staff was so accommodating. Because I still nurse, I needed to pump. They offered me a quiet room overlooking the garden terrace. This alone was enough to make me want to stay at The Standard the next time we visit Matt in New York.
We finished our drinks, said good-bye to Matty, and headed back to Penn. Our 36 hours were replete with what makes the Lower East Side a must-see. The food and drinks were outstanding, but the trendy vibes of each spot we visited made the trip unforgettable.
Trip Report Overview:
1. Take the Amtrak. Driving in the city is a hassle. Ride-sharing services and the subway make navigating the city much easier, cheaper, and quicker.
2. Book reservations in advance. Many of the spots filled up quickly, so have a plan of where you want to eat and be sure to book either directly with the restaurant or on OpenTable.com before you go.
3. If you are a beer drinker (or even if you aren't), make ABC Brewing Company a stop on your NYC bucket list. You can thank us later.