Two Californians making a leap of faith and moving to the Big Apple.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons Learned: Day #1

We made it to our new (temporary) housing last night around 9pm. After some settling in and such we headed out for food, counting on the whole "city that never sleeps" bit to work for us. In conjunction with Yelp we found a Thai restaurant a few blocks from us, and were easily seated after 10pm. To be fair, we were the last ones in the door and they locked the door before we finished up. But still, a happy experience, and definitely not the sort of thing I expect from my normal West Coast haunts. (I remember rather vividly going to one of our regular bar/restaurants around 10:30 one night a couple months back and not being able to get any service, much less any food.) And for the record, the place we went was Song Kran, and I'd generally agree with the average reviews: good, well assembled, nicely prepared, but not really wowing.

Another thing that we've noticed already is that restaurant reviews (at least in the city) are skewed much lower than we are used to. It seems pretty normal to read reviews that say, "OMG, this is the best restaurant I've been to in months!" and then see it rated only a 4. 5s really do seem reserved for those excellent, life-changing sorts of restaurant experiences. And I'm definitely not complaining, but it does take a bit of adjustment to recalibrate.

This morning we had a late start (no big surprise, sleeping in a strange environment and jeg lagged), but eventually made it to Brooklyn Bagels. Definitely, unquestionably, far and away better than any bagels I've had on the west coast. Fueled up thusly, we hopped on the subway up to Rockefeller center to hit up a farmer's market. There are lots of farmer's markets in the city, more than I expected by far. Some are seasonal, like the Rock Center market. Some run all the time, like the Union Square market. All told, definitely a little more expensive than similar markets in San Diego, but still a pleasant way to browse what is fresh and locally(ish) grown.

From that point on our day basically broke up into two categories: gathering stuff for dinner / upcoming meals / figuring out how to shop in NYC, and figuring out what to do for fun in the evening.

On the first point: we are lucky to be located a few blocks from a Trader Joe's, which does a good job of providing most or all of the things we would expect in a "real" (ie West Coast) supermarket. It's a little weird that there isn't a big parking lot and people paid to gather up the shopping carts (instead, the carts really are only meant for use inside the store, which does make for nicer carts.) There is also a smaller market a couple blocks away, and a collection of "delis" within a block or so. So depending on what you are looking for, most things are easily within walking distance. (The only exception that we found today was pine nuts, which somehow we were unable to find anywhere. Does nobody make pesto here?)

Alcohol is an oddity: grocery stores are allowed to sell beer, but not wine or liquor. For that, you must go to a liquor store. So far I haven't found anything to compare to BevMo, but there is a plethora of neighborhood wine and liquor stores. Unlike the California equivalents, a liquor stores here can be less gross than a gas station bathroom. But definitely be prepared for sticker shock. A lot of online retailers won't deliver to NY, a lot of national chains (like Costco) that ordinarily have an alcohol section are (reportedly) missing that here. There are some larger stores in Manhattan which, according to their websites, have about a 20% markup over the BevMo prices I'm used to. The liquor store across the street from me might be even a bit higher than that. Eventually we found Pop's, which has free delivery in the NYC area on orders of $100 or more and pretty reasonable prices. But it doesn't seem (yet) like there is anyone in New York that is providing the same collection of price/usability/information/transparency/selection as something like BevMo. Sad. Hopefully Pop's will work out well.

On the subject of fun, we went to see a show at Magnet Theater, where $5 will often get you in to the show for the whole night (they run ~75 minute shows with 15 minute breaks.) Very enjoyable, some of it was GREAT, other bits were only so-so. But still, for the cost and the fun, a great value.

Other than that, and a lot of walking, nothing really fit for print. We're loving the "no driving, walk everywhere" lifestyle. I don't know how long that'll be true, but I'd like to think that we'll be happy with it forever.

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