Looking back the trip to New York City in February...
We had a whole day in the city in the day 2. It was loosely planned, but not much time to sleep in. We stayed in Midtown. We booked a tour at 11:00 in the lower east side. Our morning goal was to have breakfast before that in the area.
We took shower, then opened Citymapper to find out how to get to the breakfast place.
This is an awesome app. It helps you how to get where you'd like to go with your choice of transportation. The transportation options include your feet as well. If there are some delays on transportation systems, it notifies you. You get directions with text and an interactive map. You can save bunch of locations you'd like to go in advance. Once you pick one of those locations or you search your destination on the fly, it presents available options based on your current location.
Your current location on the map gets updated as you move. You can see yourself and which direction you face on the map in the app. So, you could adjust yourself to a right direction quickly if you're heading a wrong way.
Their maps are available with multiple cities globally. Check their site if ones you need are available.
A Little Stretch
It was overcast, but the warm early summer feel had been continued from the day before. We could and were willing to walk, but also wanted to make sure we would have enough time to enjoy breakfast. It was already 9:00. So, we took the subway to the Grand Street Station. We headed Delancey Street. The Starbucks on the street was killing me. I should have picked up coffee before hopping on the subway. We kept going toward east looking for Orchard Street. Yes, our destination was Russ & Daughters Cafe!
According to Citymapper, the cafe was not too far after turning on Orchard Street. Oh my, there were so many signs up on this street. Dumpsters and Cars lined up along both sidewalks and scaffolding on some buildings were not helping our sight. They were not the only distractions. The street was interesting... to me. I turned off the app, then started taking pictures.
Probably, you find this building is nothing special, just old. But I can entertain myself with the elements like these patterns made by the bricks, the moldings and the carving.
Most likely, they don't catch anybody's eyes, but somebody cared enough to put them there. They are quite detailed. Even though they were not made one by one by hand, their designs were done a way long before computers and graphic design applications. Their natural curbs and the flows of the elements are so beautiful.
This is an awesome sign. Simple and bold. It doesn't seem to have much design, but this is actually pretty well designed. In fact, the contents are well organized. It's easy to understand, very direct. You see clearly what they offer. They don't seem to be in business anymore, at least at this location, since the entrance is gone. Just a curiosity, I googled it, then found them! They are still in business today. I also found the sad news about the building. According to the article, it doesn't seem the sign stays here any longer...
We kept moving forward taking pictures. The end of the block showed up. "We missed it. We shouldn't walk this far." We turned around, but we didn't see Russ & Daughters' sign. We were walking down where we just came. The camera was off. Nothing on the street seemed to be open. Then, one covered entrance caught our eyes. They put a plastic covering at the entrance to keep out cold air. Some people were about entering the buidling. "That must be it!"
I was so focused on the other side of the street to take pictures, and completely missed it at first. Their sign was also hidden by the covering at the entrance. So, we didn't realize we were standing there either. Our legs and stomach were stretched well. We were ready to eat.
Russ & Daughters Cafe
The cafe had a sanitized look with its white based interior almost like a hospital, but at the same time, it also had a warm welcoming atmosphere of a family own business with a nostalgic feeling. The jazz in the background made me even more comfortable. The pictures and newspaper articles on the wall were telling the history of them.
A waitress in a white jacket came to our table and asked us if we'd like seltzer. At that point, I was dying for coffee. "Um, can I just get coffee?" She asked again, "Sure, but would you still like some seltzer?" I almost said no, but said yes instead. It must have something to do with their seltzer since she asked twice. We were looking the pictures on the wall, then found one with bottles. Those bottles reminded me the vintage soda bottles I got at a flea market in my kitchen. The seller told me those were from New York. We couldn't find anything about their seltzer other than that picture on the wall. I wonder it's a Jewish custom to have seltzer. I'd love to hear about it if anyone knows. It is always interesting to learn about other cultures.
We were here for bagels. Chad ordered one with smoked salmon. I did with sable. I had to ask what sable was to the waitress, and it sounded pretty good. Then, the waitress asked again "Would you like bialy with them?" I guess I didn't get enough caffeine yet. I heard it as "rye." Here goes my silly response... "Um, I don't like rye bread. Can I have a bagel instead?" Of course, that confused the poor waitress, but she was kind and patient enough to tell me that was a kind of like a bagel and I would like it. So, I went with her suggestion. Until then, I had never seen and heard of the thing, bialy.
Our orders were beautifully presented to us. Now, I know what a bialy is! We were very excited, then our eyes caught the green stuff in the hole of the onion slices. We like dill. That was not the one caught our eyes.
The capers... They were not few. They were plenty. They were plenty! We'd been always avoided these green things, which look like peas. Here is how our brains process these green things:
- Capers are green and round like peas.
- Peas taste weird🤢
- We don't like peas😬
- Capers look like peas🤔
- Capers must taste like peas😖
- ⚠️ WARNING! WARNING! ⚠️
- No peas! No capers! We don't eat capers🤐
"Oooooo, scary capers!" ... But, we also had the idea that we should try as they do for more authentic experience—whatever the "authentic" is... Then, if we still didn't like it, we'd never do it again.
So, we assembled our sandwiches with the capers. FYI, the capers were under the tomato.
"Oh my god, this is so~ good!"
I liked the bialy for its texture and onion flavor. Capers don't taste like peas. Yay! Later, we learned capers are flower buds. Capers' no relationship with peas made us feel much better. The smoked fish, cream cheese(I suspect it has its own name. I found it's more creamy than regular cream cheese.), fresh tomato and onion come together and tied up with the dill and capers' strong flavors. If we had more time, we would order another one.
Enjoy New York bagels, checked! It was almost time for the tour we booked. We'll come back here whenever we visit the city for sure.
History of People Built New York City
We left the restaurant, crossed Delancey St., and went down Orchard St. to Tenement Museum.
The museum is the building at 97 Orchard St., which happened to preserve the history because of its own unique history. You'll hear about it in a tour. The museum itself is its artifact.
We joined a tour called "Irish Outsiders." Our guide, Peter, explained the history of 97 Orchard St. along with the varieties of the immigrants came to NYC briefly, then got to the main theme of the tour, the life of one Irish immigrant family. It's about the history of the people literally built the city, which we don't see in history textbooks at school. Peter was very knowledgeable. He answered our questions with extended information.
I don't touch the actual contents of the tour since I believe you should feel it by visiting there, but I just tell you that the tour consists of facts. The people talked about in the tour were real. They truly lived in the building at that time. Their existence before their coming to New York was confirmed in Ireland. You'd hear the real life stories about people who came from Ireland with their hopes and dreams. You can stand where they breathed, ate, slept and raised their children. You'd see how their life was like.
Its time was around the setting of the movie, Gangs of New York. That hints their life was not easy in many levels. The Five Points mentioned in the movie is not far away from the museum. I found an article about the history of the era. You'd get a feel of it.
Each floor has different time setting to show what happened in the building. So, you see only one floor per tour. I think a little home work of the history of Manhattan would make the tours even more interesting. Actually, one of the tours shows three floors. This tour has a little different angle from the others.
We'd love to come back for another tour next time.
Photographs are prohibited in the building, so no pictures of the tours here.
I think you'll have a lot of fun at their museum shop. They have history books related to the area, of course, area guide which could help you fully enjoy Lower East Side, and NYC goods. Here are some wrapping papers I found there. I thought they can be framed as posters.
After the tour, we headed south toward Chinatown for lunch. On Delancey St., we found a scary public restroom.
It doesn't seem to be used anymore, but it looks like you'd never come out once you get in. I can imagine this can be used as a location to shoot a horror movie or a murder scene by a serial killer😱
Our plan was walking down Allen St. enjoying the nice weather. If we found something interesting on the way, we could stop by. We didn't see anything particular, but got sense of getting closer to Chinatown. Going farther down, more Chinese stores appeared.
The appearance of the bridge was an excitement. It was a nice change to buildings and cars. "Is that Brooklyn Bridge? But, it looks different." Later, we found it's Manhattan Bridge. I actually like this delicate look better than Brooklyn Bridge.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
That was the sign to turn to west. The turn revealed another face of the city, Chinatown.
We went a little too far down, so went up one block to Division St., then headed to Nom Wah Tea Parlor for dim sum. It already shows its personality. I love it! You might think the outside is a little bit scary. Don't worry. You won't be taken😜 The inside is nice and clean. You eat yummies on clean dishes on a clean table with clean chopsticks.
Not like typical dim sum restaurants where you see carts with dishes, theirs are made by order. That means every dish is served as their best timing... fried dishes are served as they get fried, steamed dishes are served as they get steamed. They have multiple options for tea. If you're not sure what to order, ask them. They help you to pick one.
Making an order is pretty simple. You see the menu and find what you like, mark an order sheet with what you'd like to try, then hand it to a waiter/waitress. It's like ordering at a sushi restaurant.
One thing to be careful to order is portion. It's hard to judge the size of dishes from the pictures of the menu. I thought their portion is big, which is great. After all, here is America. You get a big portion. It is tempting to try everything. I suggest to start small and order more later consulting your stomach.
It already past lunch time, but they were still busy. People came in continuously. When this picture was taken, it was their down time. By the time we left there, the place was pack full.
Very Chinese looking tea tins... you won't miss them at the side of the counter.
Here are what we ordered. They were more than enough for two. We couldn't finish them all. Look at the size of the pork buns!
Long Afternoon Walk
Holding the stuffed stomachs, we left the restaurant. Oh boy, that was a big lunch. We just enjoyed the walk in the warm afternoon. We stopped by some select shops in East Village, cut through Greenwich Village. No plan to go anywhere particular, but our plan of walking was to make room for dinner in our stomachs.
Washington Square park showed up. A lot of people were heading to the park. From kids to adults and dogs, everybody was enjoying the weather. We went through the Washington Arch. I heard jazz from distance. It was just a lot of people. Different performances were going on in sections, and crowds were around them. Some were just enjoying the gorgeous afternoon with their company.
If you are in New York City, you'd better enjoy live jazz. Last time we were in the city, we went to Birdland. This time, we went to Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola to see the Dexter Gordon Legacy Ensemble.
Before the show started, we enjoyed the view from the window on Columbus Circle.
The club was just right size. We were able to have a front row table. The staff were nice and friendly.
That night, we had Louis Hayes for a drummer, Abraham Burton for a tenor saxophonist, Josh Evans for a trumpeter, Gerald Cannon for a bassist.
Louis Hayes showed up with nice suits on the stage and quietly sat down at his drum set. He had his air even in his humble movement. He has played with many of my favorites such as Cannonball Adderley and Oscar Peterson. I couldn't believe myself seeing him playing in front of my eyes.
Abraham Burton was born and grew up in Greenwich Village listening to Louis Hayes' live performances. He grew up in a perfect place to be a jazz musician. He talked about his childhood story that he and his friends hanged out at the back door of the club where Louis Hayes played, and he led those kids in to have them listen to his performances. What an honor Abraham Burton would feel to play with Louis Hayes!
I sensed Josh Evans just loves to play. It was a quiet, but very strong passion. He was so into the music. What he loves goes very well with his gifted talent. People who find their passions and a way to make their career with them are very fortunate.
Dexter Gordon's mother was at one of the tables that night, too. She was an witty little old lady. The evening was dreamy. It would be lovely to be able to enjoy live jazz like this more often. I was already looking forward to seeing what musicians I would see next time.