One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to simply walk its streets. Wandering, without a particular destination in mind or direction to head to. Having just moved to New York not two months ago, I’ve been walking around the city, visiting different neighborhoods and getting oriented with this great city.
A couple of weeks ago, I had invited a friend from Brunei, who is studying in DC, up to New York City for the weekend, and that provided the perfect excuse to spend the entire weekend exploring the city and stumbling upon the great variety and quality of food on the streets of New York.
So on Saturday the plan was to take the (free) Staten Island Ferry from South Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. We had to have lunch before going so we went first to the Tribeca Saturday Greenmarket, which was unfortunately a little bit smaller than expected. Nevertheless, we managed to procure a bag of homemade cookies just stave off our hunger until we reached Staten Island (not a very good plan).
South Ferry is a short walk from Tribeca, and there’s a scenic riverside path that you can just stroll along to get down to the southern tip of Manhattan. Unless of course, you walk in the completely opposite direction because of your non-existent sense of direction, which is compounded by a security guard who points you north instead of south. We found ourselves eventually at 18th Street-ish, in need of some iced coffee to cool off from a relatively long walk. The good thing about getting lost is that you occasionally stumble upon a street market that you completely did not know about, and that was exactly what we found. I have no idea what the market was called, but it was long, along 10th Avenue (I think), spread over four blocks.
After some iced coffee, it only made sense to get some donuts, which was exactly what we found. I got the Salted Chocolate flavor because I firmly believe that that any sweet-salty-bitter combination could never be bad. The donut did not disappoint. It was huge, and absolutely doused with a sticky, gooey salted chocolate glaze that will inevitably get your fingers dirty. It was finger-licking goodness, literally.
The next day, we headed out to the famous Brooklyn Smogarsburg on Sunday. The first thing to note is that it’s not so easy to get to. The market is usually located at Pier 5 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, but on that weekend it was at Pier 2, which, if you look at the map, looks deceptively easy to access. After a treacherous hike down Furman Street to get to river-level, I was getting impatient for the market. After getting slightly lost (again), we found the clutch of stalls tucked away just off the track on the left (we went right) and it was a welcome sight after the walk.
The great difficulty with such markets is that there is so much good-looking food and so little time, and even less money. Paying $9-10 for a gourmet sandwich and no service may seem fair enough, but to fork out another $10 for another one, and $4 for a cup of bubble tea may be slightly taxing on the wallet. I succumbed, though, obtaining an excellent beef brisket sandwich, with slices of succulent beef that had cooked for 16 hours, which you can drown in deliciously smoky homemade BBQ sauce and top liberally with as many pickles, onions and jalapeños you like, all tucked in a delicately soft, golden bun. It was the perfect way to enjoy the fantastic view of downtown Manhattan from across the East River, bathed in glorious September sunshine. My friend got himself a bowl of Nasi Lemak, a coconut rice dish from a Malaysian stall (run by a reticent Thai lady).
It was a great weekend, getting lost in the city, and getting acquainted with the different markets and street food stalls that dot this huge metropolis. The immense diversity of food, served up by many people, both old-timers of, and newcomers to New York provides a seductive and alluring, confusing and chaotic scene that will take time to uncover. Amid the chaos, the order of the day is, walk, and eat, and enjoy it while it lasts.
Over the next year, I’ll try as best as I can to get out of my apartment, to pound the streets of New York, and indulge in the great buffet served up on New York streets. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge: