New York City.

It’s been six years since I’ve visited the city that never sleeps.

Tommaso planned my surprise birthday trip to New York City which happened to be a great destination for just 4 days. It was also his first time visiting the city so I was excited to do some of the touristy things again. We arrived late on a Wednesday night and went straight to our hotel, Arlo SoHo, where you’ll find tiny modern rooms with efficient storage, a lobby bar as well as a rooftop bar, and a full-service restaurant.

We dropped off our bags, freshened up quickly, and then headed out to our first dinner at Atomix. After dinner, Tommaso was still a little hungry so he grabbed a few slices at Joe’s Pizza around midnight. I had a small bite as it was hard to resist and it was greasy af but tasty.

Our first full day in the city started off by getting something sweet at Dominique Ansel Bakery where chef Dominique Ansel is not only a contributing chef at In Situ (his sage smoked dark chocolate brownie is out of this world) but he’s also the inventor of the cronut, a hybrid of a croissant and donut.

We ordered the lemon honey cronut (they only have one seasonal flavor that rotates), a kouign amann, and Nutella milk bread. The cronut wasn’t my favorite, perhaps because of the flavor, and was slightly oily. Both the kouign amann and Nutella milk bread were delicious though.

After our morning goodies, we headed to Rockefeller Center where we went 70 floors up to the Top of the Rock for stunning views of the city. We didn’t spend too much time up there as it was hot and there was no shade in sight.

After enjoying views of the city, we walked around the Theater District to Radio Music City Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and eventually Times Square.

We ended our afternoon in Central Park and took a nice nap in the shade after walking around all day. I think I must have passed out for a solid 30 minutes 😂.

After our day excursions, we had an early dinner at Uncle Boons for some bomb Thai food. After dinner, we walked around the area and eventually made our way to “Little Italy“. Tommaso was definitely disappointed as he had a different expectation and actually preferred San Francisco’s North Beach (our version of Little Italy) significantly more.

The following day, we started off by heading to one of the city’s most beloved institutions, Katz’s Delicatessen. This Jewish style deli has been around for over 100 years serving up pastrami, corned beef, brisket, and other fine Jewish foods.

We got one pastrami sandwich with cheese and one corned beef Reuben, both on rye bread. Without a doubt, the pastrami was the clear winner as neither of us were crazy about the texture of the corned beef (slightly chewy). Pastrami is definitely the way to go! If you’re ever in Manhattan, you have to try Katz’s Delicatessen as it’s an iconic establishment.

After a hefty early lunch, we walked around Chinatown before heading to our next destination across town.

We spent most of our afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History, the largest natural history museum in the world, which was featured in the film Night at the Museum.

After the museum, we walked around the city and eventually made our way to The High Line, an elevated linear park and greenway on a former central railroad spur. We ended our day at Chelsea Market, a hip indoor market with food stalls and various vendors.

Our third night in the city, we dined at Le Bernardin where seafood reigns supreme.

On my birthday, we had to start off the day by getting one of my favorite foods…bagels, and who knows bagels better than Russ & Daughters? Open since 1914, Russ & Daughters is another famous institution that cannot be missed for its high quality smoked fish, caviar, baked goods, and other specialty Jewish treats.

We got a pretzel bagel with gravlax, an everything bagel with King smoked salmon, both with red onions, tomato, capers, and regular cream cheese. There’s something magical about the creamy decadent cream cheese with fatty fish and delicious homemade bagels…it’s honestly one of my favorite things to eat. We also got a challah bun with herring but neither of us liked it as the herring was more pungent than what we were expecting. We also got a few rugelach, traditional Jewish pastries, with either chocolate, apricot, or raspberry filling.

After brunch, we headed towards Ground Zero where you’ll find the One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.

We eventually made our way down to Battery Park where you can get a view of the Statue of Liberty. I would have loved to visit the Statue of Liberty but tickets are booked far in advance! We even got lucky as we were inside Trinity Church when it suddenly began pouring rain out of nowhere.

After the random rainstorm, we walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn which was overcrowded with tourists.

On my birthday night, we dined at no other than one of the best restaurants in the city, Eleven Madison Park, where the dining experience was phenomenal.

Since we were quite full after dinner, we ended up walking all the way from Eleven Madison Park to our hotel which took 30 minutes or so. Luckily, we walked through Washington Square Park and saw the arch. The park was filled with people even late at night.

As we had done a lot of sightseeing and exploring during our first few days, our final full day in Manhattan was a bit more low key. We had brunch with my aunt and uncle who came into the city from Staten Island and it was Tommy’s first time meeting them! We ate at Balthazar, an iconic French bistro in SoHo.

After a great brunch and catching up with my aunt and uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in years, we walked around SoHo and checked out a few shops.

Later on, Tommaso and I walked through Greenwich Village and stumbled upon one of the many Milk Bar shops and I was thrilled! I love chef Christina Tosi and I’ve even made her famous “crack pie”. Of course, we had to try a slice of their famous “pie” and it was exactly like the one I made.

We spent the remainder of the day walking around the city more and eventually ended up at Grand Central Station and beautiful Bryant Park.

We had a casual dinner at Momofuku Ssäm Bar for our last supper where their signature spicy pork sausage and rice cakes are not to be missed.

Before heading to the airport, we squeezed in one last meal at Cosme for lunch where you’ll find delicious takes on modern Mexican cuisine.

Manhattan is one of those cities that’s always exciting to visit. There’s just so much to see and explore and a plethora of amazing restaurants to try! I’ll be looking forward to my next visit whenever that will be!

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