Little Big City
Finding Your Pieces of Old New York
The best French fries you’ve ever had, or will have after reading this, are eaten at 2:00 am, in the middle of August, sitting on the curb outside Papaya Dog with your best friend. Trust me, I would know.
Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s my memory, but when I was growing up New York seemed more “New York”. For me, finding classic New York spots helped keep that memory alive and make such a big city a little smaller.
One such New York staple that brings me back is Papaya Dog, as mentioned above. Cheap food, cheap drinks (get the papaya juice, obviously), and always open until 4:00 am. This place is a must for anyone searching for an authentic late night local meal.
But before we end the night, let’s back up a few hours and head to one of my favorite spots, Toad Hall. A self proclaimed saloon, Toad is your quintessential neighborhood bar, and a SoHo staple for longer than I’ve been alive (which is long enough to have debt). On a cold winter’s night there’s no better place to be than sidled up at the dark wooden bar top with a Narragansett listening to the crack of pool balls on the old table in back. And yes, everyone there knows your name.
Now, New York ain’t New York without Chinatown, and it’s always been one of my favorite areas to roam. Whenever I’m in the neighborhood I always find myself on historic Doyers Street, aka “The Bloody Angle”. A hundred years ago and more this narrow little street was the location of some pretty, well, bloody gang wars. Though not as bloody as it once was, you’ll now be happy to enjoy a drink at a speakeasy, or two, like Apotheke, located at the bend in the Angle. Just don’t tell anyone I told you.
And down the street you can go to one of my favorite dim sum restaurants, Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest restaurant in Chinatown. The amount of roast pork buns and turnip cakes I’ve eaten there is appalling, and impressive. In the end all of these places have one thing in common: they bring people together. In a city that’s ever changing, these spots feel like memories of home to me and I hope they will lead you home too, but if not, at least you’ll be drunk and full.
Original images by Ross Bergen