While we LOVE dining, drinking, going out, and living it up downtown, there is nothing like the Upper West Side. This is the neighborhood where true New Yorkers live. Though primarily residential, there are some great dining finds, and as of recently, some great options for nightlife as well. We felt it only necessary to highlight its greatness!
The Upper West Side offers so many classic New York staples. Thank the UWS for Fairway and Zabar’s which have fed New Yorkers for decades. Some of the greatest music ever to be heard on the face of the planet will soar from the halls of the Metropolitan Opera to the amphitheater in Central Park. A cultural Mecca! Tourists come far and wide to visit the great parks of New York… when you think Central Park, you get the 1-2-3 or A-C uptown to enter the Park from the West! Perhaps you’ll even make a stop at the Museum of Natural History. The UWS has also been educating America’s youth at some of the most prestigious universities in the country. The UWS supplies New Yorkers with endless sites and historical journeys… from lazy days in Riverside Park to touring Grant’s Tomb. You can even visit the world’s largest cathedral on the UWS, Saint John the Divine. Needless to say, the possibilities are endless, and it was about time 2+2 shared some New York moments with one of the greatest neighborhoods on earth.
Our plan began when A forwarded one of the many daily newsletters to us, highlighting the latest hot spot; in this case: Slightly Oliver, located at Amsterdam and 84th Street. From the photo and description, this new canteen sounded right up our alley. Dim lighting, exposed brick, and creative concoctions designed by some veteran mixologists. Yum! So, we laid our plans around our high hopes for some post-dinner elixirs. Then, where to dine was the next question?! As a former resident of this fine neighborhood, K made a list of some mentionable restos, and thus, our email chain began. Fine dining? Classic? Warm and cozy? How does one choose when the possibilities are endless?!
Since we were all feeling something more low-key, relaxed, and toasty, we decided upon one of NYC’s few Belgian eateries: B. Cafe West. On a bitter, fall-in-New-York evening, nothing calls our names more than some exposed brick, comfy booths, and steak frites! So it was set! We planned to meet around Amsterdam in the 80s, hoping to have enough time for a pre-dinner drink. But alas, as subways go, we were lucky to get to B. Cafe West in time for our reservation!
We noshed on some comfort foods and caught up on life… all looking forward to a long Thanksgiving weekend ahead. There’s nothing better than unwinding with some friends over some tasty snacks and rounds of vino. We’re so good at this… these moments are our lifeblood! We’d never get through the 9-5 any other way than looking forward to these precious hours when we can kick back in a comfy, red-clad booth, sip on French wine, and forget (or try!) about our stresses.
After our Belgian fare, we traveled down Amsterdam to our next spot, a gastropub meets chem-lab, which we so eagerly anticipated. As soon as we entered, we wondered… were we downtown?! The Upper West Side has been crying out for a venue like Slightly Oliver for a lifetime. Finally! An uptown locale that draws you in with sultry lighting and irresistible libations. We loved it! Finally, the UWS can now boast another attribute… nightlife!
As we sat perched at one of the pub tables near the bar, sampling each other’s selections and trying to decide which was the best, suddenly we saw some familiar landmarks… sailing by the window! Was that Santa’s sleigh?! It sure was! Lady Liberty?! Yes! Just after midnight, officially Thanksgiving Day, the city was making its final preparations for THE parade…. so, as we sat, enjoying our night cap, others were hustling and bustling in anticipation of the morning’s big show. Now floats, and houses, and sleighs, and trains…to the top of the park, each they will haul…. now dash away, dash away, dash away all! It was an incredible scene. Could there be anything MORE perfectly New York?
Perhaps, the parade itself…. After a late night ride home, A+L awoke just a few short hours later and traveled back into the city for the big show! Although most stake out their parade viewing spot in the wee hours of the morning, we just couldn’t pry ourselves out of bed any earlier than 9am after such a late night. It turned out to be an ideal situation! The parade runs from 9am to noon starting on the Upper West Side and finishing up in Herald Square. By the time we popped out of Penn Station at 10:30am, we were so happy to see that we had arrived just in time!
Massive balloons, festive floats, high school marching bands and hundreds of parade participants happily strutted through the streets of Manhattan! Classic Christmas songs, hot coffee, and snuggling up in your mittens and hat get you in the mood for the start of the season. After visits from Snoopy, Mickey and Kermit, we cheered for Santa and his elves and the procession was complete. As the last balloons passed, we took the opportunity to walk down the middle of 7th Avenue… it’s not often that NYC streets are solely open to pedestrians. Although short lived (they were opened back up to cars just 20 minutes later), it’s always a unique perspective to peer up at the skyscrapers from the center of a major avenue!
As it was an absolutely incredible day out, we couldn’t head home yet… we strolled though the decorated streets, breathed in the smells of chestnuts roasting on every street corner and finished up the early afternoon with a little pre-Thanksgiving dinner at the incredible ÇaVa Brasserie just outside of Times Square. It’s the beginning of Christmas in New York… the most magical time to experience the Big Apple.
Belgian, Wine & Beer, Manhattan
With 10,000 restaurants in NYC, there is only a dozen Belgian restaurants in Manhattan. With only one Belgian restaurant (on Long Island) in our restaurant repertoire, we were craving a Manhattan locale that matches our stellar Long Island Belgian favorite, Waterzooi. Also in the mood for cozy, low-key, and intimate, we chose B. Cafe West as our Thanksgiving Eve dining destination.
K+M arrived just shortly prior to A+L and ordered up some drinks at the very tiny bar, which was super cute. With only beer and wine options (and digestifs to complement desserts), K ordered a glass of vino, and M a beer. A+L arrived a moment later, and we were seated instantly. We were seated all the way in the back of this very narrow venue, in the wallpaper-donned “back room” just under the window that looks into the kitchen. Although somewhat cozy, it was also somewhat closed in. We loved the ambiance in the front of the house with the red-clad booths, quintessential French bistro lights, and exposed brick. Once we were seated in the back, we felt as though we lost the convivial atmosphere that we initially loved.
When our server came over to greet us, we inquired about moving forward to another table… fortunately, a table had just opened up in the front and it was all ours after it was cleaned. Phew! We didn’t want to miss out on the inviting ambiance… it’s amazing how where you are seated in a restaurant can make or break the experience. Once our musical chairs session was complete, we felt much more relieved in our new quaint little corner; it was much more comfortable and conducive to kicking back and eating and chatting comfortably.
We ordered up some traditional, hearty Belgian favorites to warm our souls on a bitter evening. As a true carnivore, A ordered the Steak Frites, perhaps the most quintessential Belgian dish, which she found quite palatable. M made a very atypical selection… Moules Frites?! The Provençal broth was flavorful and perfect for dipping our bread. K+L both selected the Carbonnades Flamandes, a slow-cooked, beer braised beef stew that was missing a little bit of the stew part that we were both hoping for! While tasty, it was a little different than what we were expecting.
Although full, we can never say no to dessert, of course! So, we selected some staples like Bread Pudding and Belgian Waffles (how could we not?!). The Bread Pudding was a bit more like a French toast than an actual pudding. Although good, we love a traditional bread pudding… this wasn’t exactly the consistency we envisioned. The Belgian waffle was much more typical and delicious. (Can we get a little warm nutella on the side?!) K thought ordering some Poire (a traditional Pear liquer from Normandy) would be reminiscent of her days in France; however, it turned out to be much more potent than that she enjoyed abroad… even watered down, it was unbearable to drink. Beware!
Overall, we enjoyed our meal and experience at B. Cafe West.… it was warm, cozy, tasty, and accommodating. On another bitter night in NYC, a trip to B. Cafe just might be in order.
What we ate…
- Bitterballen [Mini beef croquettes- a traditional snack of Belgium] (2+2)
- Steak Frites Belgique [Strip steak/peppercorn sauce/frites] (A)
- Carbonnade Flamandes [Traditional Belgian stew/tender beef/onions/cooked in dark beer/frites] (K+L)
- Moules Frites Provençal [Fresh mussels delivered daily] (M)
- Bread Pudding [raisins/rum/vanilla sauce] (2+2)
- Gauffre de Bruxelles Chantilly [Belgian Waffle/ Callebaut Chocolate Sauce/ Whipped Cream] (2+2)
K: B. Cafe has been on my list for so long… definitely a warm spot that I can see myself going back to on a chilly night if I’m in the area.
L: Transports you to the backstreets of Belgium. Small, cozy, and inviting.
M: This place is a perfect place to escape the cold of the winter and have a good meal to warm you up.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene-A cozy venue with red-clad booths, exposed brick, and classic bistro lighting.
- Food/Drinks- 3: Pleasantly surprised.
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity included.
- Coordinates-4: Neighborhood – Centrally located!
- Restaurant Return Rate- Greenish– With so many spots to try, we will keep this one on the back burner for the right day…
Gastropub, Cocktails/ Wine/ Beer, Manhattan
The name Slightly Oliver doesn’t make much sense. Your either Oliver or you’re not. The establishment is not really a restaurant, not really a lounge and not exactly a bar. It’s a slight amount of each. Get it? Yes… No… Well the good thing is that it doesn’t matter if you or I get it or not. The good thing is, it’s a great place go and mellow out with your friends to grab some cocktails, or food for that matter.
Step inside this Upper West Side night spot and immediately notice the dimly lit room, warm paint hues, and filament lights. The lounge area up front serves some bar bites. Step up to one of the high top tables with your friends and start ordering. The custom-made back of the bar has many nooks and crannies and is well stocked with all your high-end favorites and some libations that that you haven’t heard of. If you’re into fine Tequila or Whiskey, you won’t be disappointed. If the typical restaurant experience is what you are looking for, head to the back for regular table service.
We stopped in to sample some of the creative cocktails offered by the mixologists behind the bar. Many of the drinks here play homage to the original “punches” or cocktails that sailors used to have while traveling the nether regions of the Caribbean. Others are just classics with an apothecary-style twist.
A‘s Bolliwood Punch reminded her of that time she sailed the seas as a first mate on a Pirate ship and conquered foreign lands collecting spices. M‘s Last Night in Paris reminded him of his days as a secret agent during the Cold War. K‘s The Orient couldn’t help but churn up old memories of her time building the railroads during the Gold Rush with America’s Asian immigrants. Each drink has a thoughtful twist or take on the typical mixed drink (set to conger up old memories from a past life). The prices are typical Manhattan, but you certainly get a well prepared cocktail for the cost. In the end, it’s a Green Light for a return visit.
What we drank…
- Bolliwood Punch [Jamaican Rum, Brandy, Orange Juice, Lime Juice, Cardamom, Simple Syrup, Rosemary, Bitters] (A)
- Vintage Margarita [Resposado Tequila, Agave and Lime Infusion, Bitters, Yuzu] (A)
- The Orient [Thai-basil infused Gin, Yellow Tomato Water, Reduction of Tangerine & Peppercorn, Habanero Bitters] (K)
- Maker’s 46 Whiskey (L)
- Last Night in Paris [Rum, Absinthe, Grapefruit Juice, Lime Juice, Muddled Mint, Bitters, Simple Syrup] (M)
- Wheat Beer (M)
A: Loved this bar!! The cocktails were unique and inventive, without tasting like cough medicine, which is often is the case with venues offering apothecary-style libations. Can’t wait to come back and sample more of the creative concoctions!
K: The UWS has been screaming for a nightlife spot forever… and it has finally arrived. An awesome ambiance and creative concoctions… I will definitely be back!
L: Classic cocktails with a very unique twist. Certainly some interesting flavors but they grow on you quick.
M: Love bars like this. The decor and lighting are great, makes for a perfect setting to have the creative cocktails that they serve. We will definitely be back soon.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Warm, Gastropub style lounge meets Chem Lab
- Drinks- 3.5: Pleasantly Stellar
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity Included
- Coordinates- 4: Neighborhood
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green Light
www.Macys.com/Parade Classic NYC Experiences
As lifetime New Yorkers, it’s amazing how many simple, classic New York events you take for granted and have never attended. For 85 years, this magical parade has delighted spectators in the city and throughout the country as it is broadcast from coast to coast… and it was our first time attending! A truly unique holiday and one that all Americans celebrate… uniting festivities where we reflect on our freedoms and for all that we have to be grateful. Plus, most would say it’s their favorite meal of the year!
Marking the start of the Christmas season, Thanksgiving gets everyone’s excitement going, and the parade is the ideal opening ceremony! Starting on the Upper West Side and traveling down Central Park West from 77th street, this 3-hour extravaganza weaves through uptown and wraps up on 34th Street in front of Macy’s flagship store. This would be our first trip to the extensive parade of vintage cartoon characters, marching band flair, and heart-warming Christmas cheer!
Rather than awakening at dawn’s light, we made our entrance at nearly 10am, quite late in respect to when most of the parade-goers arrived. However, it turned out to be perfect timing. Ascending from Penn Station (there was no way we were going to drive in!), we were greeted by a closed 7th Avenue and a sea of thousands who were excitedly snapping photos of the passing balloons just one short block down!
We weaved in and out of the massive crowds and arrived several blocks away at 37th Street where we wiggled within 50 feet of the street. It was an ideal viewing spot (for a 10am arrival) and happily joined in the ‘oooohhhhss’ and ‘aaaahhhhss’ as the balloons slowly appeared behind the skyscrapers… nose, then hand, then flying jetpack, or cape, or web-slinging spider attire. We exuberantly joined in the cheers for Hello Kitty (OK, that was A), Spiderman, the Smurfs and Kermit-THE-Frog (which A‘s cousin had the honor of towing down the street in a green jumpsuit)! Wrapping up the procession, both young and old excitedly cheered for Santa’s sled and his array of high flying elves. Bundle up and enjoy a true, classic New York memory.
A: A new yearly tradition! I can’t believe how much fun it was. A highly recommended, heartwarming experience.
K: Last year, I loved going in to witness the floats being blown up on Thanksgiving Eve… that night was chaotic and super crowded! I think for the actual parade, I’d prefer to watch it from my warm and snuggly couch!
L: I can’t believe it took me so long to see the parade in person being from New York. It was an amazing experience.
M: K and I didn’t make it this year, but we have been to the blowing up of the balloons the night before. Although the crowds can be overwhelming, the excitement of being in NYC for the Parade is one of a kind.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- A classic scene for your New York memories scrapbook!
- Return Rate- Green light!