by Kara Kimbrough
Traveling to New York City a few days before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks proved to be an unbelievable experience. My initial reasons for wanting to return were to explore the city in warmer weather after a 2019 Christmas trip and dine at more of the city's legendary restaurants. However, visiting and on Saturday, being near the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on the actual anniversary overshadowed any meal or attraction. If you haven't toured the memorial, I highly encourage you to do so. The well-done museum and grounds featuring the Reflection Pools at the footprint of the former Twin Towers is something every American should see.
That’s not to say that the restaurants at which I was fortunate enough to get in (complete with mask, vaccination card and photo I.D.) were not noteworthy. New York is known for its diverse and amazing cuisine spread through Manhattan and surrounding boroughs. Here are a few highlights of standout meals.
First, I was disappointed my reservation for Grand Central Station’s Oyster Bar were cancelled at the last minute due to the 98-year-old restaurant pushing back it’s reopening after being closed during the pandemic. It’s still on my bucket list due to its storied history as one of NYC’s legendary restaurants and outstanding cuisine.
Not to be deterred, a quick detour to Gallagher’s Steakhouse (pictured right), another legend in the city's culinary history, was an excellent choice. Opened in 1927 during Prohibition by Helen Gallagher, a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer and well-known gamblers, Gallagher’s was one of the city’s first speakeasy gathering spots for Broadway and sports stars and celebrities.
A glass-fronted meat locker showcasing what could end up being one’s steak for an upcoming meal is found in Gallagher’s front window. Elements of the restaurant’s storied past are showcased throughout the well-appointed restaurant offering fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere.
A solicitous waiter brought a plate of shrimp and lobster dumplings with soy ginger dipping sauce to quell hunger pains until dinner arrived. I’d wanted to taste dumplings after the grandmother in the movie Crazy Rich Asians made them for her family. A visit to Chinatown was not on the itinerary, so sampling these delicate, delicious small bites without leaving Midtown Manhattan was a trip highlight.
Many times, the cuisine at legendary restaurants doesn’t live up to its hype. This is not the case at Gallagher’s. My filet mignon was perfectly seasoned, tender and melted like butter with each bite. I’d planned to order a baked potato or some other ordinary side with the steak until I spotted “Gallagher’s potato chips” on the menu. After the waiter described the homemade seasoned chips with a secret recipe dipping sauce, I couldn’t resist ordering them. The crispy, fried chips dusted lightly with seasoned paired perfectly with the tangy, irresistibly delicious sauce.
Side note, the chef did share his “secret sauce” recipe with me (or at least the main ingredients) so drop me an email if you’d like it. I plan to use it as a sauce for many things other than chips.
Other standout meals included Eately's margherita pizza, a family-style dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmigiana at Tony’s di Napoli and a Bubby’s burger at the long-time Tribeca restaurant of the same name.
Memorable breakfasts consisted of loaded New York bagels filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese and super-sized waffles topped with fresh fruit and maple syrup at Hudson Market, the on-site restaurant at the Sheraton at Times Square.
I was introduced to the family-friendly hotel by Mississippi friends now living in Dallas and recommend it for first-time visitors or anyone who prefers to stay in the middle of Times Square. It's perfect for those who want walk to nearby attractions and restaurants. Its strict safety features, prime location and amenities can’t be beaten.
Last, following up on a recommendation from Hattiesburg restaurateur and friend Robert St. John, my friends and I stopped by Becco Italian Restaurant on the last night for a quick dinner before heading to see the musical Waitress. This hit show has a Mississippi tie, but I don't remember what it is - if anyone knows, please share it with me. Robert urged me to try the pasta trio, which changes daily. We weren’t disappointed in the evening’s never-ending servings of linguine with clams, farfalle with fresh tomato sauce and basil and artichoke ravioli. It was the perfect quick meal before heading over to Broadway.
Other standout experiences besides the most meaningful, the 9/11 Memorial, were traveling back to a less-crowded Statue of Liberty courtesy of outside travel restrictions, experiencing Central Park in warmer weather and the breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and surrounding states from the 70th floor observation deck at Rockefeller Plaza’s Top of the Rock. A nighttime double decker bus tour of the city and Brooklyn was the perfect way to see everything and enjoy cool breezes from atop the open air bus.
Using a CityPASS from NYC & Company at the majority of sites I visited made for hassle-free eperiences, with no lines and first priority over others trying to get in. A rainy day cancelled a few plans, which means a return trip is definitely in order.
New York City is filled with friendly, helpful residents and delicious food that is, in most cases, no more expensive than at restaurants in any other city, including some in Mississippi. Email me if you’d like more tips on how to visit and enjoy New York without spending a fortune.
The best experience of the trip was landing back in Jackson and knowing I was home. New York is a great place to visit, but there’s no place like Mississippi.