How To Go To New York City & Not Eat Like A Tourist

It’s been estimated that there are 24,000 restaurants in New York City, and that’s not including the other four boroughs – that’s just in Manhattan alone! A good bunch of them are privately-owned, non-chain establishments. So if there’s one thing that I just don’t understand, it’s when people come to New York City as tourists and eat the same food as they would at home.

“We couldn’t find anyplace good to eat so we went to the Olive Garden on 47th between 7th and Broadway. I love their salad and breadsticks!”

“We were thinking of going to TGI Friday’s but ate at the Applebee’s – it was right across the street from the theater.”

“We wanted to eat pizza while we were in NYC, so we went to Pizza Hut.”

Now, I can can see if people have kids in tow and the only thing they’ll eat are Chicken McNuggets. Or maybe they want to go to a touristy place if it’s a “name” that they may never get to go to anywhere else, like the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood or Junior’s (even I sometimes eat at Junior’s LOL! Oh, their matzoh ball soup and cheesecake!). But did you know you can walk about 2 blocks away from Times Square and eat at the same places New Yorkers eat? And the food might not only taste better, but it may even be a little bit cheaper precisely because they’re not in the heart of Times Square (and paying Times Square rent) and they’re not catering to tourists?

In fact, there’s a whole block of restaurants just like that, and it’s a simple name to remember…

Continue reading “How To Go To New York City & Not Eat Like A Tourist”

Must-Buy Items To Bring Home From Certain Cities

When visiting a certain city, what’s the item you need to bring home? You know, that thing that’s only available there. You might even get excited about going somewhere because you know you’re going to be able to buy this specific item.

Over the years, we’ve developed a list of things we need to bring home if we’re going to be somewhere. Granted, I know that nowadays you can pretty much order anything from anywhere. Frankly, I don’t need these items that much to pay the shipping and handling costs; I can go without them. But if I’m visiting a place where I can just buy it, why should I pass up that chance?

Continue reading “Must-Buy Items To Bring Home From Certain Cities”

Why Would A Hotel Offer A Benefit That Doesn’t Exist?

Sharon and I recently stayed at the Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. We decided that we were going to visit the Florida Keys shortly after seeing the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Too many people stay away from cities hit by disasters because they’re afraid the area hasn’t “recovered”. Resolving not to do that, we booked a long weekend with the two free weekend night stay certificates Sharon earned as a sign up bonus for the, now extinct, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve credit card.

Photo Apr 20, 10 04 27 PM
The hotel lobby and public areas were beautifully designed a style I’m going call “Old Money’s Concept Of A Tropical Resort” vibe.

The hotel was nice enough to extend my Hilton Gold status to our reservation, even though the reservation was made under Sharon’s account. While I had to go through a bit of a back and forth, I finally received our letter with the Gold Benefits.

Casa Marina Gold Benefits

We didn’t plan on using most of these benefits, like the discount massages or watersports. I asked about upgrading our room ahead of time and I was told they hotel was almost fully booked. The only things we would use on the list were the two bottles of water (which they even replenished after the first night and never charged us for them) and the Complimentary Continental Breakfast for Two. We usually don’t eat breakfast at the hotel but “our” Starbucks was on the other side of the island so the idea of sitting outside and having a coffee, juice and a muffin didn’t sound that bad.

The Casa Marina’s breakfast restaurant is called Sun Sun and is located just behind the lobby.

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I walked up to the host stand and said we were Gold Members and would like to have the continental breakfast. She asked for my vouchers. Vouchers? I never got vouchers.

“You need to go back to the front desk and have them give you vouchers.”

So back to the front desk. They look up our room and tell me that we’re not Gold Members. I show my letter from the day before. Oh, sorry. Here’s your vouchers. They’re worth $15 for each person.

Back to the restaurant and look at the menu.

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I explain that we’d only want to get a continental breakfast for our $15 voucher as we were not in the mood for a $30 buffet. I was told they don’t offer that. It’s either the buffet and pay the extra $15 over the voucher, or you can order a la carte and get a $15 credit. If I wanted to get a “continental breakfast,” I could go to the coffee bar in the lobby.

So off we went to Flaglers Cafe, the lobby coffee shop,

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For our $15 vouchers, we were able to get a breakfast sandwich (heated up in a toaster oven) and a brewed coffee. We had enough credit left to buy one bottle of water.

Not the restful breakfast that I was expecting when staying at the Waldorf Astoria.
egg bacon cheese bagel

ON the following morning we considered paying the extra and going to the buffet. Instead, we cashed in our vouchers for two slices of banana bread and a bottle of water, which we saved for the car ride home, and headed to our “go to” breakfast in Key West, Sarabeth’s.

Sarabeth's

For a total of $40, Sharon and I had a wonderful breakfast of omelets, toast with amazing jams and jellies and a huge cup of coffee.

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We did pay a little more for this than the “subsidized” breakfast we could have received at the Waldorf Astoria, but it was worth it to eat at one of our favorite places.

Final Thoughts

I still can’t get over the Casa Marina offering an amenity of a complimentary continental breakfast for two on their welcome package when such a product is not even offered at the hotel. Why not just say the truth – you’ll receive a $15 voucher per person that can be used during breakfast at the Sun Sun restaurant or Flaglers Cafe. Probably because that sounds cheap, which it is. Why not just let Gold members go to sit outside at breakfast and get coffee, juice and a basket of pastries. Would that many people go to the buffet anyway? Even so, how much money would they lose? Instead of that, I cashed out my $15 credit and felt like Hilton values Gold Members about as much as a reheated breakfast sandwich and a coffee to go.

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Cover Photo Credit: William J Sisti on Flickr

New York Pizza, Bagels and Corned Beef Sandwiches, Oh My!

When we travel to New York City, the foods we crave are pizza, bagels and deli sandwiches. Since we moved to Florida from the NY area, we have never found a local place that does any of them as well as they do in New York. Some people say it’s because of the water but places have even tried to import the water and it still doesn’t taste the same. An average slice of pizza in New York is going to be better than the best you can find anywhere else. You can argue this point with me, but you’d be wrong. 😉 Continue reading “New York Pizza, Bagels and Corned Beef Sandwiches, Oh My!”

What’s Your Favorite Breakfast/Brunch Spot in New York?

We’re looking for your suggestions. Unlike our usual trips to New York City, we’re going to have time on Saturday and Sunday morning to go out for breakfast or brunch. We have no idea where to start looking with so many choices in New York, so we’re asking our readers, “what’s your favorite place?” We’re not tied to our usual Manhattan/Times Square locale, so hit us with your favorites.

If you’re really looking to impress us with your suggestions, we prefer to order from a menu instead of a buffet and would like somewhere that wouldn’t require us to dress up too much.

Let it be known that breakfast one day might consist of a meal that looks like this (Edit from Sharon: Excuse me but, ummm, might? MIGHT?!?!?! What is this “might” you speak of? The correct word is “will.” As in, “We WILL have a NY bagel breakfast.” “Might,” he says. [snort] HA!).

New York Bagels Dr Brown Soda
Now that’s a breakfast @ Ess-a-bagel

Thanks for helping us plan our trips and for sharing your favorite places with us!!!!