Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Visiting NYC – some of my favorites – McNally & Robinson, Don’s Bogam and other usual haunts

Posted by shannonclark on November 10, 2007

I visit NYC almost once a month, though it has been a few months since I was last here, spring in fact. For about the past year when I have visiting NYC I have stayed with a friend who has an apartment on the upper west side. Without the costs of a hotel (and the hassle that is finding and booking a NYC hotel room) my trips to NYC can and have been longer and more frequent.

Often while I am here I have business events to attend, tech or advertising industry conferences and the like. This trip I covered Ad:Tech for Centernetworks. Most evenings I ate out with a group of people who were also in town for the conference, I did also manage to get to a few of my old standbys (and one new favorite).

I am here in NYC until Tuesday, this weekend my plan is to explore the city (and the city’s cafes) further. I may hop on a subway and head over to Brooklyn which I have not explored in the past.

Here are a few of my old and new favorites, spots I try to get to on most trips to NYC.

McNally & Robinson bookstore and cafe

On Prince St in the Nolita neighborhood, a neighborhood in the middle of many other, more well know parts of NYC, is a large, well organized and well lit independent bookstore and cafe. The cafe serves great teas, coffee and snacks and has free wifi with a purchase. The bookstore hosts frequent author signings and other events and is well stocked with an eclectic and carefully chosen selection. And not a small selection, this is not a cramped, small bookstore, but a multiple story, airy and wonderful temple of books and reading. In short, my kinda place and my kinda people.

I discovered McNally & Robinson on my last trip to NYC and now it is a place I return to again and again. I often here a lament that NYC does not support good bookstores anymore, but here is proof that at least a few can buck the trends (though one part of San Francisco I do relish and love is the multitude of fantastic independent bookstores both new, used and often both (something rarer in many parts of the country).

For one of the many group dinners at Ad:Tech I invited a group of people to join me at one of my favorite Korean restaurants anywhere – Don’s Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar. (I haven’t yet found their official website, will add that link when/if I can).

They are located at 17 E. 32nd St a block east of the heart of Koreantown. Unlike the more touristy places to the west, Don’s serves impeccably fresh panchan and meats all cooked on grills at your table. The design is modern, clean, minimalist yet functional. And though the prices are a bit higher than some of the tourist spots, the quality is very high as well. Typically I find it ends up being about $40/person (with light drinking, more if you drink a lot) and for that you get appetizers, tons of panchan, and very fresh and wonderful BBQ meats (and their non-BBQ dishes are also wonderful). I have yet to have a bad dish at Don’s Bogam. The service is usually great, though you may have to insist on help – and having a Korean speaker with you probably would help but is not at all necessary to have a fantastic meal.

Other notes on NYC

When I am in NYC and the weather is nice I often find myself walking. I have had trips where I have walked from Columbus Circle (or even points north of it) to as far south as Ground Zero – generally via a non-straight line through the East Village.

On this trip however I have taken a lot of subway rides and only a few cab rides. At the conference for the most part after the conference on the way to dinner or to other events groups of us would take a cab – for two people they are actually more expensive than the subway, for a group of three or four they are a toss up. In at least one case this week, however, we got out of the cab nearly 8 blocks from our destination because traffic was so bad that the pedestrians were far outracing the cars.

So far having been in NYC for 5 days I have spent over $26 on subway rides (at $2 a ride) and not counting airport cabs (which between to SFO and from JFK were about $70 worth of cab fares) I have spent about the same on taxi rides. Over the weekend I anticipate many more subway rides, my plans include wandering around Manhattan and likely Brooklyn which will involve multiple cab rides as I head out in the morning to get a late-breakfast/brunch, head to an interesting area to do some shopping & touring, find a cafe to work in for a few hours, then perhaps explore another area or two, finally finding someplace to get dinner – and then perhaps catch a movie or a show or something else typically NYC (with possibly a trip back up to the Upper West Side to drop off any purchases etc)

What I love about NYC – and which I miss even in San Francisco is the sheer density of people and population – and thus activity of a dense major city. San Francisco has a few areas which have a lot of people and a mix of residential and commercial sections, but NYC is fairly unique in the US for the overlay of commercial and residential across so large an area – in nearly all parts of at least Manhattan there are literally 100’s of stores within a short walk of any apartment. Nearly everywhere there are at least some shops which are open 24hrs a day. Many restaurants and stores stay open late – I suspect there is almost no good or service (other than perhaps government related) which cannot be found at almost any hour of the day in NYC, nor which can’t somehow be arranged to be delivered.

While there are not a huge number of bookstores in NYC, I have walked past many open until midnight. Slowly in just the last couple of years I have seen (and my observations are just those of a frequent visitor) a growing number of independent cafes and many more places than even just a few months ago who offer free wifi access.

One Response to “Visiting NYC – some of my favorites – McNally & Robinson, Don’s Bogam and other usual haunts”

  1. john t said

    Thanks for writing this. We at McNally Robinson love to be loved. It’s great to find stuff like this on ye olde interweb. Please move to NYC & become a certified regular @ our store. See you here!

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