The New York City Oral Experience
Written by Plexus Radio on 5 February, 2020
The New York City Oral Experience
From downtown to uptown there are so many wonderful ways to have a New York Experience, but if you ask me, the only way to experience New York is sensually – in fact, orally.
That’s not to say I want to sing like a street musician or walk and talk the history of New York like a tour guide. Sure, these are sensuous ways to get the New York Experience but the experience I’m after uses the nose, the eyes and the ears. The experience I’m after has aroma, color, flavor, and texture.The experience I’m after is otherworldly, makes your mouth water, is fun, even spicy, and warms and satiates your soul. This experience can get you to many parts of the world without ever leaving New York.
Are you with me? Grab a fork and cab and let’s do this.
The entry point begins downtown – in Chinatown which dominates the Bowery up through canal street. Chinatown is abuzz any time during the day or night with street venders selling souvenirs and knockoffs of bags and watches. Ducks hang drying in the windows of Chinese food markets, and fresh-killed fish is yours for the asking. One can smell authentic Chinese cooking wafting in the streets. A famous Chinese basement hot spot – Wo hop, is nestled on Mott Street and is famous for it’s low prices, generous portions, and authenticity. The line is always long but it moves quickly due to fast, no frills service and high turnover and no one leaves without a doggie bag.
Take a fast turn off Canal Street and you’re on Mulberry Street – home of Little Italy and the San Gennaro feast. Notice how something changes – things slow down a bit – the feeling gets warmer. Almost instantly your senses are stimulated by the history – the cobblestone streets that lie beneath the fire escapes of tenements. Beneath the tenements are cafes and restaurants. The streets are decorated with lights and banners in red white and green. The smell of espresso and Tarantella music funnels onto the street. There’s no shortage of gelato vendors, social clubs and restaurants. Ferrara’s bakery, a popular tourist attraction in Little Italy, tantalizes with its Torrone, a popular Italian confection, cannolis, rainbow cookies and other Italian and Italian-American baked goods. Further down the street is Angelo’s – a main stay, family run, restaurant with a menu that never changes making patrons feel as if they can always come ‘home.’
Moving further uptown we arrive at Greenwich village, also known as ‘the Village” the once bohemian capital of New York City. The village holds a mix of casually elegant restaurants from SOHO (South of Houston) to NOHO (North of Houston) where one can discover foods from the Middle East (at Mamoud’s or 12 Chairs) to Mexican (at the Caliente Cab Co and Dos Cominos) and everything in between. Tables spill onto the streets from Bistros creating a European vibe and the French influence radiates from Mercer kitchen on Prince Street while the illustrious lure of chocolate confection by Jacques Torres draws you in on Hudson Street. Italy does also have a presence here – a true Tuscan presence from Northern Italy at Da Silvano’s on 6th Avenue between, Houston and Bleeker Streets as does the all-American hamburger at the Broome Street Bar and other eclectic and cuisines.
South Asian influences can be unearthed in Little India, an ethnic enclave beginning from 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues with an additional presence uptown on Lexington Avenues between 26th and 30th streets. The lower east side is the home of India’s restaurant row and the home of ‘Curry Lane’, the designation of dozens of Indian restaurants and exotic eats.
For the health and environmentally conscious, head towards Union Square – the organic capital of New York. Union square is the home of the daily Farmer’s Market. Farmers gather to sell fresh, sustainable locally grown produce, farm fresh eggs, and home baked pies to urbanites who want a more organic experience. It’s also the home of Whole foods Market and Trader Joe’s.
There a block – it’s 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue – designated as “Little Brazil Street, home of Via Brazil, a restaurant that gives the most authentic Brazilian experience in NYC.
For more a Zen feeling we head up into the 50’s. Unlike San Francisco and the Bay areas New York doesn’t have a J-Town or Little Tokyo but there is a small Japanese influence here. A taste of Japan can be found in the shops located at Takashima on 5th Avenue. Takashima features a Japanese tea room and bakery, elegant shopping and an authentic Japanese florist. Other delectable Japanese confections can also be found around Rockefeller Center, near 5th Avenue.
A Russian essence can be discovered at the Russian Tea Room on West 57th Street, Petrossian on 58th Street, or at Caviarteria between 59th and 60th Streets on Park Avenue. Here’s a little secret – to get the most authentic Russian experience in New York visit the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn.
The soul of New York is located way uptown, in Harlem – the “go to” spot for Southern fare. Here you’ll unquestionably have an authentic soul food experience. Visit Sylvia’s on Lenox Avenue or Amy Ruth’s on 116th Street to delve in. If your taste takes you to the islands, there are Cajun Caribbean influences here as well.
Feel adventurous? Hungry? Grab a cab and your fork! Your oral experience awaits in New York City and it’s no more than a walk, cab ride or subway ride away.
By Nancy S. Mure from Brooklyn, NY, United States of America.