Santacon & New York’s Heritage

Santacon & New York's Heritage by Ari KellenHalloween’s over, and that means it’s time to start thinking about the next big holiday coming up: Thanksgiving Christmas.  While many American Christmas traditions remain the same, new ones have started to catch on in recent years: Krampus has become popular for its dark absurdity, parents love the elf on the shelf because it’s a fun way to convince your kids to behave, and Santacon has taken off because it offers people an excuse to wander around the street drunk.  In this annual mass gathering, which originated in San Francisco, people dressed in Santa costumes go on a parade, often accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol.  With various bars sponsoring the event, it’s evolved into a messy city-wide bar crawl, which has particularly caught on in New York City.  

Many New Yorkers hate the event, and there’s plenty to hate about unruly drunks crowding up your city.  In the Free Williamsburg blog, one post wrote with palpable disdain about it starting off in their backyard this year.  Yet even if it didn’t originate in New York, and even if many New Yorkers wish it didn’t exist, Santacon is actually the most New York event possible.  As an event that attracts people from all sorts of backgrounds who dress up like Santa and drink to excess, it incorporates several major aspects of early New York’s culture.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a look at the early history of New York, or more appropriately New Amsterdam.  

Even as Santa Claus has become a symbol of American consumerism (his modern-day appearance actually owes much to Coca-Cola ads meant to sell soda in the winter months), it’s a tradition that goes far beyond that.  St. Nicholas as a Christmas tradition originates with the Dutch, who brought it over with them when they colonized New York in the early 17th century (the name “Santa Claus” is actually a corruption of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas, “Sinterklaas”).  At that time, the English settlers in New England didn’t celebrate Christmas, and while those further south in the Chesapeake did, it was more a giant feast than anything else, and St. Nicholas was nowhere to be found.  Even though the Netherlands lost control of “New Netherland” not even 40 years after founding it, the settlers they brought over remained, incorporating aspects of their culture that extend far beyond hard-to-pronounce subway stations.  Among other things, the Dutch gave us banking, sledding, donuts, easter eggs, cookies, coleslaw, the word “boss”, ice skating and Santa Claus.  

The 17th-century Netherlands was the center of a major trade network that extended from Indonesia to the Baltic to Brazil.  It was also one of the few places in Europe at that time to uphold religious freedom, which attracted people of various backgrounds from around the world.  While the New Amsterdam colony was Dutch, only half of the settlers were actually of Dutch origin, and within 20 years of its founding 18 different languages were spoken there.  New Amsterdam was also the only free port in the region, which attracted visitors and settlers from the Americas and beyond who wanted to avoid tariffs.  The only other places in the New World at that time to promise religious freedom were Maryland and Rhode Island, neither of which ever reached that level of diversity; Maryland was mostly just a place for wealthy English Catholics to practice their religion without being bothered, and Rhode Island primarily served as a dumping ground for New Englanders who didn’t fit in with the Puritans of Massachusetts and Connecticut.  

Yet as outstandingly cosmopolitan as it was, New Amsterdam was still just a fur trading post in a remote corner of the world.  The Dutch have always liked to drink, and there was little else to do to pass the time in the North American wilderness.  There was roughly one tavern for every 20 people in New Amsterdam, ensuring that anybody could get a drink.  The majority of court cases in New Amsterdam were related to drunkenness in one way or another, whether it had to do with simple public drunkenness or a booze-fueled brawl that turned into a sword fight (yes, those happened quite a bit).  Even one of the colony’s first men of the cloth, Everardus Bogardus, was described as being seldom sober, and only got the funds to build a new church for the colony by convincing the its richest citizens to pledge money and building materials while they were blackout drunk.  New York’s drinking culture has remained alive and well in the past 390 years, facilitated in the modern era by a subway system that lets New Yorkers get home after a bender without having to get behind the wheel.

Now that we’ve looked at New York’s historic Dutch legacy, let’s look at the modern Santacon.  This is an event where people from throughout the New York Metropolitan area and beyond descend upon the five boroughs.  As one of the only free ports in the Western Hemisphere, New Amsterdam had a long history of attracting a diverse array of visitors from just about everywhere in the world.  The people who attend Santacon dress up, as the name implies, in Santa suits, honoring a tradition that’s delighted New Yorkers big and small since the Dutch brought it over 390 years ago.  And when these revelers get drunk, they’re honoring one of the oldest aspects of New York’s culture: its drinking culture.  It can be easy to hate on Santacon, and many complaints against it are completely valid (nobody wants a horde of red-and-white-clad fratboys drunkenly disrupting their Saturdays).  Yet even as you hate on it, it’s important to not forget the legacy to which it unwittingly pays homage.

NYC’s Secret Places

NYC's Secret Places by Ari KellenThere’s no shortage of amazing things to see and do in New York City.  Most of these places are pretty out in the open, but plenty of other ones are hidden away, available only to those who are willing to look for them.  Here are a few of them, taken from an article I found online:

City Hall Station: If you’re riding the 6 subway downtown, don’t get off at the final stop (Brooklyn Bridge).  Rather, stay on the train, and you’ll pass through the now closed City Hall Station.  This small station is one of the most beautifully-designed in the city, with Guastavino tile vaults, skylights and Romanesque Revival architecture.  Very rarely, the New York Transit Museum offers free tours of the station, but you need to sign up quickly.

The Henry C. Frick bowling alley: Housed in the former home of millionaire Henry Clay Frick is one of the best European art museums in the city.  The cellar of the mansion is home to a private bowling alley that Frick added in 1914.  Unfortunately, getting to see it is nearly impossible if you aren’t a member of the museum.

NYPL book vault: Attached to the NYPL is a two-story, underground vault holding some of the rarest books in the library’s collection.  Although it isn’t open on a regular basis, it does host a handful of annual tours.

Harlem’s High Bridge: Built in the mid-19th century as an aqueduct, this once carried water from Westchester to Manhattan.  It now serves as an attraction for walkers and park-goers.  To get there, take the 1 train up to 168th and walk east to Highbridge Park.  

Rockefeller Center’s Rooftop Gardens: Hidden at the top of Rockefeller Center is a beautiful rooftop garden filled with well-tended flowers and a reflective pool and garden.  If you’ve got a lot of money lying around, you can rent the space for a private event.  

GCT “whispering spot”: In front of the famous Oyster Bar in Grand Central is an archway.  If two people stand at opposite ends of the arch, they can talk into the wall and have their partner hear what they’re saying on the other side.  

Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins: Crowded as New York is, there remain plenty of abandoned buildings, including this 19th-century building on Roosevelt Island.  Population density and a steady arrival of immigrants from Europe meant that New York suffered from smallpox for a long time, and the building served as a quarantine for those infected.  

Fragment of the Berlin Wall: Around the corner from the MoMA is a section of the Berlin Wall, specifically in the lobby of 520 Madison Ave.  This five-section wall is one of the largest sections still intact.  Although it’s inside a building, the lobby is open to the public, so come and visit.

Loew’s Theater: Although it was once a thriving theater in earlier years, Loew’s on Canal Street is now vacant, awaiting restoration.  It was one of the biggest movie theaters in the country when it opened in 1927, but fell into disuse in the 1960s.  Although it’s vacant, its designation as an official New York City Landmark means that it can’t be torn down.  Luckily, developers are in talks to get it renovated.  

Speakeasies: Although speakeasies are now obsolete after the repeal of Prohibition, that doesn’t make the gimmick of a hidden bar any less appealing.  In the past decade, a new wave of speakeasies, most of them cocktail-centric, have been springing up everywhere from Harlem to Brooklyn.  Their entrances are seldom marked, and you often need to know where to look if you want to find them, but they’re a whole lot of fun if you can.  

Great Halloween Bars in NYC

Great Halloween Bars in NYC by Ari KellenHalloween might be on a Monday this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still go out!  There are plenty of great Halloween-related activities.  In addition to classic haunted houses, plenty of New York bars are great at getting you into the spooky mood.  Here are some, based off an article I read on Timeout:

The Manderley Bar: This cocktail parlor located inside the McKittrick Hotel is littered with all sorts of themes related to its theatrical heritage: drama masks playing cards and velvet curtains, just to name a few.  In addition, it serves as a venue for live entertainment that ranges from jazz to comedy.  

Sanatorium: Albert Trummer, best known for founding Chinatown’s speakeasy Apotheke, recently opened Sanatorium in Alphabet City after a two-year stint in Miami.  Detail is king here, with test-tubes, x-ray light boxes of radiographs and stoppered glass bottles.  

The Headless Horsemen: Plenty of bars around the city have tried to channel the “olde pub” feel, but few have done it quite as well as The Headless Horseman.  There are plenty of great classic cocktails, as well as tasty dishes to munch on.  

Le Boudoir: History buffs rejoice; Le Boudoir is a bar modeled after the private chambers at Versailles of the infamous Marie Antoinette, even featuring a doorknob lifted from her bedroom.  It’s a speakeasy, with an entrance disguised by a bookshelf modeled after one from Marie Antoinette’s library.  The cocktails here have French Revolution-themed names, such as the famous “guillotine”.  

Beetle House: As you enter the unassuming Beetle House, a doorman in full Beetlejuice garb lunges out at you to welcome you into this Tim Burton-themed bar.  It’s decked with all sorts of memorabilia, from surgical instruments reminiscent of Sweeney Todd to caricatures of Winona Ryder.

Otto’s Shrunken Head: Hailed as New York’s only “Rockabilly Tiki Bar”, this is a great place to let loose on the wild side.  The decorations here are designed to look like a gaudy ‘50s beach bar, with a drink menu that emphasizes tropical (and often frozen) drinks.  As New York’s last rockabilly bar, the back room serves as a venue for all sorts of live music that makes this place jump on the weekends.  

Fraunces Tavern: If history is your thing and the Boudoir wasn’t enough for you, then head on over to Fraunces Tavern, one of the oldest bars in New York (George Washington drank there).  It’s also hailed as one of the most haunted buildings in the city.  Come here for a spook and a pint!

Best Comfort Food in NYC

Best Comfort food in NYC by ari KellenOctober is now upon us.  That means the giant costume store by Union Square will actually be packed, pumpkin spiced lattes will be in everybody’s hands and the weather is, of course, finally going to cool down.  It’s also the time for comfort foods.  Here is a list of great comfort foods this fall, and where in New York you can pick them up:

Bigos: Also known as “hunter’s stew”, this stick-to-your-ribs food is an essential staple of Polish cuisine.  The recipe depends on who is making it, but it’s often tomato-based, and always includes sauerkraut and pork (typically in the form of pork shoulder, bacon or kielbasa).  Even if you aren’t a big cabbage fan, do yourself a favor and give this unique and delicious dish a try.
Where to get it: Karczma (136 Greenpoint Ave, Greenpoint)

Ramen: New Yorkers love their ramen.  And I’m not just talking the freeze-dried stuff they pick up at the bodega.  New York restaurants easily make some of the best and most creative ramen on the East Coast.  And with the weather getting colder, New Yorkers now have an excuse to dig into a bowl of this delicious noodle soup.  
Where to get it: Hide Chan Ramen (248 E 52nd St, Midtown East)

Lamb mafe: Senegalese food may not be as popular in New York as, say, Chinese or Italian, but that’s not to take away from how delicious it can be.  One of the best (and most comforting) dishes in Senegalese cooking is lamb mafe, a creamy peanut-based stew made with lamb and tomatoes.  Served hot over rice, it can warm up even the coldest New Yorker.
Where to get it: Joloff Restaurant (1168 Bedford Ave, Bed-Stuy)

Matzoh ball soup: If matzoh ball soup has become a cliché of New York cuisine, that’s only because it’s absolutely delicious.  Hailed as “Jewish penicillin”, it’s an essential fall dish for those New Yorkers who get sick when the seasons change.  And even if you aren’t sick, matzoh ball soup is still just as tasty.  
Where to get it: Mile End Deli (53 Bond St, NoHo; 230 Park Ave, Midtown or 97 Hoyt St, Boerum Hill)

Soup dumplings: No, this isn’t “dumpling soup”, these are dumplings with soup inside them.  They’re difficult to make, and even harder to master, but when they’re done well, soup dumplings are easily the best part of any dim sum spread.
Where to get it: Joe’s Shanghai (9 Pell St, Chinatown or 24 W 56th St, Midtown)

Mac and cheese: Whether it comes from an artisanal restaurant in Williamsburg or a box you bought at the supermarket, you can’t go wrong with mac and cheese.  It goes great as a side dish, but also stands just as well on its own.  
Where to get it: Queens Comfort (40-09 30th Ave, Astoria)

French fries: French fries are everybody’s favorite side dish, whether they’re served with a burger, dipped in milkshakes (I promise you it’s delicious!) or smothered in gravy and cheese curds.  Maybe deep fried sticks of potato aren’t that great for you, but that’s not to discredit their value as delicious comfort food.  
Where to get it: Pommes Frites (128 Macdougal St, Greenwich Village)

Burritos: Guaranteed to fill you up, nothing beats a good burrito filled with hot beans, rice and guacamole.  Since Chipotle took the country by storm several years ago, various burrito joints have sprung up across the US (including New York); although none of them have been able to match the success of the fast food giant, many of them have made burritos that can easily go toe-to-toe with them.  
Where to get it: Dos Toros (various locations)

Beef Patties: Since they were first brought to New York City by West Indian immigrants some 50 years ago, Jamaican beef patties can be found everywhere in New York from hole-in-the-walls in Crown Heights to your local bodega.  Served piping hot and packed with spices, they’ll be sure to warm you up.  
Where to get it: Miss Lily’s (132 W Houston St, Greenwich Village or 109 Ave A, East Village)

Naan: There’s beauty in simplicity.  And you can’t get simpler (or tastier) than a simple piece of buttery naan.  It’s an essential part of any Indian restaurant experience, whether it’s served as an appetizer or used to dip into your chicken tikka masala.   
Where to get it: Masalawala (179 Essex St., Lower East Side)

What to Do in NYC This Fall

What to do in NYC this fall by Ari KellenFall in New York can feel nothing short of magical.  The weather is cooling down, the leaves are changing color and the cultural scene is gearing up.  There are all sorts of fun activities you can do, and here are just a few of them, based off an article that I found on Timeout New York:

Oktoberfest: There are Oktoberfests going down all over the city in late September and early October; Central Park, East River, not to mention all of the bars and restaurants hosting their own celebrations.  They’re jam-packed with generous pitchers of beer, cheerful German tunes and live music.  A lot of the events require you to purchase tickets, and some of the events have already happened, so act fast!

Go out to Queens: While the classic tropes of fall (corn mazes, pumpkin patches, stacks of hay) aren’t typically found in New York, the Queens County Farm Museum hosts all of this and more on the weekend of September 24th.  Live music, cider, corn mazes, livestock competitions, pie-eating contests, pig races, corn husking contests are just some of the events going on.

Cider Week: From October 21 to Halloween, various locations around the city pay homage to hard cider.  More than 50 bars and restaurants host free tastings, events and workshops at popular venues.

Ghost tours: Around Halloween, Urban Park Rangers hosts lantern tours that explore the Water Battery Gate at Fort Totten Park, with guides sharing stories about the haunted grounds.  

Giant Pumpkin Weekend: In the second to last weekend of October, the New York Botanical Garden hosts a pumpkin  garden, displaying gigantic pumpkins (weighing up to 1,800 pounds).

Photoville: In late September, United Photo Industries takes over the Brooklyn Bridge Plaza to create a pop-up village based around photo taking.  The Smorgasburg Beer Garden will be returning as well, with more than 100 vendors selling all sorts of food and drinks.

Atlantic Antic: On September 25th, more than 500 food and craft vendors and 15 stages will close down 10 blocks in Brooklyn.  Billed as New York’s largest street fair, it’s got plenty to offer, from live music to clothes to food.  

Green Living in NYC

Green Living in NYC by Ari KellenContrary to popular belief, New York is hardly the antithesis of eco-friendly living (that honor goes to Los Angeles).  More than half of the city’s residents don’t own cars, reducing fuel emissions.  Even if you don’t want a lifestyle of veganism and coconut oil deodorant, it’s still a good idea to be more aware of your personal impact on the environment.  Here are seven easy tips New Yorkers can use to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, based off an article I found online:

Recycle: Even if you don’t live in a “green” apartment building, New York Department of Sanitation still requires residents to recycle their waste.  For many, this simply means tossing your mixed papers and plastics into a communal bin, so there really isn’t any excuse to be lazy about recycling.

Use a glass or BPA-free bottle: Rather than spend money on bottled water, get a glass or BPA-free water bottle and fill it up with tap water throughout the day.  If people stopped using plastic bottles, it would make a huge impact on the environment.

Rethink Seamless: New Yorkers love their takeout and delivery, but takeout containers are a hindrance on eco-friendly living.  New Yorkers won’t stop ordering in delivery, but they can be smarter with their to go choices.  Reuse plastic containers for make-ahead meals to store leftovers.  Before paying on Seamless, check the box that says “no plastic utensils or napkins”, and use your own silverware and napkins.

Bring your own bag: Plastic shopping bags are wasteful, so bring a large canvas or jute tote when you go grocery shopping.  Not only are they stronger than plastic bags, but Whole Foods takes up to ten cents off your grocery bill when you bring your own bag.

Frequent eco-friendly places: New York has taken sustainable, eco-friendly dining and shopping and made it chic.  Shop at green boutiques and eat at environmentally conscious restaurants.  

Support local brands: Importing goods is not only expensive, but also leaves a huge carbon footprint.  You’ll find plenty of quality food produced in New York or nearby.

Jewish Institutions of the Lower East Side

Jewish institutions of the lower east side by Ari KellenAs one of the oldest neighborhoods in New York City, the Lower East Side has a long and varied history.  Starting out as a farm, it’s since been the home to all sorts of immigrant groups: Germans, Puerto Ricans, hipsters, but perhaps most famously it once served as the cultural center of New York’s Jewish community.  As much of New York’s Jewish community left the Lower East Side for the Upper West Side and the suburbs, much of that has changed.  Nonetheless, there are still some institutions in the neighborhood that remain standing, serving as a testament to the neighborhood’s Jewish heritage.  Here are a few of them:

Katz’s Deli: In 1930, New York City alone was home to over 1,500 Jewish delis.  That number has shrunk to below 50, so whoever is still standing needs to be very good at what they do.  And Katz’s, open since 1888, is very good at what they do.  As far as Jewish delis go, it’s pretty touristy, but that’s only because it’s hands-down the best pastrami in Manhattan (sorry, Fine & Schapiro).

Russ & Daughters: Over 100 years old, this is a true New York City institution, and serves what is universally considered one of New York’s best bagels and lox.  It’s been owned by the descendants of Joel Russ since it was first opened, who have stuck to the family recipe.  Here, the main focus is fish, whether that’s sturgeon, whitefish, herring and of course lox.   

Lower East Side Tenement Museum: A former brick tenement house, from 1863 to 1935 this building housed over 7,000 people from 20 different countries.  Boarded up for over 50 years, it served as a time capsule to immigrant life in the early 20th century, and has served as a museum since the late 80s.  The museum features a gift shop with an impressive book selection, and offers various special tours that reflect the experiences of various tenants.

Eldridge Street Synagogue: In operation since 1887 (even longer than Katz’s), this is one of the oldest Jewish congregations in New York City.  In addition to serving as a synagogue, it’s since become a museum that offers tours related to the history of Jews in America.  

Kehila Kedosha Janina: Most Jews who came to the Lower East Side were Ashkenazim; a smaller number were Sephardim, and an even smaller number were Romaniote, a unique sect of Judaism that originated in Greece.  Much of the already-small Romaniote community was wiped out in the Holocaust, and this is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.  Every year they host the “Greek Jewish Festival”, celebrating their unique heritage through song, dance and food.

Yonah Schimmel: The potato knish is a traditional type of dumpling, consisting of a filling (most frequently potato) covered with dough.  While they’re often deep-fried and square, they’re traditionally baked and round.  And the best place to enjoy them in their original form is at Yonah Schimmel, the knish bakery that’s been open in the same location since 1910.  In addition to various knish flavors (my favorite is sweet potato), Yonah Schimmel serves some of the best latkes in the city.  Once you’ve had your fill, you can catch a movie next door at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, or maybe pick up a beer at Fool’s Gold.  

Sammy’s Roumanian: Located in an underground store front on Christie Street, Sammy’s is a true experience.  A delicious Jewish steakhouse, Sammy’s also serves traditional Jewish dishes like kasha varnishkes and kishka, as well chilled vodka.  To top the whole thing off is Dani Luv, a borscht belt-style entertainer who cracks jokes and plays live music six nights a week.  The overall experience feels like a time portal back to a 1940s Bar Mitzvah.

Kossar’s: The bialy is like a bagel, except with a different texture and an onion filling in the middle instead of a hole.  While it’s not as famous as its hole-y cousin, the bialy has an extremely loyal cult following among New Yorkers.  One of the oldest bialy spots in New York City is Kossar’s, who slings them by the oven-load every day.  In addition to bialys, Kossar’s makes one of the Lower East Side’s best bagels.

Great Breweries in NYC

Great Breweries in NYC, by Ari KellenBreweries have been a part of New York City’s history since the days of New Amsterdam.  In the 19th century, German immigrants brought lager beer with them to New York, and by Prohibition there were 70 operating breweries in New York, most of them in Brooklyn.  Yet by 1976, there were zero.  But starting in the 80s and 90s, a homebrewing scene began to flourish in New York, which has since spawned numerous great breweries around the city.  Here are a couple of these, based off an article that I found online:

Threes Brewing: In addition to brewing, this place hosts art shows, concerts and community meetings.  They have a kitchen space that hosts restaurants from all over the city in two-week residencies, meaning that there’s something new every time you come.  Many of the beers here aren’t distributed beyond the brewery, so this is the best chance you have to taste them.  There are 24 different beers on taps, ranging from house-made to brews from out of state.  

Other Half Brewing Co: It’s pretty small, and can get really crowded on a weekend night (seating is limited to a single table).  But it’s not a place you want to miss; luckily, the brewery has plans to double the tasting room’s size.  This isn’t a place with any sort of “fancy” atmosphere, with a beat-up antelope head on the wall and an even more beat-up bartop that once went on tour with the Rolling Stones.  But the beer here is some of the best in New York.  If you ever decide to come out to Red Hook for some beef rib at Hometown, a couple games of Mini Golf at Brooklyn Crab or a sandwich at DeFonte’s, be sure to visit.

Singlecut Beersmiths: After falling in love with European lagers, Rich Buceta became a passionate homebrewer, quitting his job in advertising to get into brewing.  Starting out as a keg-cleaner, he’s started Singlecut, an Astoria brewery with an emphasis on fresh lagers.  The barn-like brewery regularly hosts live music, which has become a part of the brewery/bar’s culture: Buceta plays guitar, the bartenders are musicians in a band, and the bar features a top-notch record collection.

Transmitter Brewing: At this Long Island City warehouse, the brewers are constantly experimenting with brewing methods, yeast and bacteria strains and barrel aging.  The barrel collection includes casks that have held every sort of alcohol, from red wine to rum.  Since most of what they make is small-batch, beers tend to run out quickly, so visit the sampling room as soon as you can.

Bronx Brewery: This place is just a good time.  On weekend nights, it feels more like a house party than a brewery, with foosball tables, comfortable couches, a small bar and a dog-friendly backyard.  Even though they don’t have a kitchen of their own, you can order from all sorts of local restaurants, and there’s a free catered dinner on Friday nights.  

Gun Hill Brewing: Soaring ceilings and a no-nonsense atmosphere make Gun Hill a great place for novices to learn more about craft beer.  The goal here is to make great beers that don’t intimidate people.  If you’re a Yankees fan, it’s a good place to catch a game.  Across the street is a food truck with hearty Dominican fare, with Gun Hill customers getting a discount.  

Flagship Brewery: Staten Island is a place with plenty of great stuff, but it can be hard to get people out there.  Yet for those tenacious few who can get onto the ferry from downtown, Flagship Brewery is a short walk away from the landing.  Fridays and Saturdays offer live music, which on other days alternates between comedy, trivia and charity events.  

Mile End Deli Coming to Midtown

Mile End Deli Coming to Midtown by Ari KellenIf you visit some of the old Jewish delis that have feed hungry New Yorkers for generations, it’s easy to feel like they’re a dying breed.  The big ones are alive and well, but they’re also major tourist traps, and feel like the exception rather than the rule; Fine and Schapiro, Second Avenue Deli, Ben’s Best and Sarge’s are seldom the full, bustling spaces they once were.  Yet not all hope is lost, as in recent years a new generation of deli men and women have started to reclaim this food and open new businesses.  Places like Shelsky’s and Frankel’s have recently opened to major acclaim, yet one of the most prominent of New York’s new Jewish delis is Mile End.  Since it first opened in 2010, Mile End has been introducing Montreal-style Jewish deli food to New York.  While they started out in Boerum Hill, they have since opened more locations, both in NoHo and most recently Midtown, just around the corner from Grand Central.

Montreal Jewish deli food has a lot in common with its New York counterpart, and there’s still plenty of salami, rye bread, matzoh ball and salmon.  Yet there are some major differences: bagels are made slightly differently, but most noticeably pastrami is replaced with “smoked meat”, a type of smoked brisket made famous by Montreal institutions such as Schwartz’s.  The Midtown location will be offering Mile End classics such as smoked meat and poutine, but the menu will be modified for the new spot: hot dogs, reubens and most noticeably Canadian corn dogs, which aren’t available in the deli’s other locations.  

The deli will be open between 9 and 5 on weekends, then 7 to 9 on weekdays.  As a promotion for the new location, the new location will be offering bacon egg & cheese sandwiches with coffee for $5 through Labor Day every weekday before 9am.  

This third location of Mile End reveals that this Jewish deli is taking a much different route than its other counterparts.  Since first opening in Boerum Hill six years ago, Mile End has gained a reputation for great food; their bagels, lox, smoked meat and poutine have been hailed as some of the best that New York City has to offer.  In listings of the top Jewish delis around the city, Mile End has been consistently ranking alongside names like Katz’s and Carnegie.  But while most of the old New York institutions are content to have one location and wait for the customers to come to them, Mile End is the only one that’s been progressively building more locations.  Although three locations doesn’t feel like much, they have been steadily growing, much like other recent New York restaurants that are steadily gaining multiple locations around the city, such as Xi’an Famous Foods (Chinese) and Mighty Quinn’s (BBQ).  While these have ambitions to expand outside of New York (and Mighty Quinn’s already has), it’s clear that out-of-city expansion is the next step.  Where Mile End chooses to go next has yet to be seen.

McCarren Park Pool Is Open!

McCarren Park Pool Is Open! By Ari KellenIt’s been getting pretty hot in New York the past few days.  But fear not: the McCarren Park Pool is back in business for 2016.  The pool, when originally opened in 1936 by Robert Moses, was one of the largest public pools in the world (three times the size of a standard Olympic pool). It has a capacity of 6,800 swimmers, although it’s now capped at 1,500.  The pool was part of a Works Progress Administration project, when Robert Moses opened one pool every week during the summer of 1936.  

In 1979, the city received funding to renovate the pools that Moses had opened more than 40 years later.  In 1983, the McCarren Park pool was closed for renovation, although the project was put on hold indefinitely.  Community members protested the pool’s renovation, claiming that it attracted undesirables and petty crime, and successfully prevented the renovation from happening.  The pool sat fenced up and unused until Mayor Bloomberg put in a bid for New York to host the 2012 Olympics, proposing to use the pool as a training facility for Olympic swimmers.  The proposal to renovate the pool didn’t come to fruition, but it was re-opened as an entertainment space in 2005.  During this time, “pool parties” were held every weekend in the summer time, which attracted hipsters with PBR, indie acts and slip-n-slides.  Nonetheless, it wasn’t opened as an actual pool, partially due to speculation that the peeling paint on the surface of the pool contained lead.  In 2008, nearly 30 years after funding started, a $50 million proposal to renovate the pool was approved, and it finally reopened in 2012.  

80 years after it was first opened, McCarren Park’s pool is open daily from 11-3 and 4-7.  It’s fun to visit, but there are still rules to bear in mind.  For one, you need a combination lock to hold your stuff, but lockers are small, so pack lightly.  The only items allowed on the pool deck are towels and sunscreen, and t-shirts have to be white.  Colors and patterns are strictly prohibited, partially because of potential gang violence and sports rivalries.  However, the best part is that the pool is free.  If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!