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Flipping a Stolen House

flipping a stolen house by ari kellenFew things are more cutthroat and surreal than the world of New York City real estate.  In a city that’s home to some of the world’s most outrageously expensive property, people will do just about anything, even in a place as far-out as Canarsie.  Yesterday, Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man for stealing a woman’s house with fraudulent paperwork and then flipping it to unsuspecting investors.  

This story begins when former Board of Education administrator Hillary Kerman went where many people go after retirement: Florida.  Kerman used to live in the two-family house before a fire in the early 2000s, and has since left the house vacant, waiting for the right time to sell.  She spends her summers elsewhere in Brooklyn, and her winters and springs in Florida.  While she was in Florida, Kenneth Pearson came up with a plan: steal the house with fraudulent papers and then flip it with the help of investors.  Last spring, Kerman noticed that something was amiss that May when she didn’t get her annual tax bill for the house.  When she dug further, she found out that somebody had filed fraudulent paperwork to steal her house, and then went to the house and found that it had been completely gutted.  

Although Kerman had left the house vacant for some years, the damage from the fire was minimal, and many things were still left in the house, including vital documents and various personal effects: her and her grandparents’ wedding albums and all of her parents’ possessions, and somebody had even torn out the trees and rosebushes in the house.  Prosecutors were surprised to see how quickly the thief had moved.  Pearson sold the house to flippers in just two months for $265,000 (these are Canarsie prices, not Manhattan prices), who never bothered to look inside.  It had been cleaned out, and so they knocked down all the walls to make an open floor plan.  

Since this happened, Kerman needs to sort out various details, such as how to start getting her mail again.  The investors are also having a hard time getting money from their title insurance company.  After a month-long grand jury, the police finally found Pearson, who now faces four felony counts.  The most serious charge, filing a false instrument, carries 7 ½ to 15 years in prison.  

If you’d like to learn more about this bizarre story, you can click here!

What You Didn’t Know About Prospect Park

what you didn't know about prospect park by ari kellenAlthough it isn’t as well-known as Central Park, as Brooklyn’s largest park, it’s got plenty to offer.  While you’re out exploring Prospect Park, you might want to know some trivia so you can look out for historical details you may have otherwise forgotten.  I recently read an article in TimeOut that shared some facts about the park that you may not have known.  They might surprise you:

It use to be a popular spot for farm animals: After Prospect Park first opened in 1867, it was a popular hangout spot for local livestock.  While they weren’t allowed on the land, it was a tough law to enforce, and dozens of stray farm animals were regularly found on the land.  

It was built on a battle site: During the American Revolution, the land on what is now Prospect Park was part of the Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn.  It marked a valiant stand by the soldiers of the 1st Maryland Regiment, who although vastly outnumbered by the British were able to cover for George Washington while the rest of the army retreated.  

It used to have a full replica of Mount Vernon: To commemorate George Washington’s 200th birthday, Robert Moses erected a full replica of his home.  Sadly, however, it was torn down after just two years.  

It was part of an Indian trail: In the 17th century and earlier, Brooklyn was home to Lenape Indians, who used a well-worn trail that later became the best route of travel between the Dutch towns of Brooklyn and Flatbush.  It even played a part in the Battle of Brooklyn!  When Prospect Park was established, it became East Drive.  

It’s the final resting place of some 2,000 people: Since at least the 1840s, Prospect Park served as a Quaker cemetery.  Since Quakers rejected headstones as a form of vanity, many of these graves were unmarked.  If you’re curious, you can always bring a ouija board to the park at night!

It was made by people paid $1.70 a day: The construction workers who helped build the park, mostly poor Irish immigrants, were paid on a daily salary that today couldn’t even buy a Starbucks coffee.  It’s hard to adjust for inflation (inflation didn’t start being properly recorded until 1913), this wasn’t a big sum by any means.  

It used to host “ice baseball”: In the 19th century, Prospect Park’s frozen lake hosted a unique winter game known as “ice baseball”.  It was much like regular baseball, except it was done with ice skates and a slightly different ball.  It attracted thousands of spectators and players from as far away at Baltimore.  

It has an historic statue of Lincoln: After Lincoln’s assassination, Henry Kirke Brown created a series of large bronze statues of the late President.  The one in Prospect Park was the first one to be dedicated, so it holds the honor of being the Union’s first Abraham Lincoln statue.  

Brooklyn’s Mohawk Community

brooklyn's mohawk community by ari kellenWhenever immigrants arrive in New York, they often congregate, creating ethnic enclaves in various neighborhoods.  While the demographics of these neighborhoods often change as older residents move out and newer ones move in, you can often see traces of their legacy: Hell’s Kitchen still features plenty of Irish pubs, places like Sammy’s Roumanian and Yonah Schimmel remain alive and well in the Lower East Side, and Mulberry Street is still dotted with Italian restaurants.  Yet in many other instances, these ethnic enclaves vanish without a trace: you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Alphabet City was once the center of New York’s “Kleindeutschland”, and chances are you haven’t heard of “Little Caughnawaga”, Boerum Hill’s small but tight-knit Mohawk Indian community.  

The Mohawk are not native to Brooklyn; they’re a tribe whose ancestral homeland is near what is now Schenectady.  They got kicked out of the region after choosing the wrong side during the American Revolution, and found themselves in reservations in Canada and northern New York.  Starting in the 1920s, Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake reservation near Montreal found work building bridges and skyscrapers in New York City.  For whatever reason, these men congregated in an area that’s now in Boerum Hill.  Over time, their families moved down with them, forming an enclave known as “Little Caughnawaga”, which by the late 40s had about 700 members.  

At this time, Boerum Hill was a mostly Irish and Italian neighborhood, yet there were certain focal points of the Mohawk community.  One bar, known as the “Wigwam”, was a popular hangout spot for Mohawk ironworkers to discuss jobs and pick up mail from relatives up north.  Mohawk women would cook traditional white cornbread with kidney beans at a nearby lunch counter.  One Presbyterian church even offered sermons in Mohawk.  In 1949, a New Yorker article titled “Mohawks in High Steel” spoke of a growing neighborhood with “signs of permanence”.  Despite such signs, the Mohawk retained close ties with home; weekend and summer trips to visit friends and families in reservations up north were common.

Thanks to a rise in crime and a difficult economy, the “signs of permanence” that the New Yorker wrote about started to fade.  The community dwindled by the 60s, with many returning to Canada or marrying non-Indians and moving to the suburbs.  The Mohawk-speaking Presbyterian Church was converted into apartments, the Wigwam went out of business and traditional Mohawk bread is hard to find in Brooklyn.

While traces of “Little Caughnawaga” are few and far-between, it’s not a legacy that’s been forgotten by the Mohawk themselves.  In reservations, some Mohawk still retain thick Brooklyn accents, and ironworkers from these reservations still come to New York for jobs.  It’s nonetheless sad to see that this neighborhood has faded away, yet ultimately all things must pass.  

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Queens

10 Things You didn't know about queens by Ari KellenWhen asked what the “hot” borough is, most New Yorkers will tell you it’s either Manhattan or Brooklyn.  And there’s plenty of great stuff to do in both, without a doubt.  But that’s not to discredit their eastern neighbor, Queens.  In a city as unique as New York, Queens still stands out.  It might not boast the brunches of neighboring boroughs, but it’s still got a whole lot to offer, and is rich in history.  Here are some facts you might not know about Queens:

It’s really big: With 2.3 million residents, Queens has just 400,000 less people than Chicago.  If it seceded from the rest of New York, it would be the fourth largest city in the US; the country’s current fourth-largest city, Houston, is a few thousand residents behind.  

It’s actually named after a Queen: Like many places in Colonial America, Queens is named after a British monarch: Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II.  When the British took the area from the Dutch in the 1660s, the region got some new anglophile names: “Nieuw Amsterdam” became “New York” in honor of the reigning monarch’s brother, the Duke of York, while the neighboring counties were renamed “Kings” and “Queens” in honor of the reigning monarchs.

It’s the final resting place of Harry Houdini: Located a good distance from any subway line, Machpaleh Jewish cemetery is fairly nondescript.  However, it’s the site of Houdini’s grave, a popular mecca for Halloween revelers and aspiring magicians.  It’s fastidiously looked after by The Society of American Magicians and the Houdini Museum in Scranton.  

The Rockaways is New York’s premier surfing spot: Located at the very end of the A train, the Rockaways is arguably New York’s best beach.  Hurricane Sandy hit it hard, but it’s been making a major comeback, and its beach is home to some great waves.  Even without a board, it’s well worth the trip.

It’s the most diverse neighborhood in the world: New York’s always been a diverse place; when it was a remote trading post with only 400 people living there, there were 18 different languages.  But Queens brings that to a whole new level; the 2000 Census counted 138 languages spoken in the borough, yet some experts estimate that number to be around 800.  Furthermore, a lot of these languages can’t be heard anywhere else in the world.  

The food is amazing: The brunch spots in Queens might not be as well-known as Brooklyn’s or Manhattan’s, but that’s not to discredit the food scene in Queens.  The neighborhood’s ethnic diversity means that you can get a whole lot of delicious and authentic food you can’t find anywhere else in the city.

Some of the world’s best pianos are made in Astoria: Although New York was historically a center of manufacturing, that’s changed recently due to high taxes and expensive real estate.  Yet the piano company Steinway & Sons, founded in Astoria in 1853, is staying just where it is, and has been using the same factory for 100 years.  

It’s the site of a major film studio: Kaufman Astoria Studios is an historic movie studio, and home to New York’s only backlot.  Classic films and TV shows such as “Animal Crackers”, “Goodfellas” and “Sesame Street” have all been filmed there.  It’s also the home to New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, a great museum chronicling film history.

There’s an abandoned Civil War fort in Queens: In 1862, the government built a fort to watch over the ships entering and leaving New York Harbor.  Although Fort Totten Park never saw battle, it had a long history as a base and training station for the US Army.  Some of it remains a training ground for the army reserves, but the public part is a great park.   

It’s the hometown of a lot of big names: The Ramones, Simon & Garfunkel, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Cyndi Lauper, Tony Bennett, Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and Louis Armstrong are just a few famous musicians who come from or have lived in Queens over the years.  

America’s Priciest Coffee

America's priciest coffee by ari kellenIn the classic Christmas film “Elf”, there’s a memorable scene where the naïve title character, having just arrived to New York from the North Pole, sees a sign outside a nondescript diner advertising the “world’s best cup of coffee”.  Taking the sign for truth, he rushes into the building and congratulates everybody on their supposed accomplishment.  Later on in the film, he takes a girl to the same diner to sample what she dismisses as a “a crappy cup of coffee”.  It’s a pretty hilarious scene, but one that’s particularly funny for New Yorkers, who on a daily basis see signs for businesses that offer the “world’s best” or “New York’s best”.  Without a doubt, New York is one of this country’s top gastronomical destinations.  Yet saying you offer the “world’s best”, “America’s best” or even “New York’s best” cup of coffee is subjective.  But I recently read about something New York is able to do, and that’s offer the country’s most expensive cup of coffee.  

According to Eater, the honor goes to Industry City’s new coffee and tea shop, dubbed the ever-pretentious “Extraction Lab”.  They sell a cup of coffee that costs an impressive $18.  To put that in perspective, a sandwich from Faicco’s Italian deli costs $12.  How do they justify that?  With a super high-tech machine that can brew individual cups of coffee combining elements from French press, drip and espresso.  And it’s all operated on an iPad.  Yet luckily, the Extraction Lab sells cups of coffee for cheaper than $18.  If you’re not up for forking over too much, then you can get a cup for the relatively affordable $3.

In a city where $5 for a beer is considered low, it’s not surprising that New York can boast such a “victory”.  The only competition could come from San Francisco, a city even smaller than New York where height limits on buildings put a premium on real estate.  And the previous record-holder actually came from San Francisco, at $16.  Yet considering the epic and ongoing feud between the East and West coast of this country, New York was not one to be outdone.  

While New York can proudly call themselves the country’s most expensive coffee, they can’t yet claim the title of the world’s most expensive cup of coffee.  That goes to kopi luwak, made from coffee beans that have been digested by an Indonesian civet cat.  While that does not at all sound appealing, it’s extremely rare and is in high demand.  A 1lb pound bag could cost up to $600, while a simple cup could cost $100 in a regular coffee shop.  It’s extremely rare, but if you can’t find it in New York, you can’t find it anywhere.

New York’s Harry Pasta

New York's Harry pasta by ari kellenWhat’s there not to love about Harry Potter?  A story about friendship, the triumph of good over evil, and of course a healthy dose of magic.  It’s one of the most influential book series of the past 20 years, with a fanbase as loyal as it is large.  And as the kids who grew up reading Harry Potter are now young adults with spending money living in major cities, a fast-casual Harry Potter-themed pasta restaurant has opened up in Williamsburg, called “Pasta Wiz”.  This conveniently comes 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was released.

The restaurant is decorated in a Harry Potter theme, with the “magic” coming from the pasta being made “so fast, and so good”.  The owner, Alex Dimitrov, has been trying to open a restaurant in the space for nearly six years.  Locals were scared that Dimitrov would build something similar to Mehanata, his Lower East Side club described as a “Balkan disco dive bar extravaganza”.  And yes, Mehanata is a great time, but nobody wants to live in a neighborhood where there’s a club like that.  Every time Dimitrov tried to get a liquor license, he faced opposition; when he said he was trying to open a pasta place, nobody believed him.  Yet he’s finally been able to bring both Spaghetti and Slytherins to the neighborhood.  

The restaurant is decked out with Hogwarts-esque chandeliers, a baby grand piano, candles and even a Sorting Hat.  And the speed is the best part: the restaurant promises that dishes will arrive between three and five minutes.  Like many other fast-casual restaurants where you order off the tablet and pick it up at the counter, there isn’t any table service.  In addition to tested and approved combos, there’s a mix-and-match DIY method, with various sauces and toppings you can add.  
If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Visiting Coney Island This Winter

Visiting Coney Island this winter by ari kellenWhen people think about visiting Coney Island, they typically think of coming out on a warm summer day, to soak up some sun and ride on the rides.  They don’t often think of visiting in the winter.  True, you can’t really go to the beach (unless it’s the polar plunge!) or ride on the ferris wheel, but visiting on the off-season offers a unique perspective on New York’s history.  It’s the perfect day trip for New Yorkers who want peace and quiet away from the typical New York bustle.  I recently read an article about things to do in Coney Island this winter, and although it’s a year-old article, it has a lot of great things you can do:

New York Aquarium: The New York Aquarium in Coney Island has great exhibits and fish-feeding shows year-round.  It’s great for both dates and just good old-fashioned family fun.  There are all sorts of sea creatures in both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Stroll the boardwalk: It might be cold, but the famous Coney Island boardwalk offers stellar views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the amusement parks of Coney Island on the other.  I’d recommend walking down the boardwalk to one of the Russian restaurants in Brighton Beach for a bowl of borscht.  

Eat at Nathan’s: You can find Nathan hot dogs across the country.  But if you want to know what made them so famous, you have to visit their original hot dog stand on Coney Island.  And they taste much better here than anywhere else.

Visit Totonno’s: If you’d prefer pizza over hot dogs, you can visit the Coney Island institution Totonno’s, considered to be one of New York City’s very best pizza spots.  A thin crust and fresh sauce made on the premises ensures that you get an A+ pizza every time, and Totonno’s remains a no-frills joint that just happens to serve amazing pizza.

Visit the Coney Island Museum: For a long time, Coney Island was New York City’s playground, a wildly popular and bustling spot.  The Coney Island Museum pays homage to this legacy, and the entrance fee is just 99 cents!  This admission offers you free admission into the zany side of Coney Island’s early days, with circuses and sideshows.  Check the website, and you might just be able to catch a special exhibit.  

NYC New Year’s Resolutions (We’ll Never Keep)

NYC New year's resolutions by Ari KellenThis is the time of year to make New Year’s resolutions.  2016 has been a long and rough year, and now it’s time to focus on how we can all make 2017 better.  Yet the sad fact of New Year’s resolutions is that they’re almost always doomed to fail.  That gym membership you started in the start of the year?  Probably won’t make it past February.  Your desire to cook more?  After a couple failed dinners you’ll start eating Kraft mac and cheese and then be back to Seamless in a month.  There are many great temptations surrounding us in New York City, which make for great New Year’s resolutions that are astoundingly hard to follow.  I recently read an article that shared some of them, and a lot of them struck a chord with me:

Take less cabs and Ubers: It’s the coldest time of the year, and even if you live close to the subway, you probably can’t afford to live close enough to make your ride home after a night hanging out with your friend across town any bit convenient.  So it’s time to call an Uber.

Eat out less and cook more: New York has some of the best food in the world, and I hate to break it to you, but the meals you make at home, good as they are, probably don’t even make the top 50 list.  And you want to take advantage of living in New York, don’t you?

Keep a detailed track of my finances: Did you know that one out of nineteen New Yorkers is a millionaire?  You can join their ranks by keeping track of your finances; get a spreadsheet set up on Google docs, but after a while it becomes a chore, and you realize you aren’t actually listening to what it has to say, so what’s the point?

Be nicer to strangers: This one make sense, and nobody likes to be part of the whole “rude New Yorker” stereotype.  But when you’re having a long day, it’s right before dinner and you’re full-on hangry, that Midwestern couple who can’t swipe their subway card the right way just pushes you over the edge.  

Start a gym membership: This sounds good in theory, then you think of logistics.  You often have things to do after work, and by the time you get ready to gym, nine times out of ten you’re in no mood to do so.  You can of course hit the gym in the morning, but who wants to wake up a whole hour earlier?  That’s awful.

Call and visit home more often: Unless your family lives off the Metro North, visiting them is going to be tough.  And even if they do, it’s hard to find the time to visit with all of the crazy things happening in New York.

Explore outside your neighborhood: I love to explore outside of my neighborhood, but thinking of all the times I’ve tried to get my friends to go on New York City explorations with me, I know that I’m well in the minority.  Even if Ben’s Best does better pastrami than Katz’s, few friends will want to join you on the trek out to Rego Park.  

Wash your own clothes: Once you realize that you don’t have enough quarters for a full wash and dry, and the nearby ATM is one of those sketchy ones that charges fees, you’ll just pay somebody to do your laundry for you.

Eat healthier: What are some of the more popular (and delicious) food options in New York?  Names like pizza, bagels, pastrami and bottomless brunch will most likely come to mind.  You notice how none of those are healthy.  Going to Just Salad is a great idea, and they make great salads, but then you realize that the amount you spend on one salad can get you eight dollar slices.  

Stop drinking as much: Few people have cars in New York, meaning that you can drink all you want at company happy hour and not have to pay for a cab.  Sure, drinks are expensive when you break them down, but it’s such a major part of New York’s social culture that giving up drinking is easier said than done.  


NYC Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors

NYC travel tips for first-time visitors by Ari KellenAs a New Yorker, it’s hard for me to realize that many people have never been here, and don’t know about everything that it has to offer.  It’s a city that everybody from the Congo to Nebraska has heard about, it’s been in countless movies, so visiting can feel a bit overwhelming.  To make sure that you get the most out of your visit, however, here are some great tips that I found from a blog post by the excellent Tracy Kaler:

Don’t spend all your time looking at the tourist stuff: The touristy stuff in New York is so popular because it’s so great: Rockefeller Center, the World Trade Center, Central Park, etc.  But that doesn’t show you how unique New York truly is.  Try picking several big sights, scheduling them into your itinerary and then spend the rest of your time shopping, eating, wandering and visiting more off-the-beaten path places.  There are plenty of fun, unique places in New York that aren’t too out of the way.  Fun, easy-to-reach neighborhoods with lots to do include Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, East Village/Alphabet City, Williamsburg and Greenpoint (more on those last two later).

Avoid Times Square: Times Square is one of those things you do once in your life, but then never again.  It’s incredibly touristy, expensive and unbelievably crowded.  While a lot of hotels are located around there, you want to avoid the most congested area (on the 40s near Broadway and 7th Avenue), where you won’t be able to walk down the street, but rather shuffle and get pushed while people ask you for money, which isn’t fun for anybody.

See a show: Theater is just one aspect of the entertainment that you can get in New York City.  If you’re a theater buff, go to a couple performances, but you don’t want to center your entire visit around it.  There are all other kinds of performances you can check out: comedy shows, concerts of all kinds, improv shows, etc.

Explore the outer boroughs: While Manhattan has got so much to offer, the outer boroughs, particularly Brooklyn and Queens, do as well.  If you’re planning on more than a couple days, you’ll want to check them out.  Just east of Manhattan in Brooklyn is Williamsburg and Greenpoint, home to amazing bars, fun things to do and some pretty great parks.  In Queens you’ll want to visit Astoria, home to the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the oldest beer gardens in the country and all sorts of excellent restaurants.

Be comfortable: New York’s a fashionable place, so you want to look good, but you also want to be comfortable!  Think practically: you’ll be walking a lot, so wearing stilettos isn’t a great idea.  Dress for the temperatures as well: New York gets cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, and the weather in the spring and fall is unpredictable to say the least.

Cut costs: It’s very easy to spend a lot of money in New York, and it’s certainly a very expensive city, but there are still ways to save money.  By simply skipping the taxis and riding the subway, you’ll save a ton of cash.  There are also plenty of free things to do around the city: museums, parks, ferry rides, etc.

Essential New York Dishes (and Where to Get Them)

Essential New York Dishes (and Where to Get Them) by Ari KellenHot dogs.  Pizza.  Bagels.  Such dishes are as New York as the Statue of Liberty.  Yet New Yorkers know that there are plenty of other great, iconic New York dishes.  A city of 8 million people will offer 8 million different opinions on what a “quintessential” New York meal is, but I’ve chosen ten highlights, and more importantly where you should get them:

Hot dog and papaya juice (Papaya King): Most people wouldn’t consider a hot dog and papaya juice a good combo, but New Yorkers know otherwise.  While there are several establishments around Gotham who offer this combo, the original is Papaya King, located in the Upper East Side and St. Marks.  Gray’s Papaya on the Upper West Side gets honorable mention as well.

Ramen (Hide Chan Ramen): In recent years, Americans from every city have gotten onto the ramen train, including New York.  There are many places around the city who offer stellar ramen (many sing the praises of Ippudo), but my personal favorite is Hide Chan in Midtown East.

Pizza (Joe’s Pizza): “New York Pizza” is a phrase for a reason.  There are plenty of excellent pizza spots around the city (Paulie Gee’s and Vinnie’s nearly made the list), but for a traditional, no-frills New York slice, visit Joe’s Pizza.  They’ve luckily got several locations in New York, so they aren’t too hard to find.  

Knish (Yonah Schimmel’s): Few people outside of New York are familiar with the “knish”.  Even fewer are familiar with the traditional round, baked knish (most know of the square fried knish).  You can get the traditional knish at various Jewish delis and bagel spots across the city, but the undisputed king is Yonah Schimmel’s in the Lower East Side.  They’ve been slinging knishes since 1910.  My personal favorite is the sweet potato knish with a bit of hot mustard.  

Pastrami sandwich (David’s Brisket House): Pastrami as we know it was first developed in New York City by Romanian Jewish immigrants, who based it off a traditional recipe for goose.  Many say that Katz’s does the best pastrami (and it’s certainly very good), but they aren’t the only ones out there.  For a true New York pastrami sandwich off the beaten path, go to Bedford-Stuyvesant for David’s Brisket House, which makes the hands-down best pastrami in Brooklyn.  A Jewish deli run by Yemeni Muslims, it’s a true New York experience whose very existence celebrates this city’s diversity.

Lechon and rice & peas (Lechonera la Piraña): Every weekend on the corner of 152nd and Wales in the Bronx, Angel Jimenez, also known as “Piraña” and “Papi Chulo”, serves traditional Puerto Rican-style roast pork out of a food truck.  On Saturdays and Sundays, he wakes up at 4 in the morning to put a pig in a smoker, and then slow-cook it for eight hours before it’s ready.  For less than $10, a cheerful Piraña will serve you a giant plate of his lechon and a generous helping of rice and peas.  It’s the best Puerto Rican food you’ll get outside of Puerto Rico, and well worth the journey up to Mott Haven.

Chicken, mozzarella & pesto sandwich (Faicco’s): As one of the oldest Italian delis in the city (it’s been open since 1905), Faicco’s has had plenty of time to perfect its art.  Their sandwiches are as delicious as they are gargantuan, and while every variety is worth writing home about and then some, my personal favorite is their chicken, mozzarella and pesto.  Some close seconds include their classic Italian and meatball grinder.

Bagel & Lox (Barney Greengrass): Many consider Russ & Daughters to be the best bagel & lox in the city, but as an Upper West Sider, my loyalty lies with Barney Greengrass.  Once you have lox from the “Sturgeon King”, you’ll never want it from anywhere else.  

Soup dumplings (Joe’s Shanghai): No, it isn’t dumpling soup, the soup is inside the dumpling.  Hard to make, even harder to perfect, these can be found throughout both Manhattan’s and Queens’ Chinatowns.  Arguably the best comes from Joe’s Shanghai, which has outposts in Chinatown, Flushing and Midtown.  Get an order of soup dumplings with peanut noodles and scallion pancakes, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.  

Halal (Mamoun’s): Halal trucks sell gyro sandwiches on pretty much every street corner in Manhattan.  But the original, and arguably the best, is Mamoun’s in the Village.  This tiny hole-in-the-wall doles out the best falafel and shawarma in a no-frills atmosphere that attracts hundreds of visitors every day.