A bite of the Big Apple

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

A CITY illustrated by countless songs, television and an estimated 250 films each year – it’s no wonder we all feel like we know New York.

The skyline is familiar to anyone the world over, and it’s a dream destination for many people – whether they’ve been there or not.

And so, armed with a list of recommendations as long as the Empire State building is tall, I visited the city that never sleeps.

It’s tempting to set a scene for those few readers who haven’t been – but let’s face it, you already know it well: the vast avenues filled with honking yellow cabs, each towering building higher than the next and mile after mile of musicals, dramas, comedy shows and television premieres having their moments in lights.

Instead, I’ll eschew the usual tourist hotspots and pick out a few hidden highlights – for when you inevitably cross the Atlantic to see for yourself.

First and foremost, let’s talk food. As you might imagine: there’s plenty of it, and most of it is fast and cheap.

Yes, there are plenty of high class culinary delights to be had, but the real flavour lies in the stand-and-stuff-yourself foods America has made its own: pizzas, hot dogs, burgers and bagels.

A week on a diet like this might require a lot of post-holiday exercise, but sampling a $3 slice of pizza as big as your arm is a must, as is the traditional ‘dog smothered in mustard.

My own wanderings led me to Hell’s Kitchen for multiple meals – a neighbourhood brimming with delicatessens, restaurants and bars of every description.

Of course, tasty grub and tourist trapping can overlap – but no amount of camera-wielding sightseers should keep you away from Katz’s Deli further downtown – a 125-year-old eatery famous for enormous sandwiches (as well as a certain scene from When Harry Met Sally).

Then, there’s another of this reporter’s favourite subjects.

As one of the fashion capitals of the world, New York is brimming with shops and a trip to Fifth Avenue to tick off Tiffany’s and Bloomingdales is bound to be high on the agenda.

But allow me to suggest an alternative far from the madding (and elbowing) crowd. A few subway stops (or a walk across the bridge, if you’re feeling energetic) will take you to Brooklyn.

A brief visit to Williamsburg and I was in sartorial heaven, with vintage and boutique shops propping up trendy little bars as far as the eye could see.

There, you’ll also find the Brooklyn Brewery, which opens its doors every Friday night to the few people first in the queue for tables – and a few glasses of brewed-on-site nectar are complemented by a van delivering huge Sicilian slices.

Back in Manhattan, another must-visit is the park-above-ground High Line – miles of walkway and greenery installed on an old railway line.

The trek will take you from the trendy meatpacking district (and you thought the westend of Glasgow was bad) to Chelsea, with lots of sightseeing, sunbathing and picture-taking opportunities along the way.

Of course, there are sights everyone should see on a visit to NY: historical trips to the statue of liberty or ground zero, the bright lights of Times Square and Broadway or the lush scenery of Central Park.

But then, I’m sure many of you know that already: because an often-touted theory is 
New York belongs to everyone who visits – this reporter included.