April 30, 2017: Day 4. For our last full day in New York City, we tried to make the most of it by visiting more of the bookmarked places on our map. It was a cloudy and somewhat windy day; a much bigger weather change when compared to the past two days of sunshine and heat.
We decided to head to Central Park in the morning and grab food as well on the way there. We had slept in that morning and by the time we arrived at the Italian restaurant I had found online, it was already brunch time.
Barilla Restaurants (1290 6th Ave, New York) turned out to be a chain restaurant for fresh Mediterranean and Italian food. The food tasted good though! It was a smart casual style of restaurant where you placed your order at the cashier and then the servers would bring the food to you. We sat at one of the long tables facing the chefs who were preparing the pastas and sandwiches in the open kitchen. We saw every step of the cooking process.
We knew it was a chain restaurant by the way that the pastas were made. Each portion of pasta was pre-packaged in a plastic bag and thrown into a pot of water for boiling. The cook would prepare a pan of sauce in the meantime. When the pasta was done, he poured it into the sauce and cooked it all together before serving it onto the plate. We saw him do this for multiple dishes and enjoyed watching the cooking process. I observed that the servers there were a bit slow because there were several dishes sitting underneath the heating lamp and being neglected. One customer must have been fed up with waiting because he actually got up to the counter and got the dish himself for his table. XD. It also didn’t seem as if the dishes were labelled very well because there were a few dishes that were unclaimed (or that there were some erroneous orders).
I ordered the Tortellini Alfredo which was filled with spinach and ricotta and served with a Parmigiano cream sauce.
Ken ordered the Sunday Menu which featured the Penne Amatricana which came with fresh fruit and a bottle of water — it was a good deal for pasta and additional sides. It was a penne dish with bacon, onions, and spicy tomato sauce.
I really liked the Parmigiano cream sauce with my tortellini. It was perfectly dense and creamy enough for my taste and the spinach and ricotta inside the pasta was so good too! The portion was large but I was able to finish it all (since it was our first meal of the day and I was hungry). I tried the Penne Amatricana that Ken ordered and it was a simple tomato based penne dish. It was simple and good as well. I didn’t notice a lot of the bacon in it at all.
After our Italian meal (my friend Betty told me that nearly any Italian restaurant in New York is amazing), we strolled towards the famous Central Park (apparently, Central Park is the most visited spot in the U.S. according to TripAdvisor!).
Along the way, we saw the food truck for The Halal Guys (which we decided to return to afterwards) and the LOVE sign. There was a small line-up to take a photo with this.
When approaching Central Park, we saw many horse carriages near the entrance and even the horses stopping for a water break in front of the entrance to the park. It was a gloomy and somewhat cold day but it was still really nice to walk through this park. I had only seen it in movies and it was great to finally be able to walk there with my own feet and see it with my own eyes.
We kept walking and saw the large fountain in the middle of Central Park. I recognized this fountain from the movie “Enchanted” and it was also nice to see it in real life. We also saw some people row boats on a small river.
Although it was possible to spend the whole day there, we eventually decided to leave. Ken had heard that there was a Shake Shack instead the park but even after asking some staff at the restaurant about it, they weren’t able to tell us that it was within the park but that there was a location somewhere outside the park. We headed towards that direction and exited the park.
While strolling the streets again, we saw the Beyond Sushi (62 W 56th St, New York) restaurant that my vegan friend had recommended to me. We decided to stop in and try an appetizer to share. Everything at Beyond Sushi was vegan and made to look like Japanese sushi. It was creative!
We ordered the “Piece Sampler” was which four pieces of vegan sushi. There was one served with black rice, seaweed salad with chili flakes and sesame seeds; one with charred corn with harissa and cilantro; one with curried cauliflower with almond pesto; and one with roasted tomato with tomato guajillo. The last one looked like salmon sushi while the curry one looked like tuna. It was a little bit expensive and the portion was definitely a sampler size but it was still a good experience to try it out.
We headed towards The Halal Guys (W 53rd St, New York) food stand and lined up. (Apparently, this was their original location when they first established in 1990!) The line was a little shorter than it had been when we first saw it so this was a good thing. However, it seemed that they had burnt something because I watched the guy scrape out and threw the burnt bits into the trash as we were in line. This made for a bit of a longer wait and in all, we waited about 15 minutes to receive our food.
We had heard all about The Halal Guys food and I was so excited to try it finally! We ordered the Combo Over Rice. It came with chicken, gyro, and pita over orange-coloured rice. We saw the bottles of sauce at the side of the truck and we squeezed in the white sauce and the red sauce. Unbeknownst to us, the red sauce was really, really spicy! Apparently, you should only squeeze one line of it for flavouring and we had squeezed so much of it! It was so spicy that I had to use my napkin to wipe a bit of the sauce off. XD On the other hand, the white sauce was delicious and we went back for more sauce.
The Combo Over Rice was absolutely delicious! I don’t know how they made the chicken and gyro so tender and flavourful. The rice was soft and delicious too. After having it, I knew why The Halal Guys was so popular! Yay! So happy that we got to try it! 😀
After this, we continued walking around and somehow ended up at the Top of the Rock building and the Rockefeller Center. I remember my first visit to New York when I was eight years old included a photo at the famous Rockefeller Center. It was neat to be here after so many years to see it again.
After this, because it was quite windy out, we headed back to the hotel so that Ken could change his shorts into longer pants. It was quite late at this time but we wanted to try the Japanese barbecue grill restaurant that we had seen advertised in Times Square the day before, so we headed out to the subway towards that restaurant. However, when we got there, we were told the waiting time was two hours or so. We were hungry and didn’t want to wait so we walked in the dark across many streets towards the pizza restaurant that we had bookmarked (thank goodness for Google Maps).
While heading back to the hotel, we saw this street musician at the subway station who was performing a piece using just a long pipe and his voice for effect. It was really neat that we stopped to watch and record him.
We arrived at Lombardi’s Pizza (32 Spring St, New York) at 9 p.m. and while there was a line to get a table, we only waited 15 minutes before we received a table. Yay! Lombardi’s has been around since 1905 and is recognized as the first pizzeria in the United States. All around the restaurant, you could see newspaper clippings and photos showing this historic pizzeria.
We ordered their Original Margherita pizza along with two glasses of Sangria and a Caesar Salad to share.
The Original Margherita pizza was made with fresh whole milk mozzarella, tomato sauce, and topped with grated romano and fresh basil. We ordered the small size.
I liked how the pizzas were presented on a ‘shelf’ at every table which made it look so fancy and cool. We enjoyed the pizzas but I remember thinking that it wasn’t the best margherita pizza that I had ever had. I think since opening as the first pizzeria in America, there have been many other restaurants that serve better Margherita pizzas; it’s just that since they are the first and made history, they continue to be a popular spot for pizza.
(Since this was on Spring Street, we were again also in the vicinity of Rice to Riches where we were two nights before).
And so, that was our final full day in New York! (Or so we thought at the time…) XD