Sunday Salon: Thanksgiving in New York City!

IMG_20141125_215630My first night in New York, Tuesday, after a long flight spent cramped in economy class, so of course I left C.J. at the hotel and headed right for The Strand in spite of vowing not to go until our last day there.  Afterwards, I went down Broadway to The Famous Cozy Soup and Burger Restaurant where I had a bowl of matzo ball soup.  It was delicious.  Please note that I only bought three books.

C.J. and I joined C.J.’s family for a trip to New York this Thanksgiving to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Any excuse to go to New York.  This was more a family trip so I only made it to three book stores.  Okay, I went to The Strand twice.   By the way, after you visit The Strand, which you must do at least once in this lifetime, go down Broadway to the costume shop.  I suspect many book people skip it, or don’t even know it’s there, but the costume shop is amazing.  It’s open year round, two big floors of costumes plus a gothic annex out back.  C.J. and I didn’t buy anything, but we had a great time.

It was raining when we left San Francisco and snowing when we got to New York, so we got to see The Cloisters in the snow.   C.J. insists on visiting The Cloisters every time we go to New York.  He enjoys the artwork while I enjoy the cafe, but since the cafe is not open during the winter I enjoyed the artwork as well this time around.  They have a very good collection of Medieval European artwork including the famous set of tapestries showing the unicorn hunt.  They have the blue ones. Paris has the red ones.


We met C.J.’s brother and sister-in-law for dinner at the Carnegie Deli.  This is my turkey pastrami sandwich.  I wish I could say it was as good as it was big, but frankly, the Carnegie Deli is over-rated.  Plus, while the meat is excellent in New York deli’s the bread can be on the dry side.  C.J. says California is much better for baked goods.  He offers up all the people on the plane for New York with loaves of sourdough bread sticking out of their bags.   People in California are not impressed by sourdough bread anymore.  We take it for granted.  So if you’re in New York go to Katz’s Deli which is excellent and get your pastrami corned beef sandwich on rye.


Our hotel was just a block away from Katz’s Deli by the way.  I you’re reading this and thinking all James does when he travels is go to museums, shop at bookstores and eat good food, you’re basically right.  There was lots of walking around too, because C.J. and I both like to look at buildings and to see various neighborhoods.  This view is from the rooftop deck at the hotel. It was too cold to do anything but take a few pictures.  That’s the Empire State Building in the center.  We could see the new Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center Site, but I don’t like it, so I’m not posting a picture of it.  Frankly, the Chrysler Building is still the best looking one in North America. Yes, I said it!


The Lower East Side/SoHo area has changed a lot. It’s now very much the up-and-coming section of the city. Lots of younger, better-off people are moving in bringing in trendy shops and restaurants.  But a few old timers are still there, like the Yonah Schimmel Kinishery which was one block away from our hotel.  (The East Houston Hotel by the way.)  We love knishes which are something you cannot get in California, I think you really shouldn’t get them outside of New York to be honest. Yonah Schimmel is still a little family run hole-in-the wall place. They do have table service, though the floor is very sloped.  Try the classic potato knish if you’ve never had one before, then move on to the sweet potato knish.  I always say a really good knish makes up for a lot of crap in the world.

IMG_20141126_215903The night before the parade we went to see the balloons being blown up in Central Park.  This is now a huge attraction with a very large crowd.  We were too late for the inflating but we did get to see all the balloons in bondage.  It’s kind of fun, but if it’s raining, you can probably skip it.

But don’t skip the parade.  I had a great time.  We were late arriving so we had to watch from down the street a little ways but it was really fun to see the balloons come into view as the passed by the building.  We couldn’t see much of the floats or the marching bands.  I’m told that that really was KISS; I thought they were some sort of tribute group from a new musical like Jersey Boys but about KISS.   But if I had it to do over,  I would spend the money for tickets to the bleacher seats.  I think they would be worth it.  And don’t plan on taking a cab home afterwards.  We took the subway, which we always do, but C.J.’s brother and sister-in-law tried taking a cab and ended up paying nine dollars for a one block ride because traffic was so bad they had to get out and walk.

Here are some balloons.






Later that night we had Thanksgiving dinner at The Tavern on the Green.

We had Friday to ourselves so we went to The Frick Collection which we had not seen in many years.  It’s a great little museum.  We both like museums that we can see in under two hours, which is why we didn’t go to the Metropolitan.  Too much art, too much beauty.  No one can really look at more than five masterpieces in a single day.  That sort of thing should be spaced out over time so you can really appreciate it.

This self-portrait by Rembrandt knocked me out this time around.  He’s just over 50 in this painting, my age, but he looks much older.  You can’t tell from this picture here, but there is so much paint on this canvas, it feels like he’s worked the paint in with his fingers.  I suspect that if we looked with the right equipment, we’d find his DNA all over it.  The sheer weight of it, the size of his hands, the steady gaze, it all just knocked me out this time around.

Which is one reason why I like the Frick.  They don’t have so many paintings so you really get a chance to stand and look at a canvas for a long time.

Then we went to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe where I bought three more books. It’s very popular but should really be Housing Works Cafe Bookstore now. Not as many books as it had last time.  A walk around the hotel’s neighborhood led me to discover McNally Jackson Books which is my new favorite bookstore in New York.  They have an amazing selection of books in translation, grouped by language.  There were so many titles that I never heard of before that I knew I would love that I just had to leave without buying anything.  One’s too many and a hundreds not enough.  Next time, I’ll plan ahead and save up some book money.

After dinner at The Meatball Shop which is another place you should go to instead of the Carnegie Deli, I convinced C.J. to join me in one last walk up to The Strand by telling him they have an entire floor of art books.  C.J. is not much of a reader but he does have a collection of art books.  After almost two hours of browsing, we did manage to spend enough money to get the free tote bag that comes with a purchase of fifty dollars or more.  C.J. even bought a book.  It’s a book about trays.  Yes, you read that right, an entire book about decorative trays.  19th century trays, sure, but still….trays.

Now we’re back in California where it looks like it will rain all day.

Happy holidays everyone.


P.S. take The TBR Double Dog Dare!


4 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Thanksgiving in New York City!

  1. I’ve been to New York twice and probably did all the obvious touristy things and missed the genuinely good stuff but I do remember loving the Frick when I was there *gulp* 20 years ago.

  2. James, this sounds like a magical trip – I am so envious. I have been to NYC once, for an afternoon, when I was in grad school. I was there to research at the NY Public Library. I have been wanting to go back ever since, and I think you’ve described a perfect itinerary. Maybe 2015 will be the year (with all the money I’ll save during the TBR Dare 🙂

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