A Quick Trip to NYC – Staying in Murray Hill

Even in the summer, we take the NYC subway.

Even in the summer, we take the subway.

After dropping Our Bird at college in Connecticut, we hopped on the Metro North and headed down for a quick trip to NYC. We stayed in Murray Hill. I know. Murray Hill is not cool. But we got a great rate at HGU New York (if you’re wondering as we were, HGU stands for Hotel Grand Union, the 1905 building’s original name) and I wanted to stay in a neighborhood in Manhattan that would be a bit quieter than the usual tourist destinations. It was a typical small Manhattan hotel room, but it was clean, the bed was comfy, and most importantly, since we faced the interior of the building with zero view, it was quiet.

This wasn’t a fine-wine-and-dine-type of trip – we’d just dropped our son at college, along with all of our money! I was interested in finding decent food at a decent price (for NYC) that we could walk to, so I did my research and found some places that intrigued me in the neighborhood.

This quick trip to NYC was starting to shape up nicely!

Our first night we ate at Wokuni, a sushi restaurant owned by a Japanese company with their own aqua-farm that flies fresh fish in from Japan. The space was cool, not too loud with affordable prices for sushi. The deal here is the $29 five-piece sushi and one-roll combo. Chef picks the fish, but it was all good. The Maguro Tartare starter (tuna and avocado) was especially delicious.

The only bummer was the large family next to us, with a kid watching a video on a phone without headphones. Seriously people, not cool. Paul spoke to the dad and they lowered the volume but we shouldn’t have had to ask. Being considerate of others seems to be old fashioned these days. Sheesh. **OK Rant Done.**

Breakfast at Russ & Daughters.

The Classic

The next morning we took the subway down to the Lower East Side for what I think may be Paul’s new favorite breakfast spot – Russ & Daughters. When I was a kid, my dad would schlep from our apartment on the Upper West Side all the way down to Bowery St. to pick up all the fixings – bagels, bialys, scallion cream cheese and the coveted smoked fish (nova and white fish being the family favorites). A few years ago they opened up the cafe and it’s worth the trek.The restaurant was recently featured on Somebody Feed Phil (which we love) on Netflix so watch that if you don’t believe me.

I usually have the classic, with an onion bialy and it is delicious. The coffee, which they endlessly refill, was very good. And you really can’t visit Russ & Daughters without trying some Potato Latkes with applesauce and sour cream.

Don’t worry, you’re in Manhattan, you’ll walk it off.

Visting the New Museum in NYC

We love a day filled with art and food

After breakfast we walked over to the International Center of Photography (ICP) and bought their combo ticket ($27) for there and the New Museum which is right across the street. The IPC is small but the exhibits were a treasure – Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt  were on and wow. We hadn’t been to the New Museum and enjoyed the views from the roof deck and the intriguing exhibit by Thomas Bayrle.

Beautiful level of detail at Roman and Williams Guild.

It’s all artisan designed and made at Roman and Williams Guild. That detail!

After a stroll through Soho, and some design inspiration at Roman and Williams Guild, we made the pilgrimage to Balthazar. Whether it’s a quick trip to NYC or a week-long stay, I think we go there every time we’re in NYC and it never disappoints. The Warm Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Tart is served with a little green salad and is just so good. The space is classic French bistro (on a grand scale) and the place is always buzzing.

We had to work off all the calories so we decided to walk to the Whitney Museum on Gansevoort St. On the way we ducked into Laduree for a macaron.

Well, it was a vacation after all.

Start at the top of the Whitney and work your way down. The views from the roof deck are wonderful, including the High Line and the Hudson River, and made NYC actually feel livable.

That night we walked over to Little Alley for some Chinese. Casual and not too loud, we enjoyed the Shanghai Stir Fried Thick Noodles and Little Alley Lion’s Head (a giant Chinese meatball!). After dinner we took another walk (see what I mean? Calories. Shmalories.) and headed toward the East River. At the NYU Medical Center we encountered this terrific piece of public art. Insta-worthy, no?

Public art in Murray Hill

See? Even Murray Hill has cool public art.

After a morning at the renovated MOMA (better flow through the galleries but still so crowded) we met my cousin for lunch. He took us to a lovely spot at Grand Central Station(GCS) called Agern. Offering contemporary Scandinavian-influenced food, by the co-founder of Copenhagen’s famous NOMA, it offered a serene, wood wrapped space. Not what you would expect in GCS. The food was delicious. If the ticket is too steep for your wallet for lunch, they also run Great Northern Hall (you walk through it to get to Agren) and I hear the food there is very good.

Our last night in town we had tickets to see The Band’s Visit, Tony winner for Best Musical this year. I don’t always love musicals, but this was different. Smaller. More intimate and lovely.

Anyway, we had to find a spot for 6 people last minute, as we wanted one last cousin meal before we left town. Finding a table for 6 near the theater district on a Friday night is a challenge, but I was up for it. Found a table at 5:30 (good since the show started at 8 pm) at Vitae. We grazed through the appetizers and salads and it was all good. Especially their Crystal Green Persuasion, a gin and basil drink that went down a little too easy. I’m happy to finally have a theater spot that offers a healthy and delicious menu.

Beautiful Grace Church in lower Manhattan

So lovely to see Grace Church amidst all the new construction in lower Manhattan

We went back to Russ & Daughters on Saturday morning. Don’t judge. There were just so many appealing things on the menu. But we walked the two miles back to Murray Hill and agreed it had been a lovely quick trip to NYC. Just what the doctor ordered before heading back to our empty nest.