Steve Zinone’s guide to New York: Food

Photo by: Andrés Nieto Porras

In New York City, if you want to get a pastrami sandwich at 3:45 a.m., you will find one. So I wanted to give you some of my favorites as a place to start while you navigate the more than 5,000 restaurants in New York.

Restaurant Row caters to the Theatre District and is at Eighth Avenue and 47th Street. La Rivista, Becco, Joe Allen, and Le Rivage are all fabulous. La Rivista has merged with Broadway Joe’s Steakhouse (the latter has been permanently closed), and it is one of my favorite places. It offers great Italian food in an authentic atmosphere. Becco, right down the street, boasts homemade pasta in three varieties brought to your table and has an all-you-can-eat option.

Joe Allen is simply a trendy and cool place. The limited menu everyday means that whatever the chef bought at the market is on the menu. Joe Allen offers fabulous food in a casual NYC atmosphere.

My friend at Le Rivage has been in business for a long time. His son is now the chef and offers authentic French food. Don’t pass up the onion soup!

All of these restaurants will be busy between 6 and 7 p.m. because they cater to the theatre crowd. So if you hit it just right, you can miss the crowd. Or if you are going to the theater, these restaurants understand that, and they will make sure that you are on time for the curtain. Also, all of these restaurants will have patrons in casual clothes, as well as fancy theatre attire. The rule here is: If you feel comfortable in what you are wearing, then you will be fine. But then again remember, you’re in NYC, so don’t be surprised to be sitting next to someone who is dressed to the nines!

The Palm Restaurant has multiple locations in NYC, but my favorite is located at 250 West 50th St. The decor is unique and the food is outstanding. This is a place where you would want to step up your attire.

Sardi’s restaurant is a classic due to the hand-drawn caricatures of all the famous entertainers that have walked through the door since 1927. It’s located at 234 West 44th St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

Closer to the New York Hilton Midtown is Rosie O’Grady’s, which offers American cuisine. It is located at 52nd Street and Seventh Avenue.

Why not do some sightseeing over lunchtime? Grand Central Station is absolutely an architectural gem. Walk through the main floor and stop and look around and feel the hustle and bustle of New York. You will witness firsthand the meaning of a New York minute! In the basement is an incredible food court that offers something for everybody. On the main floor are specialty shops that allow the daily commuters to pick things up on their way in and out of the city.

Close to the hotel, at Lindy’s, at 54th Street and Seventh Avenue, the sandwiches are bigger than big, so you might want to split one. My pick is the Jackie Gleason sandwich with a slice of cheesecake!

Another architectural gem is the Empire State Building. Of course you can buy tickets and go inside of it and up to the observation deck for a fabulous view. But another suggestion would be to go to the View, which is the restaurant lounge on top of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. You will feel as if you were on top of the world! This is a rotating palace, and after dark, it seems as if you can reach out the window and touch the top of the Empire State Building, which will be lit up in pure New York fashion.

A word of advice: A sandwich on Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street or 43rd Street and Broadway will be double the cost of the same sandwich on Ninth Avenue and 50th Street. Capiche? Oh, and make sure you have some New York-style pizza — thin, crispy, tasty. It should cost a couple of bucks at the most. Ray’s Pizza is located between 53rd and 54th streets on Seventh Avenue, a short walk from the hotel. And if you want to fit in, fold it in half when you’re eating it and never use a fork or a knife.

Now for the most important information: Starbucks is located on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue. There is also a Starbucks located at 51st and 52nd streets and Sixth Avenue. But the one on 53rd is very large and is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Lastly, I encourage everyone attending the convention to stroll Central Park at least for a few minutes. Maybe in the morning after hitting Starbucks. The entrance to the park is only a few short blocks away. Have a seat and relax and take in for a few minutes the life in the City That Never Sleeps. Of course you could do the same at Times Square, but you might be standing next to the Naked Cowboy or Mickey Mouse.

Bon appétit!

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Steve’s guide to New York: Sights to see

Photo by: Andrés Nieto Porras

By Steve Zinone

If you have time before or after the NCRA Convention & Expo, New York offers enough sightseeing to keep you busy. Here are a few ideas.

The Gallery of Shorthand is in the atrium of the Alfonse M. D’Amato Federal Courthouse in Central Islip, Long Island, N.Y. The gallery is a must-see as it is the only one of its kind in the entire world. Our esteemed colleague, Dom Tursi, has created this incredible gallery entirely devoted to our timeless profession. Having been at the gallery on the day of its grand opening, Sept. 30, 2010, I can assure you that you will not want to leave after witnessing firsthand the evolution of our timeless profession. The gallery is approximately an hour from the hotel.

Let’s talk about the absolutely beautiful and moving site that has touched us all and is woven through the fabric of our American being: the National September 11 Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and Freedom Tower. This is best accessed by subway because the stop is at the World Trade Center. It’s an approximate 15-25 minute ride by subway from our hotel. Of course you can take a cab, but it might cost you $15-30 dollars depending on traffic and the time of day.

The most important thing when visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum is to purchase and print your ticket online and pick the time that you would like to enter the museum. By purchasing your ticket in advance you will just walk right into the security area for inspection and begin your tour rather than waiting in the line that can be as long as three city blocks. The museum is a very moving experience, so plan to spend a few hours in lower Manhattan so that you can thoroughly enjoy your visit.

Just a few blocks from the 9/11 memorial at the very tip of the island of Manhattan is Battery Park. Here you will find the ferry that will take you to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. If you have time, because you can hop off the ferry at the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island and spend as much time as you would like; the Ferry runs continuously throughout the day and brings you right back to Battery Park.

Of course, you can just stand in Battery Park and see both majestic New York icons clearly from the park as well. But if you want to go up into the crown of Lady Liberty, you have to make a reservation online because they only allow so many visitors up into the crown each day.

Keep in mind when visiting NYC that it’s a neighborhood thing. If you walk from the Hilton New York Midtown heading south, depending if you go east or west, you will walk through:

  • the diamond, theater, garment, flatiron, meatpacking, and financial districts (including Wall Street);
  • Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, NoHo, the West Village, SoHo, Chinatown, and Little Italy;
  • Herald Square, Gramercy Park, Union Square, and Foley Square;
  • Tribecca, Bowling Green, and South Seaport;
  • and end at the 9/11 memorial and Battery Park.

If you are adventurous, start walking and take it all in, but it will take you all day and a great pair of shoes. That’s why it might be better to pick the areas you want to visit, take the subway or cab to that area, and then explore. But I would suggest that if you find yourself in Lower Manhattan near Foley Square, where City Hall is located, the Brooklyn Bridge is right there and has pedestrian access. If you walk even half way across the bridge, you will have the most beautiful view of the Manhattan Skyline — priceless!

Did I mention shopping at Chinatown? If you want a deal, they got a deal for you. Head down to Canal Street and get ready because you just can’t believe it. From purses to watches to jewelry to bright neckties and fancy hats and belts and scarfs, it’s all there! While you are down there, walk up Mulberry Street and you will find yourself in Little Italy. If you look close enough, you will recognize a famous scene from the Godfather.

If you walk north from the Hilton New York Midtown, you will find yourself at Columbus Circle and the very beginning of Central Park: a breathtaking park full of history and beauty. You will see Strawberry Fields, which is located on the west side between 71st and 74th streets, a tribute to John Lennon. I suggest that you take a few minutes and stroll through a part of this wonderful park, which will allow you to escape the concrete jungle of the City for a few moments. All the information that you will need can be found here: centralparknyc.org.

On either side of the park is what is called the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, depending on which side of Central Park you are located on. If you walk the entire length of the park, you will find yourself in Harlem, home of the Apollo Theater and in my opinion the birthplace of the world’s greatest entertainer and a true inspiration and example of the American Dream, Sammy Davis, Jr.

If the Mets are your thing, Citi Field is in Queens. If it’s the Yanks, you gotta go to-da-Bronx. Both are doable, but that’s up to you. Just like Brooklyn, it’s just a train ride away.

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Steve Zinone’s guide to New York: Entertainment

Photo by: Andrés Nieto Porras

When in the City That Never Sleeps for the NCRA Convention & Expo, many people like to catch a Broadway show. Whether you favor an on-Broadway show or an off-Broadway show, it’s important to do your research so that you choose the show that you will enjoy the most. I find these online sites to be full of great reviews and links to the individual show’s website, so that you can watch a trailer, which can help you decide which one is best for you: broadway.com, nytimes.com/theater/shows/critics/critics-picks, newyorktheatreguide.com, or theatermania.com.

An American Express card offers some great discounts on Broadway show tickets. Also, there are a number of discounts available online if you dig for them, especially within 30 days of the date of the show.

There is a day-of-the-show ticket booth at Times Square, TKTS Discount Booths, which offers up to 50 percent off. Their website has all the information that you need: tdf.org. There are three locations to choose from, but the Times Square location is the closest to our hotel. However, if you are at the 9/11 Memorial–Battery Park–Wall Street area, the South Seaport TKTS discount booth location is very close by, although they only offer next-day matinée tickets at South Seaport. The Times Square location offers same-day matinée tickets on Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, and the booth opens at 10 a.m. This is a great way to save money and enable you to catch a show. There are also some great off-Broadway shows for a fraction of the price of the on-Broadway shows.

Of course if the opera is your thing, metopera.org has all the information you will need.

If you like live swing music, great food, and dancing, try Swing 46 — a real jazz and supper club at 349 W. 46th Street. Try to catch George Gee and his orchestra. Check it out for yourself at swing46.com.

Birdland is an iconic jazz supper club located at 315 W. 44th Street and 8th Avenue. There are live shows with different performers each night, and they are all incredible. Each show varies in length and in cost, but most run $30-$50 per person with a $10 food or drink minimum. Check it out at birdlandjazz.com.

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Steve Zinone’s guide to New York: Getting there

Photo by: Andrés Nieto Porras

If you are flying into New York, you have the choice of three airports: John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International. LaGuardia is the closest to our hotel, which is the Hilton New York Midtown, located at Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street, on the northwest edge of Rockefeller Center. It also happens to be the largest hotel in New York City!

However, there are some things that you should keep in mind when choosing which airport to use. LaGuardia is smaller than JFK and Newark and has fewer flights to choose from. So checking all three airport options for flights is a good idea. Cabs from LaGuardia to the Hilton New York Midtown are metered, which can be anywhere from $25-$37. But, out of the three NYC airports, LaGuardia is the least accessible by subway or bus service. A unique bus service, which can be found at nycairporter.com, will get you from any of the airports and into Manhattan and drop you off at Grand Central or Penn Station and then onto a free shuttle to your hotel all for a flat fee, which varies depending on which airport you use.

JFK is a little further away from the Hilton New York Midtown than LaGuardia but offers many more flight options. Also, JFK has an airtrain service from the terminal, which will link you to both the Long Island Railroad and the subway service, both of which will bring you right into Penn Station at 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. The LIRR will take you approximately 35 minutes and cost $15, and the subway will be $7.75 but could take you 50-60 minutes to get into Penn Station.

From Penn Station, a cab ride to the Hilton New York Midtown is less than ten dollars. Subway trains are available, and the closest stops are:

  • 50th Street and Sixth Avenue
  • 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue
  • 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue
  • 50th Street and Broadway
  • 57th Street and Seventh Avenue

I would suggest downloading the NYC subway app. It works great and can put you where you want to be. Also visit mta.info, which is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s webpage. Also, use panynj.gov for train and subway information from the airports.

A cab ride from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan will cost you a flat fee of $52, plus tolls and gratuity. However, there are coupons online for many car services. I encourage you to check them out. Dial 7 is just one of many; it is a solid service and offers a flat rate to and from the airport.

Newark is the wild card option. It is located in New Jersey, across the Hudson River, and offers a great number of flights. Newark offers a train service for a flat fee of $12.50 and brings you directly to Penn Station. Again, once there, you are a short cab ride to the Hilton New York Midtown. Check out njtransit.com for the train from Newark — it is really easy and inexpensive. You can be in Penn Station in 25 minutes! If you plan on using the train, the ticket for the monorail that takes you from the airport terminal to the train is the same ticket that takes you to Penn Station, and it has to be shown to the conductor.

Of course there are other options, too. There are train services from Washington, D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia, which will bring you right into Penn Station. I have heard of a brilliant idea from the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association, which is arranging for a bus service to take people to and from the convention, basically picking up members at various points along the way. What a great idea! Door to door service for an inexpensive price and having the opportunity to network and have fun on the way.

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