When someone asks me the question "Where do you want to eat?", I rarely name a restaurant. Instead, I name a neighborhood, with the expectation of finding something great and charming once we get there. This little idiosyncracy of mine used to annoy the tar out of my boyfriend, as we'd invariably circle the same six blocks for 35 minutes until we both got so hungry we considered tiding ourselves over by nibbling on our index fingers. We'd end up settling for some sub-par diner simply because we could no longer ignore the nagging groans of our abdomens.
So now I have new routine. First I pick a restaurant, and that determines which neighborhood we begin exploring for the day. That way we still get to stumble onto fun city surprises, without developing a painful case of the munchies. Or the grouchies.
On Saturday, I picked "Hill Country Chicken", which opened last month in the Flatiron District. It's a more casual outpost of my favorite BBQ place in the city "Hill Country". These joints are basically shrines to classic Texas comfort food, and manage to make my heart feel both happy and heavy at the same time. You know I'm from Texas, right? Going here was like going to Grandma's without the pesky four-hour flight.
The decor had me at hello. Floral wallpaper, wood paneling and formica counters? Too cute.
I know you can't read it from where you sit, so let me go ahead and tell you what your eyes and bellies are missin'. See, Hill Country Chicken offers something called a "Pie Shake". I didn't order it cause I filled myself full of chicken, but mark my words...I'll be back!
Dear Fried Chicken,
Do you remember the last time we were together? I believe it was around midnight, in a Popeye's stand at a truck stop off the freeway. I have to admit, you did not shine that evening. You were tough and greasy and left my lips so glossy it looked like I'd made out with a tub of Crisco. But this time you redeemed yourself. You were plump, and juicy, and utterly enjoyable. One day, if I keep flying straight, I hope to be met with a bucket of you at the gates of heaven. And yes, I'll want fries with that. And a big flaky biscuit with butter and honey.
Uh, anyway...they had adorable little pies, all Southern classics like Whiskey-Buttermilk, Apple-Cheddar, and Bourbon-Pecan. We had the Banana Cream Pie. If all is right in the world, we will have it again.
Then we strolled down Broadway below 23rd, a danger zone if your wallet's on the skimpy side. They had a Harry & David's pop-up store for the holidays, for all your $5 pear needs.
Moose Munch coffee. Sounds bizarre; smells like a bake sale. That's a good thing.
And then I dragged my man-friend into the girly wonderland that is Anthropologie. These papier-mache taxidermy heads were the most masculine thing in there. The rest of the place was filled with tiny tea cups, lacy shirts, and retro aprons. While flipping through an art book, my boyfriend exclaimed, "Wow. This is a really great store." I'd never been more attracted to him.
We turned a corner, and ended up in my favorite spot in NYC--the Union Square Greenmarket.
We stopped for cider and a few homemade donuts.
No trip to Union Square is complete without ducking into the most attractive Barnes & Noble ever. Vin kept himself entertained in the rock biography section, while I was riveted by a book called 1,001 Foods You Must Eat Before You Die. I was particularly fascinated by Casu Marzu, a Sardinian sheep's milk cheese that's silky soft because of the LIVE JUMPING MAGGOTS it's intentionally riddled with. Don't believe me? Google it, and give your gag reflex a little project.
By night, we headed up to our favorite movie theater which happens to be in one of our least favorite neighborhoods--the migraine-inducing flicker that is Times Square. We watched Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifinakis. It was like a modern version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but like, 100 times funnier. My knees are all bruised up from the slapping.
But old habits die hard. Once it came time for dinner, the most I could come up with was "Village!" I didn't even bother to specify which one. We circled around a few blocks, until we finally stumbled into a random Chinese restaurant that offered french fries as a vegetarian appetizer. Hey, as long as Casu Marzu isn't on the menu, we'll never have a disappointing meal in this town again.