Cheery & Charming Traveler’s Guide: 8 NEW Places to Visit in New York City

As always, New York was a whirlwind! Up and back in 2-days, via the Vermonter & Acela Express made for a jam-packed, fun and exciting adventure for our Valentine’s Day this year. Aside from my first time at Madison Square Gardens + seeing Billy Joel live, we covered a TON of ground and visited a slew of new spots!

Whenever I find fun, new spots, I’m always pressed to share! So, I’m quickly jotting down my top 7 favorite places we visited for any of you who may be looking for a cool, trendy or cozy new spot to check out next time you’re in the area!

  1. Hanoi House
    We had dinner here Thursday night and let me tell you – it was I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Placed appropriately on the historical, adventure seeking, 119 St. Mark’s Place, you’ll arrive in a (not-so-surprisingly-small), delicately quaint, romantically dimmed, intimate spot in East Village. But – don’t let the size fool you. Hanoi House is known for “The Absolute Best Pho in New York,” “The Absolute Best Octopus in New York,” “The Absolute Best Vietnamese Restaurants in New York,” and more. I mean . . . WOW!!! Once you’ve had a moment to take in the eloquent details, brace yourself as you’re about to be spoiled with a breathtaking, unbelievable, well-cultured, imaginative display of Vietnamese cuisine! From the Crispy Crab & Pork Spring rolls (Nem Ran), to the Spicy Octopus (Bach Tuoc Ca Ri) – delightfully displayed over roasted sweet potatoes, coconut curry, charred scallion and shishito peppers, to the Hanoi Style Beef Pho Soup (Pho Bac), – a classic 16-hr broth with heritage Black Angus filet mignon, brisket & rice noodles AND an add-on option of bone marrow (must have!) on the side, our dinner was simply divine. The only thing that will leave you feeling disappointed after this visit, is the wish that you could fit everything on the menu in your belly!
    P.S. make sure you get there early!! They don’t take reservations and the place was nearly filled upon our arrival, 15-minutes post their opening at 5:30.
    P.S.S. our dear friends own this place, so go. check. it. out. !!!
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  2. Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria NYC
    I don’t know about you, but I know that when I visit New York City, I’m not leaving until I’ve had a proper slize of za 😉
    Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria is more formally known in the Staten Island area of New York. Wanting to break in and make their presence known in the Manhattan area, they opened their NEW location at 168 1st Avenue. Priding themselves on a secret Neapolitan recipe for a special thin crust pizza that has made their restaurant famous, I was so glad to have enjoyed this gem during our trip! We sat at the antiquely pounded copper counter top on the corner of the bar and enjoyed catching up with friends and admiring the original, characteristic stained glass windows before, quite literally, demolishing our pizza. Looking for the perfect NY fold? You found it!! Can’t decide which kind to try when you visit? Psst… if you order a large, they allow you to do half and half! But, they also have a smaller, personal 10” option as well. Not to mention – the bartender and staff were  amazingly warm and welcoming, making for a fun, social lunch break on Friday!
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  3. C&B – East Village, Thompson Square Park
    I’ll keep this one short and sweet, just like this shop! Seriously one of the cutest little coffee shops in East Village! We stopped in for a quick espresso (always needed!) and loved seeing the kitchen staff live, in action, flipping, kneading and pounding their homemade dough!! I mean, you just can’t get that just anywhere in Baltimore! Plus, you can take your coffee/espresso/latte and enjoy a casual stroll around Thompson Square Park after, which is right across the street!
  4. Tacombi
    SALT! SALT! SALT! LOVED this Mexican spot we found on 267 Elizabeth Street. And come on … a old school, authentic Volkswagen Bus as the taco-making station?! We only stopped in for a quick taco (or two…) and kept on our exploring, but the atmosphere was so traditional and genuine, it’s definitely worth a visit and some cliché photos! P.S. the tacos were awesome too!
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  5. L’AMICO
    This is probably one of my favorite spots in NYC – although a little more ‘commercial,’ in feel, the atmosphere is to die for and this is going to sound weird, but I love their bathrooms! Haha! While separate male and female, the hand-washing station connects the two via a shared wash-sink area with a reflective, stained glass like mirror for separation. It’s a great spot for a casual happy hour, quick bite at the bar (they have amazing selection of appetizers, wood-burning pizzas, fresh pastas, and selections of charcuterie), or in our circumstance, a late night cap for topping off Saturday evening after the concert. We stayed in the hotel above it – The EVENTI, which I would TOTALLY recommend if you’re ever seeing a show at Madison Square Gardens. It was about a 5 minute walk from the concert!
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  6. BUA Bar
    Cute and friendly spot to stop to get a snack or drink beforehand if you try our Hanoi House! It’s right across the street and felt so intimate. The space is decorated with countless lit candles that grace spaces in the walls where bricks have intentionally been removed. Candles also delicately and artfully line random fashion behind the bar liquor bottles, shelving, and pretty much anywhere you look!
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  7. Westside Market
    Talk about a local food market!! I WISH we had something like this in our small town, Federal Hill! Then again, I get we may not have the same volume to sustain this type of operation 🙂 It felt like I had walked into the Costco-version of a market! Never-ending, colorful supply and variety of fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, deli meats, cheeses, traditional grocery, flowers and more! Super cool spot to stop by, take in the colorful spreads and patronize a local business (with some salty and sweet snacks while you’re there!)
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  8. The Pennsy Food Hall
    Last, but not least – and definitely not a big secret as it’s right above Penn Station, but this is a great, vibrant and convenient spot to grab-and-go a snack before you catch the train ride home. It’s more of an incubator-type feel with a variety of small eateries, so there’s a little something for everyone. From sushi, to tacos, to bar food, to sweet treats, ice cream and more! Plus, they sometimes have a DJ that slings throwback songs and top beats to get you boppin’ and grovin’!

Do you have any favorite spots or gems to share? I’d love to hear! Ping me in the comments below!

Talk soon!

xoxox
Brittany

A Birthday Getaway to Napa Valley

It’s been a week since we returned from Napa and I can’t tell you how much I’m still missing it everyday!

Let’s be honest – – who wouldn’t want to ring in their birthday with a 5-day span, consisting of waking up and eating your body weight in cheese & wine?!

. . . Just me?

Alrite then…. 🙂

To me, there was no place quite like it – incredible views, breathtaking landscapes, endless rolling hills, relaxing spas, delectable pairings & tastings on every corner, indescribable restaurants with wine lists longer than I’ve ever seen, consisting of wine types I’d never even heard of, and the list goes on…

Day 1 of our trip (was my birthday – WOO HOO!!!) began with a first quick stop at Rodney Strong Vineyards and a tour, tasting and pairing at J Vineyards & Winery.

First plus – they’re right next to each other. And, when I say “right next to each other,” I don’t mean the Napa version of, “right next to each other, which we learned could mean quite literally 40+ minutes apart – haha! These two are about a 2-3 minute walk from tasting room door to tasting room door. Could it get much easier than that?!

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We learned all about Judy Jordan, the founder of J Vineyards & Winery, and her road to fruition in the world of sparkling wines, beginning at just 25 years old !!! Can you even imagine starting your own winery and vineyard at 25 years old…? Insanity. We had a wonderful wine ambassador & tour guide named Taylor who guided us through the storytelling of all the successes and challenges July encountered – including losing her entire crop in her early years due to flooding from the Russian River Valley. Judy had to start. all. over. from. scratch. BUT – check out the photos below to see the beauty that exists today!

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I love wine.

I love touring the uniquely built facilities, filled to the ceilings with wine varieties that will be aged well beyond even some folks’ lifetimes.

I love learning the intricacy and process behind each carefully crafted ‘wine-recipe.’

I love the warmth and intimacy a bottle of wine brings to friends who enjoy it together.

I love the complicated analysis of stressing the vines juuuuust the right amount, in time for harvesting in order to get more boldness and flavor from the fruit.

It’s literally the coolest thing to me!

Moving on from our tour at J, we ventured out to Healdsburg to explore a private tour of MacMurray Estate Vineyards! Traditionally not open to the public, I felt extra special as we had the privilege of walking their gorgeous 284-acre ranch, in the heart of the Russian River Valley. And, super cool – we were also able to tour the home on-site, previously owned by a once movie legend – Fred MacMurray! The home has since been pristinely restored to the state it was when he and his family lived there. I felt like I stepped back in time 60 years – old school refrigerator and all!

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Leading to the most incredible part of our day – a tasting atop the highest hill at the vineyard, overlooking the entire winery and Russian River Valley.

What. An. Incredible. Day.

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BUT – – it doesn’t end there! Birthday dinner was still in store!

Having stayed in the quaint surrounding of Sonoma Square, where, “It’s sweet to be slow,” we had the convenience of a leisurely stroll through the park to the 21-year-famous, farm-to-table, longtime favorite – the girl & the fig. They had an awesome, seasonal menu with vegetables and herbs from their very own farm right in Sonoma! Rated one of the top ten best restaurants in the United States by Bon Appetit, I’ll end here on saying I truly felt like the most special, most spoiled, and luckiest birthday girl in town.

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However… our adventure didn’t end here. Can you believe this was  O N E  D A Y ?!

Stay tuned for more following our journey of eating and drinking our way through Napa!

xoxo
Brittany

P.S. Here’s a video of all the fun in action 🙂

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