Take the 7 train to the end in Queens, you'll arrive in NYC's legit Chinatown. Around the turn of the century Flushing's Chinatown had surpassed the Manhattan neighborhood, now with nearly twice as many Chinese Americans and immigrants. In Flushing you won't find faux pagoda roofs on buildings and phone booths, you'll also find very little English on store signs and windows. Flushing is not a seedy Cantonese tourist trap but a fully functioning community of Mandarin. Due the histrionics surrounding the Coronavirus both Chinatowns are suffering from a lack of visitors spending cash. Since I rarely turndown an opportunity to ride the 7 train I decided to explore Flushing's Chinatown and get lunch.
Eger to warm up on a cold February afternoon, I stopped into Szechuan House, 133-47 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY, 11354. I welcomed the hot tea whiling flipping through the menu. You'll quickly realize they specialize in the spicy. They use a 1 through 3 red pepper icon warning system. I don't handle the heat as well as I used to so everything 2 pepper and higher was off my consideration list. Pig brain, frog, quail and rabbit were all 3 peppers. I'd start simple with steamed pork dumplings. I chose two entrées the Braised Lamb with Chinese Cabbage in Brown Sauce, a mild dish needing no pepper icon warning. Also the one pepper Beer Flavored Duck with Bamboo in Spicy Sauce. I opened a Trip Wipes to freshen my hands then relaxed to take the atmosphere in.
Szechuan House is a simple single dining room. A nice clean look with white ceiling, walls and table cloths. No music, some Asian soap opera on a big screen that the waitstaff seems enthralled with. I was quickly informed the lamb had been eighty-sixed for the day. The two waitresses work in tandem. They are pleasant and don't keep you waiting.
Surprisingly the duck showed up first. It looks like a big bowl of warm delicious on a cold winter afternoon. Big chunks of duck, the bamboo looks like pasta and tastes like it too. The spicy comes from the tasty sauce so if you want more kick lap it up on the big spoon. I went about the duck a few different ways. Carefully picking out pieces with my spoon that appeared boneless. Eating chunks of the duck with the bones as the bone seemed soft enough to chew from the cooking. Fumbled with the chopsticks, I gave that up quickly. Finally I tried using my paws. With my fear of choking on a bone I settled with using my hands eating the duck like fried chicken. That worked great all I needed was extra napkins. I really gave up drinking beer years ago but I must say the Corona was perfect with this dish. Three pieces of duck then a nice gulp of Corona to cool the palate, rinse and repeat. I would also dunk my steamed pork dumplings into the spicy duck sauce. After a very satisfying lunch my thoughts were about the bakery I passed earlier.
In the mood for a coffee and a sweet treat I stopped into Tous les Jours, 39-16 Prince St, Flushing, NY, 11354. Meaning everyday in French this Korean franchise is an Asian-French bakery. You'll find a nice selection of cakes, cookies and pastry. Various coffee drinks, tea and other beverages are available to accompany your treats. I was intrigued by the idea of Bulgogi Sausage Rolls but filed that For Later. I ordered a cup fresh coffee. Also three macaroons Oreo, Earl Grey and Coffee. It's a large space with chill music although the small steel and wood chairs probably discourage spending hours there on your laptop.
Lunch set me back $34, the duck or dumplings alone would be filling enough. Happy hour gets you three beers for the price of one. Coffee and macaroons cost me $9.60.
Walking around Chinatown-Flushing looking for a meal is something I'll do again. The sidewalks were full after school with maybe 10% of people wearing masks. Forget Coronavirus get out and get lunch.
We flipped a coin then headed south. Mrs. Columbo and I have a thing a for sun rises over the Atlantic. We've never been to Ocean City and figured that would do for a semi-impromptu road trip. We'd bunk at the Princess Royale Oceanfront Hotel, the balcony just off the beach was great, the suite clean, well equipped, ample in size. The place is dated, the one restaurant open off-season is lackluster with a Golden Girls vibe, towels are tired, the shower head something found in a 2 star motel.
We got up at the crack of dawn to catch the sun rising over the Atlantic, listening to the crash of the waves while sipping coffee. With no schedule to keep we decided to relax then have a late breakfast. We headed over to Layton's Family Restaurant known as Layton's 16th Street since they opened a second location on the north end of town. It's a large kid friendly place with a tacky mix of pirate ship and Top Gun themes. When you look over the two pages of breakfast menu you begin to think a decent meal can be had. Being in Ocean City where crab is king, seafood item breakfast choices are plenty. I stepped out of my breakfast comfort zone ordering the Seafood Omelet, crab cake, grilled shrimp, topped with hollandaise sauce and Old Bay. I added bacon because I have a hard time imagining breakfast without it. I really enjoyed my omelet but to do it again I'd ask to go light on the hollandaise. My wife likes pancakes so I took notice when she exclaimed "fluffiest pancakes ever". The coffee was a C+ at best. The young servers were friendly and fast. This also being a donut shop, it was nice of the manager to walk around offering samples. The donuts are grade A, we took a half dozen back to the hotel.
I Ocean City is nice, we like beach towns, we're also big fans of walkable downtowns with historic charm. Not exactly what Ocean City is offering up. Nearby the town of Belin has a historic Mainstreet Downtown. We took the short drive, walked the charming streets looking for a meal. The Mainstreet Enchanted Tea Room was up for consideration, where we could experience a proper British tea service. Wanting some heftier fare the Atlantic Hotel Bistro Bar a.k.a. Drummer's Café won the day. We sat in the enclosed porch so I could watch the cars and people go by. I started with the Crab Dip, Mrs. Columbo doesn't eat anything from the sea. We shared the Twin Kabobs of Filet Mignon. Both starters were damn tasty. From the Sunday Brunch Special menu I had the Omelet, 3 organic eggs, lobster, spinach, Havarti cheese, home fries, fruit, Texas Toast. The omelet is a joy bite for bite but the home fries were a pleasant surprise not just some after thought. My wife ordered the Avocado Vegetable Wrap, it was large and she seemed to enjoy it. The coffee was great, bold enough to be interesting, perfectly smooth for breakfast.
Some interesting history of the Atlantic Hotel: atlantichotel.com/berlin-md-hotel-history/
Dinner coverage is usually not my purview yet we liked Liquid Assets, 9301 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City, MD 21842. We liked it so much that we went back a second night. An interesting concept, someone dropped a bar right in the middle of a fully stocked liquor store, with an attached dinning room serving 5 star cuisine. Over two nights we had Oyster Rockefeller, Rotisserie Chicken and Dumplings, Seared Scallops Risotto, New York Strip and the Wagyu Burger. "We believe that farm fresh food is always better than frozen...local, freshly prepared, high-quality ingredients", for the first time I had Oyster Rockefeller not frozen from a box and it was amazing. Make reservations this place is very popular.
You've heard of retail therapy. It's big with the ladies but some guys use it to. The idea is something has got you down, feeling sad. You just go out shopping bringing something back that will make you feel good, at least momentarily feel better. So no that 12 pack of paper towels wouldn't count, a nice blouse or fancy power tool you don't need at the moment would count. Everyday moments around the apartment still remind us of our beloved Sam. We think we invented a new term travel therapy, although we probably didn't. Planning a getaway meant among other things what do we do with Sam? Find a pet friendly hotel bringing him along, have him stay downstairs with Freda or drive 90 minutes south to Camp Bengi where he could run a round with his cousin by marriage, Shelby? Since Mrs. Columbo has a three day weekend we're getting out of Dodge on Friday heading to Boston or Ocean City, MD. Just for a change of scenery, for travel therapy. I haven't booked anything yet. I'll open the Hotel Tonight* app later or maybe tomorrow morning and just wing it, living on the edge! The plan is to just get in the car and go.
Boston is the north route in our four hour drive window. I've been there a couple of times in the early 90s but the wife has never been. So Boston would make an interesting city of discovery. With plenty of opportunities to seek out good coffee and lunch. Boston being the cradle of the American Revolution for Independence would be fitting for President's Day Weekend. Beantown being a major city means there will be more to do than don a tri-corner hat and roam around 17th century architecture looking for a good madeira. Since it's February fighting a Sox fan at Fenway is out, perhaps some decent live music? www.mentalfloss.com/article/56690/why-boston-called-beantown
Ocean City is our south route plan. Unfortunately this particular weekend going south offers no respite from the winter chill. If we head that way it's just for the sunrises over the ocean. Anyone who has experienced a good cup of coffee on the balcony during sunrise over the ocean knows there is magic in that moment, travel therapy! The fine folks at Visit Ocean City have assured me that the town is open all year with food and music available.
No matter which direction we head we'll cover it here. Te deseo una gran taza de café.
*This blog is not a paid partner of Hotel Tonight. **Listening to The Essential Electric Light Orchestra.
Dear readers, all six of you but growing! Our dear Sam has passed. Yesterday was a day of draining emotion and I'm not interested in revisiting all of it. We were in hospice mode for Sam. My focus was on his happiness and comfort. I just wanted to let everybody know I'll be able to get back to this blog's purpose. I also wanted to leave a few pics of Sam, the way I want to remember him...damn, crying again.
First, why did I headline this Bonus Content? Because my blog is about grabbing breakfast, coffee or lunch in and around NYC. It's about movie and occasional TV series reviews. My blog will cover day time events and exhibits in the New York Metropolitan area. My blog isn't about my struggles at the gym, hair loss or why won't Mrs. Columbo stop talking during an episode of Poldark. Still, I'm hoping to build an audience, an online community. There will be times I think it appropriate to pull back the curtain and share a little more about my personal life. For example my dog being diagnosed with cancer, it effects me and what I'm looking to provide here.
Sam is a wonderful, friendly soul. Many ordinary noises frighten him. He's a shadow following you from room to room. He smiles a lot and really enjoys car rides. He likes going to the vet and the groomer. He likes hugs and cheese. He's a golden retriever so he likes the water and has a life expectancy of 11 human years. Sam is a bit over nine years old and he was recently diagnosed with cancer, a week ago. I think they call it hemangiosarcoma, there were other big words. We brought Sam to the animal hospital on a Sunday because he collapsed late Saturday night and was lethargic. At the vet waiting to be seen he sparked up, he was like his old self. Seemingly full of vim and vigor. When the doctor returned after examining Sam she recommended we prepare our selves to put him down. First some fluid would have to be drained from around his heart. Then he would have to spend the night and likely wasn't coming home. Devastated, that is all I can say about how Mrs. Columbo and I were feeling. The waterworks.
On Monday we spoke to the cardiology resident and determined we'd take Sam home. Maybe he'd survive a few weeks or a few days. Don't expect more than six months we're told. I'm in hospice mode. We had a scare on Friday but Sam seemed to muscle through it. Did you know before Spanish Harlem there was a Little Italy on the upper eastside? It's basically just Pleasant Avenue now. I had planned to blog about it this past week but felt Sam needed me at home. I think this week I'll be able to pull myself away for a few hours. I'll check out Rao's on 114th and Pleasant Ave, tell you all about it.
David MacNeil the CEO that runs WeatherTech, the floormat company. Has bought a $6M Super Bowl ad to thank the university veterinary school that saved his golden retriever from cancer. I'll try not to let the wife, Mrs. Columbo. See me cry while I'm watching a football game.