Sidewalk Affair

Weekends in New York become more European during the spring time. By that I mean restaurants and cafes offer outdoor seating so that New Yorkers may bask in the sun and people watch. In Europe, however, the outdoor cafes may face a beautifully lined architecturally notable street, or are perched on a hillside cliff, or dot the shores of a sandy beach. The effect is the subtle waft of a chalky ocean breeze, the aroma of lavender misting the hills, or a piece of industrial art posing as a building. In the big apple, these streets are few, since we have no beach or foothill, and the peril of dining between skyscrapers lies in noise pollution and the schmutz the taxi cabs brush in as they speed. Not to mention the preponderance of pooches sniffing your leg, or the rock pigeons swooping down for a morsel of your bialy.

Some neighborhoods are more civilized than others though, and often are home to proper outdoor spots for musing without having to wait on some ridiculous brunch queue. In Tribeca, I spent the afternoon at Bouley Bakery. This was not my plan, for I had a laundry list of things to do, as do most New Yorkers on a Saturday off. The plan included Chinatown for shopping, and on the weekends, if I time it right, I usually head there for dim sum. Alarm clock notwithstanding, I missed dim sum at 70 Mott Street (less variety the later you go), and settled for a pastry at Bouley Bakery. Although settled is the wrong word. I started with a harmless Neopolitan, stuffed with custard and raisins, but soon fell victim to my eyes. The apricot croissant was next, followed by a crisp, thin pizza, a pear & chocolate croissant, a croquet monsieur, and a coconut, banana & chocolate croissant to be washed (hosed) down by a large latte. Now, I was not alone, but my friends Dr. L. and Dr. Y. did nothing to discourage our “quick” snack before lunch. We sat outside passing the duchie on the left hand side and devoured. Gorged. We even went back for more.

Tribeca had taken over, and not by force. How calm Tribeca seemed. How tranquil everyone looked. Sun mixed with bright breezes. That’s what New York is about. Skip shopping. Skip studying. Just skip anything. Bite into another lovely pastry and sip a spot of tea. Before that we had tried to brunch at Blau Gans, closed for a private party. A restaurant that doesn’t take reservations and selectively closes without warning? Not cool.

A quick perusal into Vino Vino for a glass, closed for a private party. A sharp turn into Double Knot for the Turkish delight (rugs) and the mesmerization continued. An artful prance into the DFN Gallery, and we were beginning to get the picture. Life is different down there, and any tresspass into another hood could spoil the mood. But Chinatown has its charms, mostly in foot rubs and cheap eats.

The New Wing Wong Restaurant serves a bowl of soup with won tons, roast duck or pork, and noodles that will cure you of your allergies. The soup costs $4.50, but buyer beware. Sometimes you’ll get charged five. That’s what happened to Dr. L., who claims it’s happened before. A strange snafu, but nothing that can’t be handled. Just politely point it out, and they will change the bill for you. Besides, at that price the soup is almost free.

In Nolita we stumbled upon a bar with a large open window and comfortable seating. The rose was terrible (Australian Grenache), but the smooth Bossa Nova beats kept us humming in our window seats. Some time passed and we noshed at Xicali, a tapas spot with strawberry sangria and chorizo. The wind was whirling, and that cool spring breeze turned into a nasty wintry whiplash. Safe by the closed window, we were still able to keep momentum while planning for our next place. But by then night had crept into our lives, and the scene had changed. There would be no more lounging around like a Parisian. But for one fine Saturday, outdoor New York held court just fine.