Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving in New York City

From left to right: Nick's Paley Park and Le Mirage Cafe

This year and last, we are spending Thanksgiving with family in New York City.

The great thing about a repeat visit is that the traveler learns more - - more new places and more about existing neighborhoods.

On the way in from JFK, our daughter, Lily, was hungry after flying non-stop from the West Coast. The Belt Parkway does not have any signs for services, as do expressways elsewhere. To find an open restaurant on a Tuesday night required quick reflexes. After missing an exit that may have led to either an Olive Garden or a Home Depot, a box of nails would do wonders for the required daily allowance of iron, we got off at the Flatbush Avenue north exit.

Plan A was to see if King's Plaza had a restaurant with an outside entrance that might be open after the mall closed. As we pulled up at the parking booth, this plan crashed with the attendance's dour announcement that the entire mall was closed.

On the way up Flatbush, Lily saw a brightly lit places called Nick's Lobster. We returned there and when we walked in, the hostess greeted us warmly and congenially - - even though it was towards the end of the night. At this later hour, there were still several groups still in the dining room. We were invited to sit at a table overlooking the tidal creek which flows behind Nick's.

Our waitress was also friendly and well informed about the menu. Nick's has a mix of seafood and non-seafood and she helped us find a set of choices that would be enjoyable and arrive quickly.

We settled on: mozzarella sticks and salad; Manhattan Clam Chowder; broiled sole; crab cakes; and a plate of french fries. The food arrived quickly and was cooked exactly right. Our waitress was attentive without being overbearing.

In milder weather, Nick's has lots of outside seating. But this time of the year, the night view from a well-heated dining room was just the ticket.

On Wednesday, we discovered El Mirage, an excellent cafe and pizzeria in Midtown. El Mirage has: a healthy buffet, with many Mediterranean food choices; sandwiches; hot entrees; and pizza to die for. We ate there for breakfast and lunch. The food quality and service were consistent for both meals.

Later, we walked up and down Fifth Avenue. The big retailers have their holiday windows on view and there are lots of souvenir shops in the blocks between 42nd and 53rd Street.

My favorite part of the walk was a brief period of warm afternoon sunshine. My second favorite part was a visit to Paley Park, a few doors to the east of Fifth Avenue on 53rd Street. Paley Park is a "vest pocket" park that was created in the late 1960's. It has tables, small trees and a beautiful, wide waterfall at the back of the park. Even in the cooler weather, this is one of the most appealing spaces in all of New York City.

Contact and location information:
Nick's Lobster Restaurant and Fresh Seafood Restaurant is located at 2777 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11234. Their telephone number is 718-253-5735. Their website is and it is informative, with the complete menu and information about daily specials.
El Mirage Cafe and Pizza is located at 20 West 43rd Street, in Midtown. It's telephone number is 212-354-1234. The Cafe does not appear to have a website.
Paley Park is located on East 53rd Street, a few doors west of Fifth Avenue - - on the north side of the street.