Burgers, Brews and Bergman: Boutique Movie Theaters in New York City



New Yorkers know summer weather is great… until it isn’t. The stench of  _______ in the city becomes unbearable (there are so many varieties, I’ll let you fill in the blank with your favorite). We lose half our ice cream cone down our arms before we have a chance to eat it. My personal breaking point? When my skirt and my thighs become a singular entity. And when that moment hits, it’s time to find some indoor relief. Movie theaters, it turns out, are the perfect escape.

Justin and I have long been cinephiles but truth be told, our movie tastes don’t always align. I refuse to watch anything with Tom Cruise in it. I also secretly love dance movies. We stream the movies the other half isn’t interested in, and never discuss the “Recently Watched” queue as part of our unspoken marriage contract. But when there’s a movie that we’re both excited to see, we love putting down the remote and heading to an actual theater. We’re not talking about the ones with stale popcorn and sticky floors. Here are some theaters that turn moviegoing into an experience.



Metrograph

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by Metrograph (@metrographnyc) on

Alexander Olch is a filmmaker and fashion designer, and Metrograph is exactly the space you would expect from him. Metrograph not only projects archive quality 35mm and state-of-the-art digital video, it also houses a bookstore and lounge with top-notch aesthetics. Even the snack bar looks like it jumped off the page of a design magazine. The movies are selected by a team who has experience curating for BAM and the Museum of Moving Image, so if pedigree is what you’re looking for you will find it here. They run interesting retrospectives, fun themed events and exclusive premieres. We personally love grabbing a seat in the front row of the balcony, although there doesn’t really seem to be a bad seat in the intimate space. The in-house restaurant and bar, Commissary, offers a nice place to enjoy brunch before a matinee or a nightcap after an evening show.

Location:
7 Ludlow St



Alamo Drafthouse

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Alamo Drafthouse is a Texas import that has grown from its humble beginnings as a second-run theater into a powerhouse chain with company-owned and franchised locations across the country. Quentin Tarantino once hosted marathon screenings from his personal collection at its original location, which speaks to its history supporting independent film and filmmakers. They don’t screen ads (“you’ve already paid to see the movie”) and enforce a strict movie etiquette. All the locations strive to stay true to the original unique programming with their Signature Series. They also offer a comprehensive menu of food and drinks which can be purchased and consumed during the movie. While we like the idea of a full-service dine-in theater, the reality isn’t quite as appealing if you’re trying to focus on the movie. We recommend sticking to the creative shakes or the highly rated chocolate chip cookie.

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Pro Tip: The downtown Brooklyn location is at City Point, which is also home to the new DeKalb Market Hall. The choices there are extremely varied, so your dining options before or after the movie are unbeatable.

Location:
445 Albee Square West



Nitehawk Cinema

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Nitehawk Cinema was one of the first New York City theaters to offer the dine-in experience and actually had to overturn a prohibition-era New York State liquor law to do so. There are many aspects that are similar to those you would find at Alamo Drafthouse, including the paired seats and the ordering system. Nitehawk also offers its own film series, which include the popular brunch and midnight movie offerings. Lo-Res is the in-house bar located on the ground floor of the theater, which offers the full Nitehawk menu. The food offerings didn’t blow us away, and they are very strict about making no substitutions or amendments. Again, we recommend sticking to snack foods like the gourmet popcorn or the tater tots. Save space for a meal at one of the many choice eateries in Williamsburg.

Location:
136 Metropolitan Ave

All of the theaters mentioned in this post offer online booking with the ability to select your seats, which is a nice option if you’re worried about a show selling out, or if you’re particular about where you like to sit. The creative programming relies on a healthy mix of new releases and older favorites.

On a lovely day, I will argue that there’s no better place to be than New York City. But on the not-so-lovely days, turn these theaters into your sanctuary from the nasty weather raging outside.

– L.

Sun, Surf and Street Art: A Visit to Coney Art Walls



Coney Island is a destination whose season bookends the New York City summer. While there are the requisite roller coaster rides and bumper cars, it’s so much more than an amusement park. It’s home to the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There’s the beach and the boardwalk. Fireworks on Friday night. And let’s not forget legendary annual events like the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Film Festival. Countless memories are made here.

And it’s for this very reason that Joseph J. Sitt brought Coney Art Walls to life. The President & CEO of Thor Equities felt Coney Island had lost some of the shine he remembered from his youth, and he wanted to help bring it back.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Marie Roberts
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: D*Face


Artist: Crash

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Work in progress, Artist: Alexis Diaz
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Nychos

Coney Art Walls is an outdoor street art museum that features many incredible talents like Nychos and D*Face. Instead of painting murals on a building, the artists get to display their work on freestanding walls placed throughout the space located between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. Shipping containers house food vendors, so visitors are free to enjoy quick bites while surrounded by some of the most amazing contemporary art. New pieces have been added each season since its inauguration in 2015, and they mingle with ones from prior years. The unmistakable Coney Island Parachute Jump and other roller coaster rides provide a unique backdrop for the outdoor gallery.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: The London Police
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Miss Van
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
When retro beauties present themselves, you photograph them! Artist: Eine
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Icy & Sot
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chris Stain



Coney Art Walls is part of our summer series dedicated to celebrating street art in New York City. In case you missed it, be sure to check out earlier posts in the series which include:

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City

As a reminder: The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

Any street art lover will not regret traveling out here to experience the amazing public art space, which has found a home in a classic New York summer destination.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Daily 12 pm – 10 pm



Pair it with:

A hot dog from Nathan’s Famous

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There’s a certain mystique to the original Nathan’s Famous near Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. Forget, for a moment, that over its legendary 100-year history it has survived Prohibition, founding family squabbles and damage from Hurricane Sandy. Disregard the fact that the neon signs are the originals from the 20’s or that it holds one of the oldest post-Prohibition beer licenses in New York. Ignore the anecdotes about the famous names attached to it, like Al Capone, FDR and Frank Sinatra. Pooh-pooh the annual July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Sure, that’s fascinating, but it’s all just noise.

Focus instead on what truly makes it special and quintessentially New York: the all beef frankfurter in natural casing. A dog in a roll. Simple. Don’t add a bunch of garbage. Just meat and bread.

Many New Yorkers will swear that even though you can get Nathan’s hot dogs all over the city and in your grocery store, the ones at the original Coney Island location taste better. There’s no science to it, but we’re inclined to agree.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Sun-Thu  9 am – 11 pm
Fri-Sat  9 am – 12 am

– L. & J.

 

Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade



Throngs of visitors come to New York City every year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s such a popular event that hotel rooms along the route have the equivalent of “surge pricing” and still manage to sell out way in advance. That kind of fervor can only mean one thing: New Yorkers will stay very, very far away from it. 

New Yorkers who want to enjoy a good parade will, instead, make their way out to Coney Island for the annual Mermaid Parade. There is no need to bundle up to fend off freezing temperatures. (Quite the opposite, as you’ll see.) There is no need to claim your spot along the route at 6 am. The parade starts at a reasonable hour and covers a short route. It ends on the boardwalk, where the party continues throughout the day. It oozes a fun, laid-back vibe: just show up and have fun.



2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Rain or shine. And they mean it.

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re conjuring up images of Disney’s wholesome The Little Mermaid, thinking this is strictly an event for little girls and tweens, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Mermaid Parade celebrates the city’s creative spirit, providing its denizens with an outlet for self-expression. There are no boundaries, and is celebrated as such. Every year a new King Neptune and Queen Mermaid is crowned to kick off the parade. The notorious list has included Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), Carole Radziwill (Real Housewives of New York City), Moby and Queen Latifah. It sets the tone for what to expect from the parade quite nicely. This year’s King and Queen were none other than Chris Stein and Debbie Harry. Yup, BLONDIE, guys. Pardon me while I scream into a pillow.

Here are some highlights from our time at the 2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Confetti bomb
2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
If you look closely… it’s a mirror selfie from a sanitation truck!



All in the Family

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Politics as Usual

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Creatures of the Sea

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Crafty

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bust a Move

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Squad Goals

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

If you missed the Clamilton performance on our Instagram Stories, we’ve uploaded it to YouTube. (Excuse the quality, it was shot from a smartphone on a cloudy day!)

Our summer street art series will resume shortly, so stay tuned!

– L. & J.

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City



If you’re a fan of street art, then you’re in luck.  There’s no shortage of it here in New York City, and all you have to do is keep your eyes open.  (Judging by how regularly people bump into me on a sidewalk, this doesn’t seem to be as regular a practice as you might think.)  Thanks to its temporary nature, graffiti is both a literal and figurative fresh coat of paint — blanketing the city with different images, styles and personalities on a regular basis.  

Searching for street art in the city is a fun pastime of ours.  We’re fortunate that New York City attracts worldwide talents who turn our streets and alleys into art galleries.  While there are treasures to be discovered all over the city, fanatics can get a huge payoff by visiting one of the most well-known hubs where street artists go to create and collaborate: the Bushwick Collective.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chor Boogie
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: FKDL



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Phetus88

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is easily accessible via the L Train.  A trip to Bushwick takes less than a half hour from Union Square, so a quick jaunt from Manhattan is entirely manageable.  It’s open year-round, so all you need to do is dress for the weather and bring a camera.

The Bushwick Collective is a non-profit group founded in 2012 by native Joe Ficalora, who still curates the walls in the area.  It was the natural heir to graffiti mecca 5 Pointz which fell victim to gentrification.  At the Bushwick Collective, artists submit recent work, bios and concepts for review and are awarded precious space for their ideas to come to life.  

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Louis Masai
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Oji



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Joe Iurato and Logan Hicks
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Adam Fujita

A broad range of artists are represented at the Bushwick Collective. You’ll find the work of Brazilian artist Sipros and Chilean artist Dasic Fernandez.  You’ll find the distinctive signature of Austrian artist Nychos.  British pop art murals by DFace will catch your eye.  But the walls aren’t simply decorative: many contain social and political messages of our times.  Take, for example, London-based Louis Masai’s “The Art of Beeing” series, which seeks to bring attention to endangered species.  Or consider the work of Adam Fujita AKA AdamFu AKA Atoms, the creative force behind the graffiti podcast My Life in Letters. His pieces are often topical, and have included political issues like national security and impeachment.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Gustavo Gutti Barrios
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Straker

The Bushwick Collective recently held its annual block party, which provides the masses an opportunity to actually see some of the artists at work.  Food trucks line the streets, musical acts take the stage, and there is art at every turn.  It’s a fun event for those interested in a big, lively outdoor party.  (Follow their Facebook page for updates.) But be forewarned: it can get a little rowdy.  If you’re more interested in photographing the art you’re better off coming on a different day, when there aren’t as many people around.

Location:
Troutman St at Saint Nicholas Ave



Pair it with:

For large groups: Tutu’s

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Roberta’s is Bushwick’s most famous resident and it’s a lovely place, but there’s usually a wait.  Tutu’s is a quaint little place nearby.  Thanks to picnic table seating in the back room, it accommodates large groups nicely.  Tutu’s is the definition of casual dining, with a nice selection of burgers.  Time generally moves more slowly in Bushwick, so don’t expect super speedy service.  On the plus side, that means you won’t feel rushed out the door either.  Settle in and make a night of it.

Location:
25 Bogart St

Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11:00 am -1:00 am
Fri-Sat: 11:00 am – 4:00 am



If there are just a few of you: Arepera Guacuco

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This Venezuelan arepa joint has a bustling open kitchen that appears to work as rhythmically as the loud music blaring over its speakers.  There are a number of creative arepas on the menu, including a vegetarian and vegan option.  The Pabellon, which has shredded beef, cheese, sweet plantains and black beans is sublime.  The Mariscada, a tomato-based seafood stew with an arepa on the side for dipping, is also an excellent choice.  And don’t miss the popular cocada, a delightfully refreshing coconut milkshake.

Location:
44 Irving Ave

Hours:
Mon-Thu: 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Fri: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Sat:11:00 am – 11:30 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm

– L.

 

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Screening at the Tribeca Film Festival



Have you ever been in the situation where you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, a certain song plays over the speaker and you find yourself overcome with emotion?  Maybe it triggered the memory of your first boyfriend, or it reminded you of a particular place, or the lyrics were particularly relevant to a recent event.  If you’ve ever stifled sobs in the dairy aisle while deciding between skim and 1%, you’re not alone.

There’s a well-studied link between music and memory, but for many of us that extends to books, television shows and movies as well.  They can evoke powerful emotions. I can distinctly remember how I felt when I finished Wuthering Heights, when Mr. Big’s real name pops up on Carrie’s phone, and definitely when I watched Reservoir Dogs.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Fans wait patiently outside the venue in hopes of a celebrity encounter
Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Michael Madsen on the red carpet

As a self-professed movie lover, the Tribeca Film Festival is something I look forward to every year.  It’s always exciting to see the festival picks, but it’s also a fun time in New York City.  The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in an effort to revitalize the flailing New York City economy after 9/11.  Backed by the star power of names like Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese, the inaugural festival launched in 2002 and has continued to grow exponentially each year.  Now it’s a time of celebrity sightings and fan geekdom throughout the city.

There are hundreds of screenings that take place during the Tribeca Film Festival, from shorts to documentaries to features.  There are also an impressive number of talks and special events.  Cinephiles are like kids in a candy store.  (Or Homer in a pie store.  You get the gist.)

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This year’s festival featured a special screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs on 35mm print in honor of its 25th anniversary.  Reservoir Dogs is a movie that was well ahead of its time at its Sundance Film Festival debut in 1992, and still holds up today.  The banter is still engaging.  The plot is still relevant.  And yes, the acting and directing are still fantastic.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Not a bad place to watch a movie, right?

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

(Yes, I totally geeked out in my Reservoir Dogs finest.)

The screening was followed by a talk with Quentin Tarantino himself (Mr. Brown), Harvey Keitel (Mr. White), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange) and Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde).  It was great to hear tidbits about how Harvey Keitel had to pay for Quentin Tarantino to fly to New York City so that local actors could audition (which led to the discovery of Steve Buscemi).  And it was fascinating to learn that Michael Madsen was incredibly nervous about the now-iconic dance scene, so much so that it was never rehearsed — then amazingly, shot in one take.  

It’s a fan experience we were fortunate to have access to, thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival.  Movie buffs, be sure to sign up for advance notice so you can pre-game ahead of the next festival.  If you haven’t yet watched Reservoir Dogs, I suggest you remedy that right away.  If you have, tell me your favorite line.  Here’s mine:

“Yeah, but Mr. Brown, that’s a little too close to Mr. Shit.”




Pair it with:

Something from Mister Dips

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mister Dips is nowhere near Tribeca, the Beacon Theatre or any other Tribeca Film Festival location.  But we’re also talking about Reservoir Dogs, and in my version, Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Blue all go to Mister Dips.  (Poetic license, it’s a thing.)  

Mister Dips is located in an Airstream trailer at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn.  It offers a small-but-tight menu of burgers, soft-serve and floats and serves up a fantastic view on the side.  Andrew Carmellini is behind the venture, so I wasn’t surprised that the burger was good.  Or that the waffle fries were fantastic.  What DID surprise me, though, was that the Green Label burger is probably the best veggie burger I’ve ever had.  And after we downed all that? We still found room for a Jacker-Crax cone. Heck, I’d let you cut my ear off for one of those.

Location:
Vale Park at the William Vale Hotel

Hours:
Daily: 12-9pm

– L.

Pizza Moses Leads Us To The Promised Land: A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tour



When A Slice of Brooklyn invited us to check out their Pizza Tour, we thought two things: 1) How have we not done this yet? and 2) Do we have to take the L train?

It turns out we didn’t. *Insert enormous sigh of relief here* The group participants conveniently convened at Union Square, where we were picked up by a giant temperature-controlled bus.  Our tour guide, the man who would serve as our Pizza Moses, was “Marc with a C”.  Marc’s a born-and-bred Brooklynite, which means he was there long before it became trendy.  He doesn’t sport a man bun or have ironic facial hair.  And he isn’t wearing pink pants rolled up to show his petite ankles. His tats, an infinity symbol tattooed on his wrist and a small skull on his forearm, are the regalia of locals.  He’s legit.



Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
We’re not in Manhattan anymore, Toto
Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the creative street art in DUMBO

The Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour lasts 4.5 hours, and we were a little antsy.  Locals walk, hop on a train, walk some more.  But with this tour we’re supposed to just… sit?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, you’re sitting, but no, that’s not all you’re doing.  On our journey Marc kept us entertained, finding just the right balance of Brooklyn fun facts, history and movie clips to throw at us.  We took the scenic route, going through Brooklyn neighborhoods and stalking million-dollar homes.  Are you a movie buff?  So is Marc.  He’ll show you the spot where Gene Hackman gets shot at in French Connection, and the movie will be playing on the screens while he does it.  

And let’s not forget the most important part of the tour: the pizza.  

Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The line in front of Grimaldi’s, which you get to jump as part of the tour
Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Pizza-eatin’ grin



Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
You won’t find a line of tourists at L&B Spumoni Gardens
Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Add some parmesan cheese for the full effect
Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
And save room for the spumoni!

There’s a scene in Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw famously says, “Men, I may not know, but SHOES, shoes, I know.”  Well, we can say the same about pizza.  We may not know much about anything else, but PIZZA, pizza we know.  A Slice of Brooklyn ingeniously doesn’t try to cover too much.  We made two stops on the tour to get a taste of two distinct, but equally important, types of New York City pizza.

We skipped the line at Grimaldi’s, which made us feel like Pizza Kardashian.  If that person existed, she might be the only Kardashian we’d be interested in.  (Nah, probably not.)  At L&B Spumoni Gardens, we sat at the longest family-style table and indulged in their specialty dessert.



Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

For the newbies who were ready to pass out from the pizza and spumoni (not us of course, we’re pros), we headed to Coney Island for a quick tour.  The combination of the sharp breeze on the boardwalk, as well as the crazy sights and sounds, perked everyone up.

A Slice of Brooklyn is rated as one of the top tours in New York City on Trip Advisor with over 1000 Excellent ratings.  The bus tour can offer a welcome break from the manic pace of New York City sightseeing.  So for any out-of-towner looking to see what Brooklyn is all about while sampling some amazing pizza, this is a fantastic option.  But locals shouldn’t turn their noses up at it either.  We learned so many new things on this tour and we met fantastic people visiting from the UK and Canada.  And no waiting for the L train, guys. Come on.

Tip:  Grab a seat at the front of the bus and you might catch some of the banter between Marc and the driver, Edwin.  He’s the “straight man” in the double act, but he still has some pretty good zingers.  

You can find out more about the Pizza Tour at A Slice of Brooklyn’s website here.

Slice of Brooklyn Bus Pizza Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Always remember: Friends don’t let friends eat bad pizza

Thank you to A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours for partnering on this post.

If you’d like another point of view on this fun experience, check out our buddy Mary Lane’s post on her blog, New York Cliche. Or just check out her blog for fun New York City adventures!

– L. & J.

 

It’s 3.142 O’clock Somewhere: An Ode to the Best Pie in New York City



Pie is home. Pie is comfort and consistency, when life is anything but. I’ll take pie in any form: the crimped-edge, single-crusted oculus splendor, the vented double-crusted surprise, and even the lowly hand pie, with all the adult pop-tart binge baggage that comes along with it. And sure there’s a dark side to this obsession. My penchant for flaky crusts and sweet fillings has lead to undesirable trips to the tailor (I’m talking to you, skinny jeans), a couple of “I don’t feel so good” upset stomach moments, some unintentional excitement in the dentist’s chair (though causality or correlation has yet to be substantiated to my satisfaction), and innumerable half-hearted New Year’s resolutions.

The whole sordid affair began with a “sliver”. “Sliver” is a storied word in the familial lore on my father’s side of the family. We did not coin it. We do not claim its etymological origins. But it does have a particularly special meaning to us. It’s sort of a hereditary trait, perhaps a genetic disorder, pronounced over and over again through the generations. It may also have something to do with our Catholic upbringing and the inherent feelings of guilt and penance that the religion engenders in its acolytes.

Now, my family loves to eat. No, really, we do. But we also feel ambivalent (yes, in that uniquely Catholic sense) when we overindulge. Enter the word “sliver”. It works like this: You tell yourself, I won’t take a WHOLE piece, I’ll just take a “sliver”. But the heart wants what the heart wants, as they say. And so you have another “sliver” and another “sliver” and another “sliver”. Eventually, you’ve eaten three pieces of pie and you’re thinking about the next time you have to go to confession. Or therapy. Or both.

A famous incident in my youth still occasionally pops up, to my horror, as conversation fodder over family meals. Believe it or not, I was an inordinately skinny child (don’t let the contradictory visual evidence in our posts confound you). It didn’t matter how much I ate, I simply never put on weight. And like most children with extremely elevated metabolisms, I was constantly, insatiably hungry. What I remember most about my childhood is an acute feeling of deprivation. I was the type of kid who finished my plate, as well as three helpings of sides, and, to my parents’ astonishment, still managed to reach — Shaun of the Dead zombie-style — for that last piece of chicken at the dinner table.

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The incident in question occurred the night after Thanksgiving. My mother and late grandmother — indisputably the most dedicated and prodigious cooks I’ve ever known — had prepared a feast. Inevitably, there were plenty of leftovers. In particular, I recall the last, untouched, hermetically-sealed apple pie sitting in the refrigerator.

Late the very next night, I crept from my bedroom, long after everyone had gone to bed, propelled by the hunger pangs of a predator seeking his flaky-crusted prey. In the overwhelming silence and near absolute darkness, I drew open the silverware drawer and made off with the desired tools: a knife and a fork. Next, I made my way, ninja-style, to the refrigerator and pried open the door, a glaring blade of light slicing through nothingness. I removed my prize, closed the door and placed the pie on the counter, standing quietly, waiting for my eyes to adjust.

Shortly thereafter, I began with a “sliver”, then another and another and another. Vaguely, somewhere in my pie-intoxicated brain, I knew I’d get caught, but I convinced myself that perhaps my father or one of my brothers would be suspected.  (I hoped it would be Chris, to be honest, as I was still sore that he had absconded with me and my elder brother’s Easter baskets one year.)

But alas, the very next day the finger was squarely pointed at me from the jump. The physical evidence — flakes that had fallen from my shirt into my bed — was overwhelming. And when confronted with the evidence of my crime, what was my response? I said, It was JUST a “sliver”. Unfortunately, that’s not much of a defense for eating half a pie in the middle of the night.

So now that I’ve confessed my long sordid love affair with all things pie, I feel uniquely qualified to offer a few personal recommendations.  As you know, dear reader, Thanksgiving (or as I refer to it, Pie Season) is upon us. To usher in this baked-goodness extravaganza, I will here impart my favorite pies from around the city for your edification.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hands down, the best pie I’ve ever tasted. Period. This is the Everest Summit of pies in the five boroughs. They have an incredible selection, and you simply can’t go wrong, but it would be a criminal not to mention my partiality for the Salty Honey, Lemon Chess and Black Bottom Oat. Go there. Eat everything.

www.birdsblack.com

Bread’s Bakery, Union Square, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Now, everything’s good in this acclaimed bakery, from the bread to the pastries to the quiche. But everyone knows the star of the show is the award-winning Chocolate Babka. So what if I tell you that they make a Chocolate Babka pie for Thanksgiving? Whaaaat????!!!!! Yep. I won’t even bother telling you why you should place your order for this immediately, but I will double dare you to just eat a “sliver”. Goo-ood luck!

www.breadsbakery.com




Petee’s Pie Company, Lower East Side, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

I remember, vividly, my first experience here. I was walking along, minding my own business, when a smell wafted out of a nearby door, and I stopped dead in my tracks. While I cannot vouch for the rest of their pies — though it’s a solid bet they are delicious — the Salty Chocolate Chess is incredible. I’m not exaggerating when I say that someone — probably your mother — will be very disappointed in you if you don’t buy a slice and give it a go.

peteespie.com

Two Little Red Hens, Upper West Side, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This right here is a classic, no-frills bakery: old school cake cases, pie stands, hefty glass cookie jars and the requisite odd collection of glazed ceramic hens. But don’t let its garishly folksy atmosphere throw you, there’s amazing pie to find at this uptown shop. I’m partial to their fruit pies, especially their exceptional Strawberry Rhubarb when it’s in season. If you’re in the neighborhood, a slice and a cup of joe is an absolute must.

www.twolittleredhens.com




Baked, Red Hook, Brooklyn NY and Tribeca, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Known for their baked goods and custom-made cakes, it would be outrageous to ignore the pies. I particularly love their Chocolate Bourbon Pecan and Pumpkin varieties.

www.bakednyc.com

Mah Ze Dahr, West Village, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Before the recent grand opening of their brick-and-mortar location, you could only get your hands on their pastries by ordering online or over the phone or by visiting one of their partner locations. And I may have been one of their greatest advocates. Between their acclaimed Brioche Doughnuts, delectable Dark Chocolate Brownies or incredible Lemon Ricotta Bread, you’re a winner with any choice. But my absolute favorite is one of their decadent hand pies. The Banana Nutella or the recent seasonal offering, Spiced Pear and Apple, are mind-blowingly delicious. Pick some up. Pick many of them up. Add ice cream. You’ll thank me.

mahzedahrbakery.com

Megpies Bakery, Brooklyn, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Billed as “artisan tarts”, these hand pies are simply highfalutin’, adult pop-tarts, down to the haphazard frosting. When you have a last minute craving and can’t go out of your way to satisfy it, these are the no-nonsense, down-and-dirty answer to your pie-lemma. They have Strawberry, Raspberry, Chocolate and, my personal favorite, Cinnamon and Brown Sugar flavors. Pop these bad boys in the toaster oven for a warm, crispy treat. You’ll never consider that childish box at the grocery ever again.

www.megpies.com

This list should give you a solid head start on prepping for the holidays. (Or your next pie crawl.) If you’ve made a pie discovery or you have a long-time favorite that isn’t listed here, we‘d love to hear about it! Find us on Instagram, G+ and Facebook, or send us an email.  Sharing is caring.

– J.

Never Too Cool for School: Take a Sashimi Class at Osakana



I follow quite a few New York bloggers and Instagrammers, but I also love to read blog posts from people who are traveling to the city for the first time.  While it’s partly because I’m curious about what they choose to do on their visit, it’s also because there’s a genuine feeling of wonder and excitement that’s infectious.  I find their observations charming, whether good (“there’s so much to see!”) or bad (“it smells horrible!”).  Traveling has always given me that high — going into sensory overload as you take in things you’ve never seen, smelled or heard before.  And while many cities have charmed me, few have done so like Tokyo.

Visiting Japan was always high on my list because I love the food.  If someone said I could only eat Japanese food for the rest of my life, I would equate it to having to serve out a prison sentence in Barneys.

It’s gonna be rough, but I think I can handle it.



Sashimi Class Osakana - Mad Hatters NYC

Sashimi Class Osakana - Mad Hatters NYC

Japan’s food and culture are endlessly alluring.  But you don’t have to suffer through airport security to enjoy it.  Osakana, which is a fish market in Williamsburg owned by Yuji Haraguchi, offers a taste of both.  Don’t come expecting the hustle of Tsukiji Market: it’s a much more refined experience since most of the work is done for you.  The daily offerings are sliced into edible portions, and several are offered already doused in a marinade suited to the fish.

Yuji Haraguchi’s story is one that, as an immigrant, I can particularly appreciate.  He’s been in the wholesale seafood business for much of his career, but he started devising creative dishes which he would serve in pop-ups at Kinfolk Studios, Smorgasburg and Whole Foods.  His success led to the opening of his restaurant, Okonomi, and he’s since turned to Kickstarter to fund projects like Osakana.  It’s a trajectory that immigrants dream of: a true made-in-America tale of where passion and tenacity can take you.

Sashimi Class Osakana - Mad Hatters NYC

Sashimi Class Osakana - Mad Hatters NYC



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Sashimi Class Osakana - Mad Hatters NYC

Sashimi Class Osakana - Mad Hatters NYC
Yes, you get to sample it at the end!

What’s unique about Osakana is that it doesn’t want to just sell you fish, it wants to teach you about it too.  Conscientious diners are more focused on sourcing and sustainability than ever before, and Osakana is here to help.  It offers a range of courses, which are either in the format of demonstrations or hands-on classes.  We chose a Sashimi at Home class, which explores preparations of fish such as yubiki, yakishimo and  kobujime.  We watched as Yuji skilfully handled the fish, unfazed as he rattled off a list of fish that would be suited for a given preparation while he showed us how to expertly remove the skin off a filet.

Osakana offers classes on fish butchery and knife sharpening, as well as a whole host of cooking classes.  You can also request one-on-one or small group sessions.  For groups of 6-12, you can organize a sushi-making party, which could be a really fun activity with out-of-town visitors or with close friends to celebrate a significant event.  Visit their website for a schedule, and find different ways to “honor your fish”.

Location:
290 Graham Ave

Hours:
Daily 11am – 9pm



Pair it with:

Brunch at Okonomi

Okonomi - Mad Hatters NYC

Okonomi - Mad Hatters NYC

Okonomi - Mad Hatters NYC

Okonomi - Mad Hatters NYC

It’s perhaps the most lazy obvious pairing ever, but we have to recommend a trip to Okonomi, Yuji Haraguchi’s restaurant located just a few streets over from Osakana.  The few samplings from class are unlikely to satiate, so you’ll be right and ready for a proper meal.  While you can find daily donburi and ramen offerings at Osakana, the traditional Japanese ichiju-sansai set meals found at Okonomi should not be missed.  Ichiju-sansai literally translates into “one soup, three dishes”. Everything is sourced locally so the options change regularly. The meal took us back to our lovely time in Japan, down to the impeccable service we received.

Note: If you happen to take an evening class, Okonomi becomes Yuji Ramen for dinner service, which offers an à la carte menu of seafood-rich ramen and mazemen, as well as a ramen omakase on weekend nights.

Location:
150 Ainslie St

Hours:
Mon – Fri 9am – 3pm
Sat – Sun 10am – 4pm

– L.

Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum



Somewhere in Tom Sachs’ overdeveloped imagination, the cold, logical utilitarianism of engineering confronted the intuitive, whimsical nature of art and something unexpected — a symbiosis — developed between them.

Brooklyn Museum

Tom Sachs is an artist and a sculptor, as well as a member of the loosely-defined, collaborative, four-person-collective known provocatively as Satan Ceramics.  He recently stepped out on his own for a solo exhibit, appropriating the entire glass entryway of the Brooklyn Museum’s Rubin Pavilion and organically transforming it into an immersive sound system experience. He incorporated “found objects” (such as plywood, batteries, duct tape, and foam), audio components, and his hallmark text and symbols (such as the word Satan and the acronym NASA) into multiple variations on the Boombox, ranging in size and complexity. The functional art pieces shape the space of the exhibit holistically, as is his trademark style.

Tom Sachs Boombox Retrospective

Tom Sachs Boombox Retrospective

I found the exhibit altogether fascinating, both deeply nostalgic and strangely contemporary. My favorites were Defender (2000), an amalgamation of refrigerators, speakers and an arcade console and Bureau des Passeports et Cafe Haute (Unknown), a tongue-in-cheek, capsular shack constructed to resemble the gritty, urban, Plexiglas interior of a bodega — the kind one might find on the dodgiest side of Anytown at three in the morning — all the while serving “bourgeois coffee”, peddling novelty $20 Swiss Passports and offering an ATM with a $5 fee and a receipt in the form of a zine (some examples of which appeared authentically, semi-pornographically seedy).

Tom Sachs Boombox Retrospective

Tom Sachs Boombox Retrospective

Tom Sachs Boombox Retrospective

Boombox Retrospective runs through August 14, and it’s definitely worth a look-see.

Tip: The exhibit is entirely located in the pavilion, so paid admission to the Brooklyn Museum is not required unless you wish to visit one of the other exhibitions.

Location:
200 Eastern Parkway

Hours:
Wednesday 11 am–6 pm
Thursday 11 am–10 pm
Friday 11 am–6 pm
Saturday 11 am–6 pm
Sunday 11 am–6 pm



Pair it with:

Lunch at Lincoln Station

Lincoln Station Brooklyn

Lincoln Station Brooklyn

Lincoln Station Brooklyn

Now, I like to try new cuisines as much as the next “foodie”. But sometimes you just need simplicity, the tried-and-true, the creature comforts of an old favorite. For me, that’s a sandwich. A really good sandwich with eclectic fillings and incredible bread. And that’s what can be found at Lincoln Station: a really, really good, simple sandwich. Both that Lynn and I tried — the Brisket with BBQ Sauce, blue cheese and slaw, and the Eggs and Avo with Jalapeño Salsa — were excellent.  Lincoln Station is the third restaurant from Emiliano Coppa and Chef Anna Klinger, who are behind Park Slope favorite al di la Trattoria.  Don’t hesitate on this one. You may just turn to find me (mid-bite) sitting at the communal table next to you.

Location:
409 Lincoln Pl

Hours:
Weekdays 7 am-10 pm – kitchen opens at 9 am
Weekends 8 am-10 pm – kitchen opens at 9 am

– J.

 

Sakura Matsuri at Brooklyn Botanic Garden



There are few people who can travel to Japan and not be charmed by it.  I can remember my first trip there with uncharacteristic precision, but like so many others, I flirted with its culture and food long before I set foot on a plane.  There is something so intoxicating about how truly unique it is, so it’s no surprise that Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri is one of its busiest weekends of the year.

Sakura Matsuri, which literally translates into Cherry Blossom Festival, is an annual celebration that ushers in spring with the synchronous blooming of multiple cherry blossom trees.  Cherry blossoms are deeply symbolic in Japanese culture, where hanami is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura tree.  At BBG, they commemorate this time of year with a weekend dedicated to honoring traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.  Its traditional roots are illustrated with activities such as taiko drumming and martial arts performances, while its more contemporary influences can be found in cosplay- and anime-themed activities.  

I hope you’ll indulge me as I take you on a short picture tour — I believe it will capture the spirit of the event better than any description I could cobble together.  Let’s begin with the stars of the show:

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Then let’s throw in some lilacs for safe measure (we incorrectly identified these as wisterias before — thanks for the correction, Josef!):

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Let’s meet some of the vendors:

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

And catch one of the performances:

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

And finally, take a gander at some of the creative costumes (you can find more great cosplay pictures in Gothamist’s coverage of the event):

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Whether you decide to show up in a kimono, your best Harajuku ensemble, or simply as an unadorned fan, Sakura Matsuri allows New Yorkers to come together in their shared love for all things Japanese — so mark your calendars for the next one.  Where else can you learn to draw manga characters and buy sushi pillows in one afternoon?  

Tip: Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a great destination to enjoy amazing flowers and foliage, including its fantastic Japanese garden, even when the fanfare has died down.  Admission is free on Tuesdays and on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and noon (except festival dates).  

Location:
990 Washington Ave

Visit their website for seasonal hours.



Pair it with:

Pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds at the Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Around the corner from BBG, you’ll find the Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza.  While it undoubtedly houses many literary treasures to nourish the mind, it also houses a little food counter with delectable pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds to nourish the soul.  The two sisters behind the Gowanus powerhouse learned how to make pies from their grandmother, but came up with their signature all-butter pie crust on their own and have since built it into a pie empire.  Their pies have long been listed among the best in city — the Salted Caramel Apple is a Thanksgiving favorite of ours.  On this last visit we were presented with a Chocolate Chess pie option, pictured above, and it had us licking the paper carton for every last crumb.

Location:
10 Grand Army Plaza

Hours:
Mon 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tue 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Wed 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thu 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

– L.