Ah, Manhattan: such a mixed-blessing. A city of incomparable variety and gastronomic splendor, with ten thousand different ways to satiate one's cravings, and an equal number of ways to swiftly drain one's bank account.
But more than the many fine restaurants that require dress attire, friends, and reservations to enjoy, it's the small, quick places that do me in: the bakeries, ice cream shops, delis, specialty markets, produce stands, and occasional street vendor. There are certain places in the city I can't walk by without stopping in to enjoy a quick treat and/or bring something home for later. It's for this reason that I often avoid Bleecker Street entirely during financially lean times.
It may be laughable, but the one place I simply cannot pass without getting something is... not a "place" at all. It's an ice-cream truck. Like a fat, giddy schoolboy, my eyes light up whenever I spot one of the dozens of blue and white Mr. Softee trucks that roam the city streets, peddling an assortment of summery soft serve concoctions that are to me the equivalent of crack cocaine. And like a well-conditioned Pavlovian pooch, the salivary glands kick into overdrive whenever I hear that obnoxious Mister Softee jingle heading my way. Remember Eddie Murphy's comedic riff on "the ice cream man coming to town" -- where kids would stop whatever they were doing and "lose their $#@! mind?" That's me. "ICE CREEEEAMMM!!"
Of course, it's not only Mister Softee.
I find it difficult to pass H&H Bagels without popping in to bring home at least a few of their warm, chewey beauties (and one to enjoy on the spot). And Zabar's next door? I can't walk by without stopping in for a quarter-pound of their delectable smoked salmon. Similarly, passing the Doughnut Plant and Kossar's Bialys means I'm going to lose a few dollars (and gain a few pounds).
I can't seem to walk through Chinatown without stopping every few feet to take advantage of bargain buys on bunches of Chinese broccoli, baby bok choi, asparagus, and tomatoes (so much less than my local grocer!). There's also a little Chinese bakery -- the name of which escapes me at the moment -- from which I absolutely have to stop in and get a yummy char siu bao (bbq pork bun).
Chinatown also has The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (for a scoop of Amond Cookie - my favorite) and The Egg Custard King (for, well, egg custard tarts, naturally) -- two places that are sure to get my business if I'm in the area.
I won't burden you, dear reader, with the full list of places I find it hard to pass -- I'd be writing for the next half hour. But I am interested in yours. I think this may be a good way to turn people on to small treasures around the city.
So... which places do you find it hard to pass without stopping to buy something? Gelato at Grom? Cupcakes at Buttercup Bake Shop? A slice of pizza at Joe's? A couple of franks at Papaya Dog? A dosa from the Dosa Man cart? Something as ordinary as a venti mocha frappuccino at Starbucks (like my sister)?
Hit reply and share your favorites.. I expect I'll add a few of them to my own mile-long list!