24 May 2006

A Day In the Shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge

I sat on this post for almost a week. Call me sentimental, but I saved this one for the 223rd anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember when I was a kid looking up at the majestic bridge as we would make the drive back from my grandmother's apartment to our home on Long Island. I always asked my father if we could take the bridge to get home -- not realizing, of course, that the bridge would take us into Manhattan -- quite the opposite direction from suburbia.

One of the things that I have always wanted to do -- well, always = as long as I could remember and realize that the bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn -- was walk across the Bridge. A few weeks ago, I mentioned this to a group of native New Yorkers, and their response was simply, "Why?" Maybe they didn't get my George Mallory reference when I said "Because it's there," because all I got back from them was blank stares. I know it's touristy, and I know "touristy" is not usually something that makes me jump and shout, but I wanted to do this.

So, I lured a travel colleague friend (I am pretty sure with the premise of pizza and ice cream!) to make this trek with me. We parked in Brooklyn, took the subway into Manhattan, and then walked back across the span. This was surprisingly easy - the toughest part was finding a parking spot, and since it was easy enough to expense, even that was less an issue than it might have been if I had to fork over $19 to park out of my own pocket -- we would have at least made a cursory circling of the block for street parking! A short walk to the subway station (on High Street), $2 for a single-ride MetroCard, and one stop on the subway -- and we were in Manhattan, about a block away from the Bridge (the entrance to which is located right in front of City Hall).

I figure that most people who do this once probably walk the other direction, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I can see why. The views coming up on Manhattan are astounding. Sometimes I really forget how pretty New York City can be. I was told that it was about a 20-minute walk, but I should allot more time because I will want to stop and look around more than once. You can see a good bit of lower Manhattan from the Bridge. Not too long ago, this shot would have included the World Trade Center. On the lower portion of the picture, you will also see the building that formerly housed the legendary Fulton Fish Market, which has since been relocated to the Bronx.

Not only is the view back on Manhattan breathtaking, but the Bridge, itself, is something to look at, too.

The mix of folks on the Bridge were an absolute slice of true New York. There were fitness junkies running the length of the span, navigating their way around tourists stopping mid-pace and gawking up at one of the towers. During rush hour, the six lanes of automobile traffic below may be slowed by congestion, but the pedestrian walkway will have any number of walkers, joggers and cyclists peacefully traversing their slice of Americana.

I can only tell you that all this walking made me a little hungry, and I had a pretty good lunchtime meal planned ahead. If you want to read more about it, click to the next page....
Grimaldi's is an institution in Brooklyn. You know -- that might be an understatement. Grimaldi's is arguably the BEST pizza, in a pizza-lovin' town. The gang from Slice thinks that nod goes to DiFara's, and I am not going to pick a fight -- both are better than what I can get in central Florida! I actually took this picture a few backs when I visited Grimaldi's for the first time (sorry, the camera battery was going on me!). The line you see is one that they consider relatively short. I was told that at night (10 pm-ish), the line can go around the corner. On the Wednesday afternoon that we went, we walked right in around 1 pm with no wait whatsoever. Just to give you a comparison, though, on my first visit, which was around 5:30 pm on a Saturday night, we waited about a 1/2 hour for a table, and then another 45 minutes for the pizza. On this visit, not only did we get in right away, but this** arrived at our table about 10 minutes after we ordered:

**OK, I cannot tell a lie. That was not our pizza. Remember I said that my camera battery was going? Well, I stole this picture from someone else, but it looked surprisingly like our pizza, and sometimes you just gotta make do. Know what I mean?

Let me tell you, this is a SERIOUS pie. Ours had pepperoni, roasted red peppers, and extra fresh basil. The first thing that most people notice is that the mozzerella is not shredded, it is sliced. This makes for a definite texture difference than what most folks are used to. The pepperoni were smallish discs that packed a powerful flavor. But, what makes this pie is the crust -- crispy, yet chewy, too. Check out the charred edges, a product of the coal-fired ovens.

Like with many New York City establishments, at Grimaldi's you get a little history, and always a colorful story that usually involves lawyers and/or death threats. Note that this place is not necessarily cheap -- a small pie (6 slices, of which there was not much leftover with 2 hungry folks) with three toppings and two non-alcoholic beverages was $30 with tip. Also, notice the rules -- no credit cards, which they make quite clear -- I guess you wouldn't want someone to eat and then realize that the place only accepted cash; no slices (odd for a NYC pizzeria); and they also offer no half toppings - you can get only half if you wish, but you pay for the whole topping whether you eat it or not.

Recently, Grimaldi's opened up a Long Island location in Garden City, which is very convenient to where I usually stay when I am working up that way. I may give it a shot, but something tells me that it just may not be the same experience as the Brooklyn location.

My gut tells me that a disproportionate number of people finish their meal at Grimaldi's with dessert served at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Rationalize away the calories as best you can -- it IS about a block walk down the road to get your ice cream. One bite of the ice cream, though, and you won't care much about rationalizing anything. This stuff is GOOD -- really GOOD. I was taken there before word really got out about this place -- and boy have times changed. You will likely find a line if you come at any regular meal or post-meal time. Still, they quickly move folks through, ice cream in hand, so the waits are minimized.

I took no pictures of the food here, but I will tell you that the folks who run Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory are proud of their product. This sign awaits all visitors, explaining that you are about to consume ice cream that is about as close to homemade as you can get without doing it yourself. Again, you won't find bargain basement prices here, either -- a small cone/dish with one scoop will set you back $3 and prices go up from there. They also don't bury you with all kinds of choices -- they only make about 8 flavors at any given time - my personal favorite is the vanilla with chocolate chunks. I have also had their wonderful chocolate and coffee flavors.

The thing to do here is take your dessert and head out back onto the deck that sits at the edge of the East River. Again, you get a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline. This is obviously one of those places where bridal parties come from miles around for the photo opportunities. On the Saturday that I visited, there were no fewer than six bridal parties patiently waiting their turn to take pictures with Gotham as the backdrop. Maybe the part that surprised me most was just how patiently the parties seemed to be waiting!

For 223 years young, the Bridge still looks pretty good. In honor of George Mallory, all true New Yorkers should add walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to their list of things to do before you die.

Edit: Grimaldi's Pizza was featured in the Dining Out: Best of 2006 post.


Dan said...

Sorry I missed it!

Rachel Ray on the Food Network did a NY show one time, walked across the bridge, and went to both the pizza and ice cream places you hit up.

That's right, I watch Rachel Ray on the Food Network. I'm engaged, what the hell do you want from me?!?!

Marc said...

Great pictures! I do love Grimaldi's. It is probably my favorite pizza in New York. The last time we went, we split a pepperoni pizza, then walked down to the docks and soaked up the incredible view across to Manhattan. I can't wait to go back!

Tanjina said...

I reeally want to go to new york now. That pizza looks great!