Sometimes I do take a break from HPNG.
The weekend started innocently enough (as it always does...) with a visit from my dear friend Leslie Sanchez.
She and her mom would be in NY, so of course, it's the perfect excuse for us to hang out at trendy spots we normally wouldn't visit.
We meet at the lobby of the Gansevoort Hotel in the meatpacking district, waiting for PR maven Harrison Wise and his friend Zak from Brightspot Media (who looks disarmingly like the Royal Prince Harry). Upon landing a primo spot at the sky bar, we're told the area is for bottle service seating only. While we briefly considered the option, the price tag of $350 per vodka bottle swayed us to find on "non-primo" spot....quickly.
We settled by the seating area facing the Hudson River (non-primo area indeed) and ordered our more reasonably priced drinks. Of course, the wind decides to blow at 100 (cold) miles an hour making Leslie look like she was starring in Mariah Carey video with her hair blowing all over the place. On the bright side, she did get a great blow out, which I reminded her that people pay a lot of money for that. After some quick buffoonery on my part, set to a blasting "Like a Virgin" (that's all I'm saying...) we're off to the Maritime Hotel.
Ah yes...capitalism at its best. The Maritime Hotel used to be Covenant House. A shelter for battered women and their children. But given the building's outstanding architecture and striking porthole windows, what developer could resist transforming that into a trendy, highly lucrative NY hotspot? We don't know what did become of those battered women and their children. We didn't ask and they didn't tell.
Of course, they had the de facto roped-off entrance where we're told we can't come in. Digging into my arsenal of one-liners I've used way too many times to gain access into the now defunct Limelight, I boldly declared, "I'm with John, and he's waiting for us upstairs." and presto, we're in. Our night there concludes with more reasonably priced drinks, awesome pizza and great conversation...even if we did have to chase our server down every time we wanted anything.
Day Two of the Weekend: I meet Leslie and her mom at the Tumi store in Rockefeller Center, where I pointed out to Leslie Le Maison du Chocolat and how smart her J.Lo-esque outfit looked on her.
Sampling chocolates and truffles always makes us thirsty so we're off to (you guessed it) get some drinks. The Renaissance Hotel in Times Square is renovating their dining hall with the outstanding view where they've erected a faux wall. Showcasing my talents for shadow puppetry, I showed Leslie's mom my best shadow duckie...only to be outdone by a tourist who made a unicorn! Jeez, I thought only New Yorkers were hyper-competitive!
Still on a quest for drinks and coffee, Plan B took us to one of NY's best kept secrets of a breathtaking view of Times Square. (I can't tell you where...it's a secret).
After drinks and coffee, we walked mom back to the Hilton and head over to the Shoreham Hotel and the Peninsula Hotel for...well....more drinks. (I'm beginning to see a pattern...)
If you haven't been to the Peninsula Hotel, their sky bar is a place everyone should experience at least once. However, after paying over $50 for two drinks, I suddenly felt nostalgic for the reasonably priced drinks at the Gansevoort.
After some talk about HPNG's July networking event and Leslie's upcoming book, we believe our night is almost complete and head out in search of food. Hell's kitchen's Cielo hit the spot.
I'm walking Leslie back to the hotel, when I notice...the cult vendor cart.
Now, I've lived in NY many years and have done the requisite after-the-club-foodie-hotspots. Empire Diner, Galaxy Diner, Moonstruck Diner, Papaya's on 6th and 7th Aves., etc. But this I'd never seen...a line that formed almost half a city block!
There, on the corner of 53rd and 6th Ave., stands the Halal Gyro and Chicken vendor cart.
"What manner of madness is this?" I asked Leslie. We quickly become the Latino versions of Nancy Drew and One Hardy Boy, with the resolve to get to the bottom of this.
I approach the cart and survey the food. It looks fine. We decide the best way to find out what's really going on is to do some old fashioned investigative reporting. Kinda like Anderson Cooper but without all the bullets flying around me.
First stop, two Asian club chicks relishing their pita party. After telling them I'm writing a news piece on this particular vendor, they give us the scoop.
"No one goes to the others and I've gotten sick from food from the other carts."
"What about the line, is that normal?"
"Yes, this is where everyone comes."
We press on, still not convinced that a mere gyro cart, with no apparent celebrity endorsement, can create such a frenzy.
We hit the mother lode when we discover the vendors hire their own security guards! Our new friend, one of their security guys, tells us the backstory.
"They've been out here for years and the cart across the street is also theirs, but no goes there because this the one to come to. It's like the cool thing to do. People will drive in from Jersey after hours just to get food from this cart."
"What about the line," I badger, "is it always like this?"
"This is nothing. At 5 a.m. this place is like rush hour. In the winter, even when it's 20 degrees, you'll have people waiting as long as an hour just to get their Halal fix."
Sadly, we didn't have the patience (and we were stuffed with Italian food) to wait in line and sample these addicting delicacies.
We vow to come back. This time with an appetite.