Updated: Jul 1
Staying in the heart of NYC ain't for the financial faint of heart my friend, though with a little foresight and an adventurous spirit, you can rent a hotel room that is merely expensive.
After inputing the dates of my stay (Jun 7-13), booking.com returned numerous options, ranging from $252/night for a bunk bed with shared bathroom at Pod 51, to $3,750/night at the Whitney Hotel. The idea of staying in a pod intrigued me almost as much as paying $252/night, but sharing a bathroom did not. I did find though that by paying $29 more a night at Pod 39, I could get a bathroom all my own.
For those of you not in the know, this Pod is not the ubiquitous and eponymous box you see in the driveway of people who refuse to pay movers $20,000 for moving the personal belongings that remain after conducting a cursory garage sale. Though it’s only slightly larger. Either way I thought the Misses would balk, but she was sold by the great midtown location and that she would be getting the bottom bunk.
The 39 in Pod 39 stands for 39th Street. Basically it's a 118 sq. ft room, skillfully layed out with bunk beds, a desk, an unshared bathroom, and two unshared televisions. A cross street of Lexington means it's located in the Murray Hill neighborhood two blocks south of Grand Central Station.
Check in at the over staffed front desk was seamless. After which the large lobby containing comfortable seating, a pool table, and two ping pong tables was passingly inspected. The adjoining lobby bar was unfortunately closed for renovations, though there is a 17th floor rooftop bar, Freehold Rooftop, that has a nice view of Freedom Tower. The clientele of both hotel and bar runs in the more youthful and polyglot direction . . . so me and the Missus fit right in.
The bathroom is small but efficiently laid out. It is separated from the balance of the room by a sliding glass door that does an ineffectual job of providing visual, audible or odiferous insulation. This may be a dealbreaker for those "couples" who do not know each other in the biblical sense.
If you are going to stay at Pod 39 you need to see a broadway show, whose prices, much like midtown hotels are exorbitant. Though if you buy your tickets at TKTS it will become, like Pod 39, merely expensive. TKTS operates a booth in Times Square that sells deeply discounted tickets, the catch being you need to buy the tickets the day of the performance.
I went with 50% off tickets for Goodnight Oscar, as it was about the inimitable Oscar Levant, a composer, virtuoso, actor and talk show personality, whose wit, self-deprecating humor¹ and sarcasm I find deeply comforting (at least the last two).
Speaking of Times Square, whether you buy Broadway tickets or not, you need to get out there and see some shit that can only be seen on the streets of Manhattan.
Now I realize the thought of dining in Times Square at a Red Lobster, Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump or Olive Garden may be irresistible, but please resist it. Walk two blocks in any direction and you will get a meal that is twice as authentic and just as expensive. May I recommend the following . . .
I personally think that 2 Bros Pizza sells the best pizza in New York, but my taste buds might have been prejudiced by its $1.50/slice price tag. I wrote a whole essay on Yelp about it back in the day when it was $1/slice. The location at 38th and 8th is the closest option and also has the benefit of having a dining room.
If you need to get some "Pappardelle al sugo D'Agnello" prior to seeing your 7:30 pm Broadway show, then do NOT go to Osteria al Doge. While the initial service and ambiance provided by the imperious Italian accented maitre de was excellent - he quickly led us to a great table while he loudly berated staff for not mopping the floor correctly. Though the subsequent sarcastic and slow service from our server was unfortunate. I really didn't mind him correcting me on the pronounciation of my entree, but the service was so slow we had to cancel our order at 7:18 pm and sprint to the theater.
I passed the House of Lasagna and it's large, bright, and eponymous sign every time I exited the hotel, so eventually I had to give the restaurant a try. And I'm glad I did. Psst . . . get the lasagna².
The Skylark for some nice Beer O'clock views of midtown. It has multiple floors that include multiple rooms, that have multiple views of the New York skyline. I visited at 6:16 pm, which worked out quite well, as later on the place looks like it becomes too crowded and too trendy.
Our last night was a little rainy, perfect for some soup, and therefore Momosan Raman & Sake was selected as it's just on the other side of Lexington Ave . . . and it offered a bowl of tan-tan (port broth, chashu pork, mushroom, takana, and ajitima) specially formulated by owner and Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto. Much like the lasagna place, everyone spoke with a regionally appropriate accent, which made the product that much tastier. It was so good they may want to change the name to House of Raman.
-Gotham sidewalks are crowded with locals, commuters, and people like you. So when you are walking, try and go with the flow. If you need to stop short to look at quintessential midtown attractions like skyscrapers, digital billboards, and Hasidic Jews, please safely move to the side to allow others to pass.
-drink the tap water. I know many shy away from any water that comes out of a faucet, spigot, or water fountain. New York City though, is home to possibly the best water in the world. There is a whole backstory on how rainwater from the Catskills is transported via billions of dollars worth of piping, where it then plays a key role in making above average pizza and the only bagels in the world that are edible. Bottom line: Just drink it and save the stuff from Fuji for back home.
-in Midtown, as for the balance of the five boroughs, the "DON'T WALK" sign is for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details that while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ In the play when Levant was implored to play the piano on the Tonight Show, otherwise his fans would be dissapointed, he replied "Don't worry, I'll write them both a letter of apology."
² Mr. Lasagna discussed with me the finer points of lasagna sauce. He makes two of his without tomatoes, resulting in a richer, meatier ragu that raises lasagna to the next level. If I were you I'd order one of these: Lamb or Piedmontese.