As a travel writer, I never, ever do anything twice when exploring a city. I won’t eat in a restaurant I’ve already dine in, drink in a bar I’ve already enjoyed a libation in, or even walk the same roads or parks. And then I found Marie’s Crisis piano bar in New York City’s West Village, and I broke my cardinal travel writer rule.
In Manhattan alone there are more than 700 bars to choose from – but while in New York for our birthdays last week, my best friend and I still went to the same tiny, underground dive bar not once, not twice, but (gasp!) three times.
Marie’s Crisis is built in a former speakeasy, and is populated by the loveliest people in New York. That’s saying a lot, since all of the New Yorkers I met were friendly, willing to share a table or directions or tips and advice on enjoying their city.
Each night, from 8pm until roughly 4am, a rotating cast of brilliant piano players tickle or hammer the ivories while belting out famous and obscure Broadway show tunes. Patrons (and staff) with incredible voices sing along or sing solo, and there’s non-stop raucous teasing and laughter from regulars and newbies alike. While technically a gay bar, anyone who likes singing, show tunes or simply likes being in a crowd of very friendly people clearly having the time of their lives will adore Marie’s Crisis.
I feel like we really explored every neighbourhood, saw the must-dos and the no-one-but-locals-do and ate way too much delicious food. Instead of writing the two dozen blog posts it would take to cover it all, I’ve listed the highlights below, along with some of my favourite photos.
Favourite Things to Do
- People watching in Times Square.
- Seeing Central Park from the back of a rickshaw.
- Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. We booed people! I felt so guilty doing it.
- Seeing the World Trade Centre Memorial. Very humbling.
- Visiting the Ghostbusters Headquarters Fire hall.
- The Strand used bookstore. 18 miles of books and I could have stayed there all day.
- Walking The High Line, a unique public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets in Chelsea.
- The touristy must do’s – walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and taking the Staten Island Ferry for a great view of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
- I’d have spent all weekend at the Brooklyn Flea Market inspecting every item for sale had we had the time.
- Stoop sales! They’re the brownstone versions of a garage sale, where apartment owners drag their possessions and display them on the sidewalk or their stairs for sale. I was thrilled to score a vintage DVF silk dress in my size for $40 and the owner seemed pleased that I had spotted it from across the street and knew what a great find it was.
- Another crazy score – at No Relation Vintage I found a mint condition pair of black Frye motorcycle boots. In my size. For $50. I nearly weed myself in excitement!
- Taking in a roller derby game and walking the boardwalk at Coney Island.
- Chicken and waffles at Sylvia’s in Harlem. Well worth the hour long wait to be seated and get our meals.
- Deep fried shrimp sushi at Hakata Ton Ton. Eaten on the sidewalk with our hands before we went into Marie’s Crisis.
- Shakes and burgers at Shake Shack. I liked the burgers better than Peter’s Drive In in Calgary (an institution) but their shakes didn’t hold a candle to Peter’s.
- Green curry and pad thai at Pinto in the West Village.
- Lobster bisque at The Original Soupman. We went to the location Seinfeld made famous, but didn’t see proprietor Al Yeganeh.
- Melt in your mouth pork belly buns at the original Momofuku Noodle bar in the East Village.