Rio de Janeiro boasts some of the beaches you’d spy on calendars, postcards and the odd screensaver in your dentist’s office cubicle farm. So when we passed through on a whirlwind trip to Brazil, I took the advice of our friend Kent Wein to jump off a mountain to get a better look at things, as they say.
Paragliding – it’s a growing sport in this South American country, and it’s easy to find a good safe pilot who can take you up on a beautiful tandem jump over the city. Take a cab down to the beach at the foot of Pedra Bonita to get started. At this landing zone you can find the right group and get your adventure started.
Like “Best Pizza” and “Most Delicious Bagel” lists, New York City also has its own unofficial hot dog competition outside of Nathan’s annual gorging-on-the-beach. Amongst the contenders, I side with Crif Dogs in the East Village, hands down. While you can always grab a bun filled with a wondermeat dog on any NYC corner, Crif packs each hot dog with enough love and artery clogging goodness to keep you stuffed for possibly days – add in a few beers and you’re good until next weekend. We ventured east to try two of their top-selling dogs and to get a more intimate feel for the place. As we finished our pleasure-filled franks and beers we decided to have a peek into the not-so-secret speakeasy next door. Well, technically, it’s next door.
Called Please Don’t Tell, this reservations-only bar accepts phone calls starting exactly at 3 p.m. for that evening and once filled, you can only hope to get a seat at the bar. But one can only hope, considering there will be a line for those limited seats as well. Rocking a totally different decor (Midwest-hip? Can we even write that?) than its neighboring scruffy hot dog hangout next door, this bar needs to checked out. Now, if you’re a New Yorker reading this you’re probably thinking, “A line? Reservations? No way.” Well, sure. We understand where you’re coming from – lines may be for bridge and tunnel types, right? However, when we tell you the unique drinks they mix at Please Don’t Tell are truly some of the best drinks we’ve ever had you’re either going to have to take our word on it or try them yourselves.
A number of years ago while hitchhiking up Baja, Mexico, I ended up on the bed of a pickup truck, rolling around with pickaxes, rakes, bags of trash and my backpack. Gripping the edges of the truck’s frame, I was so hungry; I wondered what would be worse: dying in Mexico of starvation, or dying in Mexico from being flung from the truck. I figured that regardless of how it went down, my Jewish mom would be pretty pissed. When the truck finally stopped about 100 miles south of Tijuana, I jumped onto the dusty main street of this unnamed town. I sought food immediately, and didn’t give it a second thought that anything would really suffice. I ran across the most insane traffic on the peninsula to a gathering of men at a bus stop. Bewildered and in the best gringo understanding I could muster, they directed me to a three-walled plywood structure two blocks north on the edge of town. They said Maria made the best tacos. And sure enough, not only did I not die of starvation while in Mexico, but these were the best tacos I’ve ever had, until, of course, I stumbled upon Tehhuitzingo in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.
Tucked squarely in the back of an unassuming, very typical Mexican bodega at 695 10th Avenue, Tehhuitzingo serves everything from breakfast (open at 8 a.m., close at midnight, seven days) tacos, burritos, tortas, beer and soup out of a 2-foot, square window in the way back of the store. Sitting below piñatas and amongst an array of lights that would make the most festive Christmas caroler jealous as he nods his approving head, you can feast on the best tacos (starting at $2.50) I’ve had on the east coast, all while sipping on your favorite Mexican brew. Keep in mind that the hot sauce is not joking around.
While it’s really not the best kept secret in all of midtown Manhattan, The Burger Joint, tucked inside of the Parker Meridien is certainly a gastronomic underdog.
About 10 years ago, this local favorite was essentially created from scratch, carved from a tiny nook toward the back of the reception area and modeled after a greasy spoon you would find somewhere in the Midwest. Replete with wood-paneled decor, cheesy movie posters and impromptu scrawling on the walls, the Joint is so popular with the neighborhood that the lunch line forms before they open at 11 a.m. and doesn’t die down until way into the afternoon – only to pick up again just before dinner. The menu, aimed at the heart of the minimalist, consists of burgers, fries, beer, soda and shakes – nothing else. Under advisement from the super friendly staff, we ordered the works on a medium burger with fries.
With so many burgers in the ring for best burger in NYC, we were unsure how the Joint’s take on the revered beef patty would compete, but take our word for it; this is definitely up there with the best. It’s just the right amount of succulence you want in a burger. With the bun toasted just right, and the mustard ketchup combo, you have to wonder what the other guys are doing wrong. Well, we may know that secret. The Burger Joint employs a full-time butcher, working around the clock processing only the best beef money can buy – no additives, no spices, just great beef. The answer may lie in the freshness.
From the highest density of people, to the most fashionable in food and fashion, New York City has all of the hyperbolic charm you can shake a guidebook at. One standout, though, is the city’s skinniest apartment building. This is literally the narrowest place you can live in all of the five boroughs.
Built in 1873, 75 ½ Bedford Street, is tucked in between two other apartment buildings and measures just 9.5 feet wide. This slender piece of work, which, as of today can be yours for $3.95 million, is located in one of New York’s most beautiful neighborhoods, the West Village. The asking price is actually a reduction from its price in the spring, when it was listed for over $4 million, but up from the $2 million for which it was sold in the ’90s. Where’s that extra couple of million coming from, you may ask?
Well, the three-bedroom, two full-bath apartment has been through a near-total $1 million gut-renovation, with a brand new kitchen, four working fireplaces, and a brand new garden retreat in the backyard. And if you’re in the arts and sciences and need a little boost to your own resume, the building claims poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and anthropologist Margaret Mead as previous owners.