Locos Tacos No. 1 in Chelsea Market

Steve and I decide last year that we really, really want to travel together. I’ve had the itch for the past few years, but not until now has it really made sense and fallen into place. We actually plan my move to Charlotte around this trip.

I move April 5th, so we plan for one month after that. That gives me a little time to settle in, meet people in the field hockey community, and start to feel at home. Then, as soon as we get back, I can start looking for a serving job.

First stop, New York City. We can fly to Europe non-stop out of JFK, and Steve wants to show me the city, so why not pack ‘em both in? We land in New York on May 2nd, and fly out on May 7th. That gives us four nights in the city at Steve’s parents’ apartment in Chelsea, and one night at their house in Long Island.

My favorite place ends up being Chelsea Market. It’s a beautiful indoor market with amazing food spots, restaurants, and shops. The best food we eat is at a little taco stand called Los Tacos No. 1. We get two tacos each. Definitely Carne Asada, but for the second one, we ask the lady who works there which is her favorite. It’s the Adoboda (marinated pork) and good thing we ask. It’s absolutely delicious and way better than the Carne Asada (we should have asked for her two favorites).

The market gets a little too crowded for my liking, but that comes with the territory of being in the city. I used to want this. To be surrounded by people. To be in the hustle and bustle and feel a part of it all. Feel a part of something. Now I feel the exact opposite. I want the space and the tranquility. I want to breathe in fresh air. I realize, I’m not a city girl anymore. I still love New York. I love big cities in general. But I do not want to live here.

Steve and I have the same sentiment. After all, he used to live in NYC, and then San Francisco for six years. I don’t think either of us is ready to go completely off the grid (not just yet, but it is a talking point), so Charlotte is a perfect middle ground. It really is. It’s still technically a big city, but after NY and LA it doesn’t seem like it. I love the walkability and all the great restaurants and cool spots, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. The real busy, city parts of Charlotte are so concentrated that you barely even notice, unless you want to.

But anyway, back to New York. My God, the food. You really can’t beat the food in New York. I could go on and on about everything we eat. So I will.

Our first night, we go to Ippudo, a Japanese Ramen spot. The pork bun starters are melt-in-your-mouth good. You have to go here and this has to be the first thing you order. Of course the Ramen is delicious, too, but you might want to save room to possibly order another round of pork buns to end the meal.

Steve’s parents, Frank and Joan, take us out to dinner the next two nights. First, Omakase at Sushi-Seki, which  is the best dinner I’ve ever had in my life. No kidding. I like to call it, Oh-my-God-Omakase. First of all, it’s my favorite food – sushi. Secondly, you sit right in front of the chef (his name is Hojo – Frank frequents this restaurant enough to be on a first name basis) and watch as he creates each piece of fish right before your eyes. It’s a slow, drawn out meal, with only one piece of sushi at a time. It’s the way meals should be eaten. Slow, deliberate, and able to really enjoy every single bite. And every single bite is glorious. Every single bite, I can feel my eyes roll back in my head and I say, with my mouth still full, Oh my God. This is SO good. We split a delicious bottle of sake, which up until I met Frank, I didn’t know existed.

The first time I met Frank and Joan was last July, less than a month after Steve and I had started dating. They had their family vacation in Palm Springs, only a few hours from me, so Steve invited me down. Might seem a little too soon to be meeting the parents, but Steve and I did not care, and he made sure to tell me that they wouldn’t mind.

We go out to dinner with his parents and sister’s family. It’s one of those places where everyone is seated around a hot stovetop and the chef cooks in front of you, doing cool tricks as he makes your meal. Frank takes the liberty of ordering us a bottle of sake. It’s the first sake that I’ve ever enjoyed, and I’m pretty sure that Steve, Frank and I, are the only ones drinking it. We have a good time, to say the least.

So when Frank orders of bottle of sake, I don’t complain. And once again, he doesn’t disappoint. This sake is delicious! The entire meal is such an experience. There’s nothing better.

ShackBurger at Shake Shack. Yum!!

The next night, we’re between two places. Frank, Joan and Steve have been to both and love both. So it’s either paella or lobster rolls. I defer to the group, thinking both sound wonderful, but I think the decision ends up being made by location – the lobster roll place is closer.

Pearl Oyster Bar. Yes. Lobster Roll. Yes. You have to go here. Yes yes yes. I’ve had lobster rolls before. But no, I haven’t. This Lobster Roll is insane. So much Lobster meat, so much flavor, a perfect, buttery roll, with a side of shoe-string fries – which I don’t even typically like that much – served with malt vinegar, that literally melt in your mouth. They’re that thin. It’s the perfect meal. They’re so good, that I can’t even tell you how much they are. Because they’re “market price.” That’s a legit Lobster Roll.

And finally, the best lunch we have in New York: Shake Shack. I passed by this place so many times when I used to live here, because it’s right by the PIT theater and classes. But I never went. Why? Because I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t eat out. I only ate at the restaurant where I worked, or places walking distance from my apartment that I could order to-go and bring back to eat in my closet of a bedroom. Alone, sitting on my bed, which was actually more like a cot on the floor.

Now finally, after I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this little burger stand, I’ve tasted what all the hype is about. My parents and I went to visit Tara up in Topanga right after their first trip to In-N-Out. They really liked it. I certainly love it, but when we told Tara about it, she immediately asked if we’d ever been to Shake Shack. It blows In-N-Out out of the water.

Steve and I split one single ShackBurger, which is simply a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce served on a potato bun, and one Chick’n Shack, which is crispy chicken breast with lettuce, pickles, and buttermilk herb mayo served on a potato bun. The ingredients are so simple and so well-proportioned. It’s a perfect burger and a perfect sandwich. No wonder there’s always a line around the block at lunch time.

After all the amazing food we eat in New York, I wonder how the food in Europe will stand up. We shall see!

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