Cost-Effective Ways To Escape NYC

Cost-Effective Ways to escape NYC by Ari KellenNew York may be the greatest city in the world, but sometimes it can be too much, and even the most dedicated New Yorker could do for a weekend upstate or out-of-state.  And lucky for you, getting out of the city is a lot easier than you’d expect.  I recently came across an article that shares five easy and totally affordable ways to escape the city, listed below:

House sitting: If you’re interested in travel but don’t want to pay for Airbnb, house sitting is a way you can score a free place to stay.  You still have to do some work, but the goods outweigh the bads here.  Since it’s on a case-by-case basis, you’ll be working directly with a homeowner to determine the terms of your arrangement.  If you don’t know anybody to house sit for, you can try “Trusted Housesitters” and “House Sitters America”.

Hop a train: Thanks to the transit systems, it’s easy to get from Grand Central or Penn Station to New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut or upstate.  There are amazing museums, wineries, plenty of land to hike and explore and much more!

Drive somebody else’s car: If you’d like some extra cash or want to travel for work, then think about signing up for a vehicle transport or driveaway service.  Most companies just require that you have a driver’s license and a clean driving record.  It isn’t something you can do often if you already have a full-time job, but it’s great if you just need to get out of the city.

Become a seasonable au pair: This is a great way to find a long-term and long-distance escape from the city.  The application and placement processes are timely, but getting to explore a foreign country with a host family is a unique and unbeatable experience.  You’ll need a valid passport and possibly a visa if you want to go overseas, and it requires a lot of preparation, but it’s a great cost-effective adventure.

Event-based volunteering: If you’d love to attend an event but can’t afford it, then you can try volunteering at the event instead!  Most volunteer opportunities ask you to cover one shift and in exchange get to attend the rest of the event free.

from Ari Kellen | Sports


Best Outdoor Drinking Spots in NYC

Best Outdoor Drinking Spots in NYC by Ari KellenAs the weather gets nicer, many people start to venture out of their apartments in New York to go out, drink with friends and have a good time.  For many New Yorkers, outdoor drinking is a favorite summer activity, and who can blame them?  Since German immigrants first introduced the concept of the “beer garden” to Gotham, it’s become a classic activity.  Listed here are some of the best places in New York City to partake in it:

Northern Territory: Out in Williamsburg, a good 10-minute walk from any subway stations, lies Northern Territory, an Australian restaurant that features a knockout rooftop bar.  Even when it gets crowded, the rooftop affords a spectacular view of Williamsburg and Lower Manhattan.

Studio Square: Two massive 20-foot screens, free-flowing beer, a kitchen that makes wings and cigar vendors all combine together to make Studio Square one of the best places in New York to watch a big sports game with your buddies.  If you’re going there for a big game, however, it’s a good idea to get there about an hour early, as it tends to get crowded and the bouncers start imposing a substantial cover charge.  But time flies when you’re having fun, and once you get there, five hours seems to pass like 30 minutes.

Iona: Since it was first opened, Iona has developed a reputation as a stellar summer drinking spot in Williamsburg.  There’s a friendly vibe here, helped by a huge backyard with BBQ and ping pong.  The perfect place to spend an afternoon drinking icy beer.

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden: For over 100 years, Bohemia Hall has served as a center for Astoria’s Czech and Slovak culture.  The beer garden, which is open year-round, has a weathered look about it that some might consider unappealing, but it adds a genuine charm to the entire place.  To top it all off, a special refrigeration method makes sure that the beer is always ice cold, making this the best place to enjoy a cold brew on a hot day.

Brooklyn Crab: Out in Red Hook, a good 30-minute walk from any subway station is Brooklyn Crab, an outdoor seafood restaurant/bar with two levels, three bars, plenty of picnic benches, cornhole and mini golf.  Here the beer flows freely, including a house IPA brewed by Southern Tier.  The perfect place to waste a lazy Sunday in June, it’s also right next to Hometown BBQ, easily one of the best barbecue spots in New York, in case you’re more into pork than crab.

Union Pool: It might get crowded here and filled with plenty of tourists, and might not be for everybody, but there’s a festive vibe at this Williamsburg hotspot that makes up for all of that.  If you get hungry while you’re drinking, there’s a taco truck, so it’s hard to go wrong.  If you want to go inside, there’s a back room that features live music.

Blockheads: There are multiple locations of Blockheads around the city, but the one to visit is in Hell’s Kitchen on 50th Street.  With its plethora of frozen alcoholic drinks and plenty of outdoor seating, Blockheads makes for a great place to kick back with your friends, a bowl of nachos and some frozen drinks on a hot day.  It’s also right across from Mother Burger, which features the same style of frozen drinks and outdoor seating in case Blockheads is too packed.

Spuyten Duyvil: Like the Brooklyn Crab, Spuyten Duyvil is right around the corner from one of New York’s best barbecue joints (Fette Sau).  But that’s where the similarities stop: Spuyten Duyvil is a bar first and foremost, and in the warmer months features a spacious garden filled with picnic benches where you can seemingly always find a seat.

The Standard: No pun intended, but the biergarten here has set the “standard” for outdoor drinking in Manhattan and beyond.  Milking the “german biergarten” trope without being too obnoxious about it, they do a great balance here, that can be washed down with beer, sausages and pretzels in-between ping pong games.

Transmitter Park: It isn’t a bar, but Transmitter Park is easily one of the best parks in Brooklyn.  Located in the sticks of Greenpoint out on the water, it’s hard to go wrong here, where you can get a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline at night and, if you get there at the right time, the best sunset in all of New York.  Pick up a bottle at Brouwerij Lane or the local bodega nearby, but it in a brown bag and sit down on a park bench and take in the view.

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration

NYC’s Top Grilled Cheese

NYC's Top Grilled Cheese by Ari KellenGrilled cheese is one of those brilliantly simple dishes: there are only two ingredients, yet it’s astoundingly satisfying.  While grilled cheese is a great dish on its own, there are a few tweaks here and there that can really bring a grilled cheese to the next level.  I recently came across an article that shared where you can find New York’s best grilled cheese, listed below:

Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter: Amanda Beame, who previously cut her teeth at Blue Smoke, started Bobwhite as a way to dish out sustainable Southern classics.  Her grilled cheese takes Hudson Valley collard greens and puts it into a house-made red-pepper pimento on Orwasher’s sourdough.

Gorilla Cheese NYC: There are seven different versions of grilled cheese available from his roving truck, with a choice of bread and cheese.  Each sandwich goes through an electric press to give it a crisp brown crust, and features dipping sauces ranging from honey Dijon to sweet Thai chili.

Earl’s Beer and Cheese: Cheap beers go great with grilled cheese here.  The thing to get is the NY State Cheddar, which features braised pork belly, a fried egg and kimchi.

Little Muenster: The brainchild of a husband-wife duo: slices of white cheddar or American cheese between thick-cut, local pullman bread coated in a secret cooking spread and finished on a flattop grill.

The Queens Kickshaw: Chunks of mozzarella add texture in-between brioche buns.  The sandwich comes with either cool gazpacho in the summer or hot tomato soup in the winter.

Morris Sandwich Shop: Originally a truck, this has since found a brick and mortar location that offers New York State cheddar and New Hampshire Landaff.

Melt Shop: With various locations across the city, you’ll always be sure to find a fine combo of melted American cheese over white bread.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese: Legendary Seattle cheesemaker Beecher’s operates this complex, where you can watch cheese being made in giant vats before being sold at local markets.  The flagship grilled cheese is what you want to order.

Meltkraft: Partnered with Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey, this place makes a three-cheese grilled cheese with aged cheddar.  They offer various fun combinations, such as brisket and macaroni or raclette with jalapeños and pickled tomatoes.

Murray’s Cheese Bar: If you call yourself a cheese shop, you better have some good cheese, and Murray’s certainly delivers.  The namesake sandwiches here are a secret blend of three curds on a pan-baked pullman loaf.

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration