The first summer of New York City’s bike-share initiative was hit and miss for me. Literally! While I did love the option of making my way around town on a bike, feeling like a kid again, I did get doored about a month in and sprained my ankle*. The rest of the summer was spent watching others bike off into the sunset while I hobbled home to prop my foot up as quickly as possible.
Despite this setback, I have to confess that I love my CitiBike! For the extremely low cost of $108 USD (after taxes) for an annual membership, it’s one of the cheapest (and fun) ways to travel around Manhattan and certain parts of Brooklyn.
With my ankle more or less healed, I’m strapping on my helmet and taking to the streets again! I couldn’t have timed it any better now that there’s a slight autumnal chill in the air. With the complimentary 24-hour pass I shared with my good friend Leigh, we set off for a day of short-distance biking and dining on the best cheap eats in New York City**.
Bon Chon Chicken, 207 West 38th Street. There’s a reason Bon Chon is one of South Korea’s top fried chicken chains and with its opening in Manhattan in 2010, fans of Korean fried chicken (like me) can enjoy them without taking a trip across the Pacific. The fried chicken menu is rather simple: wings, drumsticks, or strips in either soy garlic or hot sauce flavors. The combo half and half order is by far the best option and the side of pickled vegetables perfectly compliments the tang and spice of the chicken. There’s a small selection of Asian beers on tap as well to help wash down those delectable drumsticks, too.
Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar, 222 Waverly Place. After a leisurely ride to the West Village, we really wanted something to quench our afternoon thirst. The tiny, closet-sized falafel and smoothie bar of Taïm absolutely hit the spot with their signature smoothies. We ordered the strawberry-raspberry-thai basil and the pear-mint-lemon, took a seat outside, and happily slurped up our drinks, commenting repeatedly how amazing the smoothies were and how much we wanted to try the other flavors.
La Esquina, 114 Kenmare Street. Leigh and I are both suckers for Mexican food so we headed off to the low-key, street-side taco joint of La Esquina. The ambience is definitely a throwback to authentic roadside dining, but with a much more inviting seating area. The menu is full of hard-to-choose options, but we settled on two tacos to (begrudgingly) share. The meat was juicy and tender, seasoned just right, and the fresh lime juice added just enough tang to stave off our Mexican craving for a little while longer.
Amorino, 60 University Place. I consider desserts my forte, the creme de la creme to all my dining experiences and the specialty at Amorino sounded almost too good to be true that I knew I had to check it out. Despite being packed, we were able to place our order after five minutes of waiting for two (“This one I’m not sharing”) individual scoops of creamy gelato encased in a toasted brioche bun. That’s right, gelato INSIDE of a hot, buttery brioche. The shocking part was how the gelato managed to stay perfectly cold and creamy and not at all melted within the toasted brioche. They must work magic behind that counter because this dessert was even better than I could have imagined.
Momofuku Milk Bar, 251 East 13th Street. There is almost always a line at Momofuku Milk Bar and there’s good reason for it. Whether you choose the cookies (blueberry & cream and compost are my two favorite types), soft serve (they give free samples), or their pies, it’s hard to go wrong with your decision. Leigh had never tried their crack pie (yes, that is indeed the name) so we went and ordered a slice to share. Milk Bar’s crack pie is a strange confection; sweet and salty at the same time, it has an oat cookie crust so it might even be healthy, but it’s so GODDAMN GOOD that perhaps there’s a reason it’s called “crack” pie. In any case, Leigh and I blew right through it and had an intense yearning for more.
While we only made it to five stops during our day our of biking and eating (I had originally planned for ten stops), it was super fun and extremely delicious. We have plans for a part 2 of this bike and eat tour so stay tuned for our next outing!
*Biking in New York City, among being extremely fun and whimsical, can also be very dangerous. Although not mandatory by law, you should always wear a helmet because the chances of you getting hit by an angry taxi driver or “doored” are fairly high.
**If you’re interested in a self-guided biking tour of NYC and indulging in the best cheap food NYC*** has to offer, grab a bike and get moving! Citibike offers 24 hour and 7-day passes for visitors, but for those interested in spending a day out biking, a daily rental will probably be your best bet since CitiBike has biking time limits ranging between 25 and 45 minutes, depending on your price plan.
***There is a treasure trove of good, cheap eats in Brooklyn, but I can only eat and bike so much in one day. That’s why this guide focuses only in Manhattan. Don’t worry. There may be a Brooklyn edition coming soon!