New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with tourists. With 56 million visitors a year spending $41 billion, there’s certainly a lot to love. But as economists always say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To tap into that $41 billion, New Yorkers have to deal with folks who don’t know how to hail a cab, or tip properly, or even cross the street without causing a major pile-up.
For New Yorkers, what really adds insult to injury is that, with all the wonderful restaurants in the five boroughs (approximately 24,000!), so many tourists end up in some pretty shitty restaurants—euphemistically called “tourist traps.” But we’ve all been tourists at some point, even New Yorkers—that’s what we call them when they come to Alabama. Are all tourist traps really that bad? Is there a good one out there?
©2016 Chris Terrell
A few weeks ago, I found myself in my room at the W in Times Square—tourist central. Laura was off to a black-tie affair that she mercifully let me out of. But this also meant dinner on my own. No reservations, and I wasn’t in the mood for traveling far, which meant that I would be confined to a five or six block radius of Times Square. Odds were good I’d end up in a “tourist trap.”
I did have the good fortune of being pretty familiar with Midtown, enough to know where the good “traps” are located. I knew to avoid Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, which has the dubious distinction of receiving the worst restaurant review in the New York Times.
I headed off to Del Frisco’s on 6th Ave. (a/k/a “Avenue of the Americas”) for a martini and steak at the bar, but it was packed with young, self-conscious bankers and lawyers. I then decided to head over to Bar Americain. BA is something of my fall-back when I’m in mid-town. The service and the food are good, and I’ve always liked Bobby Flay’s approach. I planned on eating at the bar there as well, but it too was packed. However, I did get a small table in the center of the restaurant near the bar. Good vantage point.
|©2016 Chris Terrell|
There was a first date at table 9. She had light brown hair and wore a stylish green dress. He wore jeans and a light blue, baggy polo shirt. They were not into each other—Manhattan vs. Queens.
There was a business dinner at table 12. They probably cut some big deal based on the three bottles of expensive California cab on the table. One woman, with black-rimmed glasses and a low cut dress, kept leaning alluringly into the younger man next to her. She would be equal parts drunk and disappointed by night's end.
At some point, the local train came into the station: an Upper East side socialite, with considerable “work,” wanders in and wanders out. Perhaps she thought she was in the dining room at Bergdorf’s. And then there was the hippie art maven wannabe chatting it up with the hedge fund wash-out.
By this point, Mr. Polo Shirt is quickly handing over his credit card to pay the tab. Eyes wandering. Forced smiles all around.
At this point, it’s time to head back to the hotel.
On the way out, I ask the hostess what the make-up is, "mostly out-of-towners or locals?" She said that in the evenings, it is mostly tourists and business travelers, but during the day at lunch, almost all locals. “Good to know,” I think to myself.
Sometimes even New Yorkers are tourists in their own city.