The best thing a girl can do is visit NYC with a girlfriend. Especially if that girlfriend is Italian and a foodie (which I think might be redundant.)
Ladies – You know how things are…well, different…when we go somewhere with a guy? We stress more, eat less and obsess about what to wear? All of that pretty much goes out the window when you’re with a girlfriend, right? Going with an Italian girlfriend is even better because any pretense of dieting and/or healthy eating is discouraged and will likely be met with instant and merciless mocking.
I arrived at Fashion Plate Barbie’s house with my dust-and-dog-hair-covered duffle bag and my (broken) toiletries bag wearing jeans, a $16.99 red cowl-neck sweater, socks and shoes like these, but less fancy. I would describe myself as frumpy, but that would be too sexy a picture to paint. She was ready to go with a leather-handled suede overnight bag she must have borrowed from Audrey Hepburn. She was wearing a cute pair of denim capris, a black scoop-neck top, a black brocade 3/4-sleeve jacket and a pink and black striped scarf. Oh, and shoes like these, but more fancy.
We checked into our swanky hotel. It was a one-bedroom suite that (mercifully) had two bathrooms, a fact that would definitely be appreciated the next morning.
We decided we’d go out for a drink (or three) and grab dinner somewhere. I changed into my dressy outfit (and by ‘dressy’, I mean a clean sweater and a necklace) and we headed out to a bar around the corner that had a 2-for-1 martini special.
We each had three.
I should probably mention that I am not a drinker. I never went to college, so I didn’t build up the tolerance most of my friends did. I also have an acute fear of vomiting and have not done so in 30 years. My fear of vomiting definitely trumps my desire to act like a drunken fool, so I usually just order a soft drink or maybe nurse a glass of wine. This is a wonderful deal for my husband, who will have a designated driver for as long as we’re together. I’m almost certain it makes the short list of reasons we’re still married.
We weren’t sure what we wanted for dinner, but we knew we didn’t want Italian food. We’re both first-generation American daughters of Italian immigrants, so incredible Italian cuisine is available to us any night of the week. We discussed heading to SoHo for dinner – maybe some Thai or a good steakhouse or a place called Agave that a Facebook friend had recommended and FPB had coincidentally discovered on a previous trip to the city. So it was settled. We were heading to SoHo.
But first I had to pee.
OK, so you know how every drunk is a little different? Some of us are loud drunks, some of us are angry drunks, some of us are happy drunks? Turns out I’m a chatty idiot drunk. I like to know a lot about the people I meet. I’m not one of those people who’s happy to just discuss the weather. I’m more interested in how you met your husband or where you went to school or how many kids you have or whether you like your kids. So, if you’re within a foot of me when I’m stone cold sober, there’s a good chance I’m going to interview you like I’m Barbara Walters. You can only imagine how bad it is when I’m drunk.
As I stood in line for the bathroom, I struck up a conversation with a couple of tourists from Pensacola, Florida and a native New Yorker and proceeded to grill them on what they did that day, what kind of food they had eaten that day, where they were planning to eat that night and where they planned to be in five years (ok, so I didn’t ask that last one…mostly because I ran out of time.) The New Yorker was being kind enough to make a couple of SoHo restaurant suggestions, when I completely cut her off and said (ok, screamed) Fried chicken and waffles! I want fried chicken and waffles!
Except it sounded like this:
FRIII CHKEN NNN WAAAAFFF! INA FIII CHKKNNNN NNN WAAAAFFFFFF!!!!
She politely suggested we try a place called Red Roosters.
A few minutes later, I stumbled back to the bar and announced to FPB, who was ready to head out to SoHo, that we were headed to Harlem instead.
She’s such a good sport.
Rather than try to navigate the subway system from Midtown to Harlem, we decided to hop a cab. FPB is quite good at cab-hopping, by the way. Very Carrie Bradshaw. About $10 later, we were at 125th and Lenox in a very crowded Red Roosters.
Me: I laaak tibul for tooo.
Hostess: It’s a 1.5 hour wait, unless you want to sit at the (packed) bar.
Me: Dssnt luuk good at brrr. Hngrry. Neeeed friii chken nnnn waaffff.
Hostess: You should try Amy Ruth’s. It’s at 116th and Lenox. You can take the subway to the next stop and you’ll be right there.
Me: Yurr thh niicest grrrl on thhh plaant.
Two stops later, we got off the subway at 110th Street.
Harlem could use more street lights. Or more businesses. Or more pedestrians. It was way quiet on 110th. A car pulled up like a cab, only it wasn’t a yellow cab.
Driver: Where you headed?
FPB: (sitting in the backseat) Amy Ruth’s…frii chken nnn waafff…116ftth.
Me: (standing at the open door) Issss thsss a caaab? Thrrss no mmeeeterrr.
FPB: My feee herrrt. Geh innn.
Driver: Yeah, see the sticker on the window? It’s cool.
Me: Amy Rooooth’s, plllssss.
Amazing how sore feet, alcohol and the promise of fried chicken and waffles will cause a woman to set aside everything she knows about safety and trust a stranger because he has a STICKER on his window. Oy.
Fortunately, the semi-legitimate cab driver was not nefarious. Nor was he cheap – $5 (plus tip) later we were at Amy Ruth’s. Or, as I like to call it…Heaven.
I highly recommend you get drunk, head on up to Amy Ruth’s in Harlem and order the following:
The Al Sharpton (no joke – it’s fried chicken on a Belgian waffle – they offered white or dark meat, we chose dark but I’ll bet the white meat would have been just as delicious – be sure to slathered it in hot sauce and syrup)
Collard Greens (smoky deliciousness)
Potato Salad (perfection)
Candied Yams (dessert disguised as a vegetable)
Macaroni and Cheese (the best I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE, and I’m a mac & cheese connoisseur)
We ate without speaking, other than the occasional ‘aaahhh maaaah gaaaaad’ and ‘soooo muuuchhh bettttrrr than SooooHo’. Given the choice of a night with George Clooney or a repeat of that meal…well, I’d take George Clooney, of course, but I’d be thinking about every decadent morsel of that meal.
We walked out of that restaurant knowing that we had experienced a meal like no other; a meal we would one day describe to our grandchildren.
About $10 later, we were back at the hotel watching the end of Celebrity Apprentice (which made our Donald Trump, Jr. sighting the next day all the more interesting.)
About 10 hours later, I was rethinking the wisdom of slathering quite so much hot sauce and syrup on my waffles and thanking the hotel gods for separate bathrooms.