New York Travels: Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

In the second article about my trip to New York City, I wanted to write about some of the restaurants inside the city. I actually composed a list of various places to go, but I actually went off the rails with most of the eateries.

 

The Meatball Shop

6d6e04d4After I landed in LaGuardia and settled in my hostel room, I took the L-Train and went to The Meatball Shop. Located near Union Square, this was one of the first places to check out.

It is highly reviewed and I’m a sucker for pasta. On the menu, you can choose the types of meat, sauce, and cheese.

I went with a mix of beef, pesto sauce, and mozzarella. There are 4 large meatballs that sit on a plate of pasta with a slice of bread.

By far, The Meatball Shop was one of my favorite places to eat in NYC and I will recommend every potential visitor to check it out. The meat and sauce was so tasty.

 

Deli’s 48

Later on that same day, I looked around midtown Manhattan especially around Rockefeller Center. As the sun started to set, I began my trek back to the bus stop.

delis-48During my walk, I wanted to stop by a smaller shop and grab a dinner to-go. New York delis seemed like a good solution.

There’s one called Deli’s 48 that appeared on my route. Inside the establishment on 48th Avenue, there is a deli, coffee section, and an international food buffet.

I ordered an Italian Supreme Cold Sandwich, which contained ham, salami, pepperoni, pepper, prosciutto, lettuce, tomato and oil vinegar. For a nine bucks sandwich, it was very large and thickly loaded. It was well worth the money.

 

Coney’s Cones

13331028_10102083991820870_8150673938224398280_nOn my second day, I spend my time in Brooklyn and Queens. Toward the late afternoon, I took the train to Coney Island and checked out the boardwalk.

While looking at the ocean, I went to get some ice cream at Coney’s Cones. For about $4 or $5, you can get two heaping scoops in a bowl or waffle cone.

I got chocolate and mint chocolate chip rounds of ice cream. It’s the best of both worlds as they are my favorite flavors.

Out of any ice cream parlor I’ve ever been to, Coney’s Cones is my favorite one. The price is steeper than Baskin Robbins but you get what you pay for.

 

Danny’s Pizzeria

A short walk from the Moore NY Hostel, there’s a pizza place in Brooklyn called Danny’s Pizzeria. I wanted bona-fide NY style pizza and there was no shortage.

13335841_10102084093067970_3153748107829155425_nHowever, I searched for nearby places and Danny’s Pizzeria was close by and has decent reviews on Yelp. After a long wait (there was a large crowd in front of me), I ordered a personal sized “Danny’s Special.”

The “personal sized” was actually quite large for one person. It was more equivalent to a medium at other establishments.

Danny’s Special had Italian sausage, bell pepper, pepperoni, onions, cheese, and mushrooms. It didn’t look like the most appealing pizza, but it was very flavorful and delicious.

It was about $12 and was probably the most filling meal I had during my vacation. I earned it though as I walked all over the city during the trip.

 

Bill’s Bar & Burger

Located in Rockefeller Center, Bill’s Bar & Burger was one of the those random places I walked by and took a gamble. You couldn’t get a burger wrong at a burger joint. At least, that’s what I said to myself.

I tried out a Bacon Cheddar Burger with fries and Keegan Mother’s Milk Stout. The stout had a familiar taste. It wasn’t Wiseacre’s Get Up to Get Down, but the taste and texture was similar. Still, it was pretty good.

The burger itself was on-point. It wasn’t moving mountains, but it was a pleasurable meal.

 

Happy Lucky Restaurant

aaedb5c92696ca0f70e279b371add339Little Italy and Chinatown were two areas in New York to check out for some unique food. I wasn’t able to go to Little Italy but went to Chinatown instead.

Chinatown in NYC was a very interesting neighborhood. There were a ton of shops and restaurants wanting a visitors attention.

As I was going from outdoor menu to menu, there was a man for this particular one that wanted me to check out his eatery.

I went inside Happy Lucky Restaurant and it’s pretty much what you’d expect in every Chinese restaurant.

One thing to note to future travelers to New York: bring cash if you go to Chinatown. Many places here do not take debit & credit cards. You don’t want to hustle to the nearest ATM once you get your ticket.

Aside from that issue and no air conditioning at Happy Lucky, it was a very full meal of General Tso’s Chicken. Plenty of chicken, rice, and teas. It was almost too much.

The magnificent feast only set me back about $10.

 

Heartland Brewery

13344713_10102086779354630_7023604804722250177_nAfter going on top of the Empire State Building, I went back down to the bottom floor and went inside Heartland Brewery. Prior to leaving Memphis, I checked out their menu and was determined to try the Oatmeal Stout and the NY Strip Steak Sandwich.

The sandwich tasted good and has pepper jack cheese, onion straws, chipotle mayo. It was served on a brioche bun and fries.

The Oatmeal Stout was similar to the milk stout at Bill’s but this has a dark chocolate flavor and was more foamy.

This was the most expensive meal I had in New York. The NY Strip Steak Sandwich was $19 and the Oatmeal Stout was $8 for a pint.

 

Hard Rock Cafe

13315628_10102088776527280_7580482972107402094_nI am probably going to get some flack for going to it, but Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square was my last stop on my final day in NYC. If you been to any of them across the country, then the food here is virtually the same.

I came here to actually check the place itself instead of the food. There’s a lot of rock memorabilia here including a guitar from a famous Beatle. Speaking of guitars, there a section of wall embedded with them.

As for the food, it is the same menu in all Hard Rock Cafes and it wasn’t to write home about. It wasn’t bad either. If I remember correctly, the meal was a Buffalo Chicken Club Sandwich with remoulade sauce and a Sam Adams.

 

There were many more eateries I wanted to experience in NYC, but 5 days isn’t enough time to get the full experience. Hopefully on my next visit, I’ll go to places I missed out on the previous trip.

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New York Travels: Entering A Hostel Environment

ny-moore-hostelI feel bad about not blogging about it. With an upcoming trip to Boston in six months, I’m compelled to talk about my somewhat-recent trip to New York City.

Earlier this year, most of my friends were having these great vacation plans while I still didn’t act upon mine. In March 2016, I booked a Southwest flight from Memphis to the Big Apple.

Along with a flight, reservations for a living space had to be made. Hotels and AirBnb were considered, but they were a bit expensive.

The vacation was planned around Memorial Day (just three months away). There was not much time to save a lot of money so I opted for a hostel.

For those wondering about them, hostels are a cross between hotels and a college dorm. The amenities of a hotel are present at most hostels (like Wi-Fi, showers, beds, towels, coffee, etc.) but one shares a living space with other travelers. The trade-off is they are much cheaper.

During the trip, I stayed at the NY Moore Hostel, which is located in Brooklyn. The surrounding neighborhood reminded me a lot of Memphis. It had a Cooper-Young feel meshed with some industrial buildings sprinkled in. It was also close to the L-train, which was very convenient getting into Manhattan and other parts of the city.

As I checked in, the staff was helpful in taking me to my room and even gave me a tour. The living1 quarters were spacious with three twin-sized beds, dressers, lockers, and nightstand with lamp.

Bathrooms were also located in the unit and all the rooms were well-kept and clean.

There were other features including a partial kitchen (with pantry, refrigerators, microwaves, sink, and coffer makers), lounge with TV, computer room, and temporary storage for those with early arrivals or late departures.

One advantage of hostels over hotels is free food and entertainment. Each have their own ways, but the Moore Hostel would regularly have comedy nights and offered pizza. The only catch is to listen to some comedians, which NYC is well-known for.

One of the comedy nights had Tori Piskin,  Jacob WilliamsKatie Boyle, and Chris James. There were some hit and miss jokes, but by-and-large they had funny moments. It was good they took out time for a smaller crowd of strangers.

28535691Overall, the experience was good and my only complaint was the air conditioner didn’t work. The hostel staff was aware of the situation but it remained broken until I left. Other than that, it was a good stay and even folks at the front desk loaned me a lock and storage space free of charge during the trip.

Another part of the hostel experience was the roommates. One would think it could be horrible, but the folks in my room were decent folks. For my first two nights in NYC, there were two guys from Alabama. These guys were courteous and apologized one night for waking me after getting soaked in a downpour. Them waking me up was the least of my problems considering they had a rough night.

There was one night I had the room all to myself, but that changed when a kid from Detroit stayed until the final day in New York. He was okay and kept to himself, but I do remember him being on the phone a lot.

I’d say to anyone looking to visit NYC and have a lot of money, look into some other places especially if 13332731_10102088776098140_2322348117671306210_nyou are travelling with a group. I don’t regret staying at the hostel and had a good stay. If you temper your expectations, then you wouldn’t be terribly disappointed.

New York City has other hostels, including one in the middle of Manhattan, so definitely look into them if you plan on it.

This post is the first of a few more related articles about my NYC trip. There was so much to talk about that I haven’t begun to scratch the surface.

The next post will talk about some of the restaurants I visited during the trip. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these articles soon to come.

Meteorologists Got It Right…Sort Of. Now Enjoy Your “Snow Day”

Memphians today have been in a fuss on social media about our recent snowstorm. Or rather the blizzard that never happened.

Through the week, meteorologists on TV and National Weather Service were predicting snowfall for the Mid-South. Yesterday, it seemed things were going to be real serious with high winds (gusts upwards to 45 mph) and upwards to 7 inches of snow.

Since I work at a TV station and do not get days off for inclement weather, I took some precautions on getting to work on time today. Since riding a scooter is no bueno on icy roads, I rented a motel room for the night and would report to work the next day.

Now, the storm has pretty much past West Tennessee and moved towards the East Coast. Here is the wake of the “Great Blizzard of 2016.”

What was supposedly going to between 3-7 inches of snow didn’t amount to much in the city. Yeah, impressive right? In fact, I lament that I wasted about $54 on a motel room and could have easily rode into work.

It is easy to poke fun of this scenario. The bread and milk raids leading up to the weather event were for naught. Schools and most businesses were closed for nothing. Everything is a-okay in the city.

So we’ll blame the weathermen, right? “They got it wrong” or “they’re never right” got thrown around a lot on social media today. Many of these comments coming from people who praised the coming winter end times and got their wish for school and/or work to be shut down.

Well, it turns out the meteorologists were right…for the most part. If you look outside right now Memphis, you’ll see snow on the grass. They nailed it on that detail. It’s not 5 inches but it is snow.

Other areas outside of Memphis (especially Jackson and Dyersburg) got a bit more snow than Memphis. This was accurately predicted and is typically the case when dealing with urban vs. rural climates. It wasn’t as impressive as they were hoping either, but the streets are less clear there than in Memphis.

High winds are also present. Instead of 40-45 mph gusts, the winds are roughly 15-20 mph with 25 mph gusts. Not as windy as predicted, but still pretty breezy and that’s still going to be a big factor in the wind chill.

Also, the timing of the storm came as they said it would. It arrived sometime overnight (about 2-3 a.m.) and pretty much left the area by noon.

For all intents and purposes, they got it right. I don’t get the fear-mongering behind the weather forecasts, but it was mostly on-point. We just didn’t see the big snowfall.

But hey, mostly everyone got their wish for having the day-off or having a clear roadways (for the few that are fortunate to grace their presence in the workplace today). We can stop blaming the weather people for “messing up” because they were mostly correct in their forecast.

If there’s anyone to blame…blame Nashville. They stole it from us.

On The Airwaves Cancelled Indefinitely

On-The-AirwavesHello everyone! Some of you may have guess this but I will just go ahead and confirm it. Over the past few months, my schedule has been quite busy and it has been difficult updating the podcast on a weekly basis.

With my schedule and possible life changing plans in motion, I can no longer produce any more episodes of “On The Airwaves” at this moment.

So for now, the podcast is effectively terminated. In addition, I will be taking a prolonged hiatus from podcasting.

Sorry to disappoint everyone with this news. Since 2013, podcast production has been fun and I have enjoyed it when there was time for it. Since working at my current employer last year, my time has been well spent there, but my past projects have been a great way for me to hone in on-air and production skills.

In the future, I will like to revisit podcasting but for now it is not possible. However, I still regularly update my blog at https://chrisfreitas.wordpress.com and I manage to find something worthwhile to post every month. So if you like to read more about radio, electronic media, and other related subjects, please check it out.

Thanks for supporting me and the podcast!  I will keep up past episodes on-line on my Sample Works page along with CFOR for anyone interesting in listening to the shows.

Episode 29 – CFOR (5.29.2015)

If Chris was still naming episodes of this podcast, then it would be called “The Hangover.” In this week’s CFOR, he talks about his first experience being drunk.

Chris also goes into details as to why being drunk or drinking alcohol is such an odd experience for him. Also note: he did drink responsibly.

Download & Listen

Chris Reviews The 2014 Honda Metropolitan

20160823_151410About two months ago, I purchased an electric bike to travel around the city. Shortly afterwards, it did not perform up to expectations.

The inexpensive Roketa ES-44 proved ineffective for my needs. In an attempt to sell it, I looked for something else.

Prior to getting an e-bike, a scooter was under consideration but didn’t make the cut because it was a bit intimidating (in terms of learning to ride it) and more expensive.

After a few quality control issues and mediocre performance, I decide to revisit the world of scooters. My interest was in the 49-50 cc class. These bikes are not only cheaper, but more fuel efficient and easier to handle while giving me enough juice to get from Point A to Point B.

Ideally, I liked the Vespa design and specs but the nearest dealer was over 200 miles away from Memphis. It was also more expensive.

Instead, I found more details about the second best thing…Honda scooters. Lo and behold, a dealership was within minutes from home.

After browsing through models and learning more about them, the Honda Metropolitan 2014 & Ruckus caught my eyes. Between the two, I chose the Metro and here’s why.

Appearance & Durability

From a design standpoint, the Metropolitan has a vintage Italian look. Although the cover plates are plastic, it is durable and resistant to the elements.

I learned this first hand when skidding on the trolley tracks on South Main Street two weeks ago. The right side cover got heavily scratched, but it did protect the metal frame underneath and cushioned my fall. Thankfully, the plastic cover is replaceable, but I can also hide the cosmetic damage with bumper stickers and decals or a coat of paint.

Comfort

While riding it, I felt really comfortable riding the Metro. The seat is well-cushioned and reaching the handlebars isn’t a stretch. My feet also fit nicely on the floorboards.

Ease Of Riding & Speed

I must admit that I wasn’t sure how a gas-powered scooter would handle. It turns out that it does operate very well. I can make turns easily and it’s not too fast while learning more about riding on motor bikes.

The average top speed is 35 mph, but can go up to 40. I’ve rarely seen the big classic odometer speed past 35. The highest speed seen is 37 mph.

It’s good to ride on roads, but I would not dare put this thing on a highway or interstate (which is illegal for 49cc bikes).

I’ve felt terrified driving in a car, but oddly enough I feel much more comfortable riding on a scooter. Perhaps it’s from riding bicycles for a long time. I rather scoot down on Central Ave. on my Metropolitan than take a four-wheeled vehicle any day.

There’s a higher risk of getting hurt and exposing yourself to the elements on a scooter or motorcycle, but they are also more maneuverable and less intimidating than automobiles.

Gas

This element was by-far most important in choosing a scooter. There are varying models, but most are very fuel-efficient.

The Honda Metro excels getting the most out of a gallon. While the tank holds roughly 1.2 gallons, it gets up to 117 miles for a gallon of unleaded.

Realistically, I fill up every 80 miles and never run out. About 100 miles, I’d say it will run dry. With that said, it’s impressive that a scooter will get you far for just a gallon of gas.

This saves a lot of money as I fill up to about $2 every week! Right now, prices at the pump continue to fall so refilling the scooter becomes even more cheaper.

Storage Space

There was another reason behind getting this scooter: storage space. Under the seat, there is a compartment where one can store many things. Whether it’s a few groceries, lunch, laptop, or a full-face helmet, it’s great to have some space to store stuff.

Below the handlebars, there is another storage area where gloves and other goodies can go. There’s enough space to store a water bottle or cup of coffee while you ride but beware of spillage if moving over a lot of bumps.

Maintenance

As mileage racks up, it will be near time for a check up. Thankfully, it was purchased from a Honda dealership. I can take it there knowing the folks are familiar with the parts should something need to be fixed or replaced.

Overall Experience

So far, it’s been fun and less of pain. Except with my skid (which I could have avoided by not going to Main St.), everything has held up. The Metropolitan hasn’t broke down, tires haven’t mysteriously gone flat, and has got a lot of distance for a tank of fuel.

I haven’t enjoyed riding it in the rain, but that’s inevitable. Thankfully, the clothing and gear I have currently protects me from most weather, but I’ll need some proper rain gear.

My only gripe about the Honda Metro are the brakes and acceleration. They work, but you’ll have to make earlier stops as it takes a little while for them to fully stop when needed. The scooter also takes longer to accelerate, but speed stays consistent while you’re finally moving.

All in all, I have enjoying taking the Honda Metropolitan to work and around town. Especially on mild, sunny days, riding on the road is a fun experience amid the crazy Memphis motorists.

Using this scooter makes me smile a bit and makes me yearn to earn a motorcycle license. By getting a Class M license, I could ride something with a higher speed and cc engine. It also gives me something to talk about with other scooter riders.

For now, the Honda Metropolitan suits me just fine especially as a scooter to train on. I’ll get something else later on, but it’s probably going to be a Honda bike.

This is a preliminary review after my first month with the scooter. I’ll give an regular update every 6 months to let everyone know how the Metro holds up. So far so good, I’m thoroughly impressed.

For more details and specifications on the Honda Metropolitan 2014, click here to the Honda website.

Roketa ES-44/Emmo Urban Electric Bike Review

About a month ago, I purchased an electric bicycle from Scooters Plus here in Memphis. A week later, there was a posting about how some parts broke and how I got into some trouble.

Since then, I am happy to report most of the main problems have been addressed, but there are some things to look out for when purchasing these types of e-bikes.

Before going into the issues, here are the good aspects about the Roketa ES-44 and my experience with it thus far.  It’s important to note that while state laws have varying definitions of motor vehicles, this is NOT a scooter or moped but could easily be interpreted as one.

While it looks like a scooter, the Roketa ES-44, or Emmo Urban in Canada, has some distinct features that set it apart from Vespas or similar motor bikes. One key aspect is a pedal and chain system. Just like any old bicycle, this e-bike can be propelled by human power, in addition to pedal-assist (where the motor turns on after a few repetitions) or throttle (aka twist-n-go).

It’s also significantly slower than a scooter, but much faster than a normal bike. Unless you are Lance Armstrong, someone will be hard-pressed to pedal faster than this bike’s speed.

The Roketa’s top speed is 20 mph, which is the legal limit set about Federal law. Anything beyond that, it’s not considered an e-bike.

It may seem fast but it is actually easy to control once you practice for roughly 10 minutes. When I first got on the e-bike, it was like learning how to ride a normal bike…minus the scrapes and bruises. If you ride bikes (motorized or not) on a regular basis, then you’ll have little to no adjustment riding an electric bike.

Like all bicycles, it has brakes and bike rest so it doesn’t topple over. There are also some pretty neat things like front and rear blinkers, brake light, headlights with high & low beams and flashing lights, horns, speedometer (in metric system) with battery indicator, side mirrors, and a small front storage compartment.

Unlike most scooters and motorcycles that are powered by gas, the Roketa e-bike is powered by a lead battery, and capable by being powered by longer lasting lithium-ion batteries. Replacement batteries will be the biggest expense as getting the needed cells will run up between $200-$400 depending on type (lithium-ion or lead).

On a single charge going full throttle, it will last around an hour and a half of driving or roughly 16-17 miles. You can get upwards of 20 miles on a full charge; however, I recommend recharging it once you get through a 10 mile trip. This is especially true if you’re making a return trip and don’t want to stuck pedaling for the remainder of the journey. Human power will recharge the battery but the juice is not substantial. Also, recharging the battery takes 4 to 5 hours.

In my initial experience, I enjoyed riding this e-bike. It cuts down on travelling and importantly I don’t show up to my destination dripping in sweat. It’s a breeze riding on this thing, despite it being heavy.
Now, here are some things I didn’t like about the bicycle. Aside from the horrible Scooters Plus return policy (which is non-existent), the Roketa ES-44 has some shoddy craftsmanship. To start off, the chain popped off after two days of using it. The rear tire, which was missing the air-cap, suddenly went flat on Day 3. There is also a crack on the battery casing.

I’ll give Scooters Plus some credit in fulfilling its 30-day warranty (seriously only a month) by replacing the tire and chain free of charge. They didn’t repair the cracked battery casing but added some padding between the seat and battery compartment to absorb shocks from bumps.

Since coming home from the repair shop, I’ve noticed the seam on the right side of the bike (between the seat and petals) is slightly exposed. Also, the light indicators below the speedometer are off center and not firmly in place.

Also, the side mirrors, which had to be tightened with proper tools, are perhaps there for show. It’s almost impossible to use them to see who is behind the bike. Oftentimes, I would have to look behind me to see how is riding my tail.

Because of the hastily crafted Chinese design, I am not certain how long this bike will hold up. Whenever it starts to fail (hopefully not too soon), it will be replaced with higher end models like a Jetson e-bike or a Vespa scooter.

The remaining negatives are not necessarily due to the bike, but more on the laws concerning electric bikes in the United States. Federal law considers e-bikes the same way as traditional bicycles. This includes scooter style ones if they max out at 20 mph and weigh less than 170 lbs. A license, insurance, and registration are not required to ride an e-bike in the country.
However, local laws are much different. Most states have clearly defined laws that determine whether or not a driver’s license and/or helmet are required. Some places, like Tennessee, are vague in what they classify these vehicles.

In this state, law says you need a license and helmet for mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles to operate on roads. There are no mentions of electric bikes in the law, but recent opinions tend to suggest that e-bikes like the Roketa ES-44 would require a license. It’s just that it doesn’t fit in the same category as a motorized bike or scooter. Regardless, you’ll need at least a helmet but don’t need to register and get tags for it.

With that said, it would be safe to have a regular driver’s license, but it could be possible to get a specialized Class M license in Tennessee. I plan on contacting the local DMV this week to find out which would be appropriate and schedule a test, if required. It’s an extra layer of protection, since you’ll get glances from police if you’re not wearing a helmet or not following traffic laws.

In summary, I have enjoyed riding the Roketa ES-44 both on the road and bike trails like the Shelby Farms Greenline (which e-bikes are permitted). However, the shoddy construction makes this a less desirable bike.

The price of the Roketa ES-44 ranges around $700-$900, but I bought mine for $825 without tax. It’s a really inexpensive electric bicycle.

As they say, you get what you pay for. As for this e-bike, it’s cheap in price and quality. I can not recommend this bike for anyone wanting a long-term alternate form of transportation.

I am actually selling this for $500 on Craigslist, and hopefully it gets sold. Whenever someone buys it or it craps out, I will invest in a well-built machine like a Jetson e-bike or Vespa. They’re more expensive, but people seem to love them and do not have much quality issues with them.

I have to score the Roketa ES-44 a rating of 2.5/5. It’s a pretty mediocre bike. It runs well, but the construction and failing parts makes me want to invest in something worthwhile.

If you’re looking to buy this e-bike and don’t have a lot of cash, then know what you’re getting into. Make sure to know the laws regarding e-bikes and return policies of the store selling it.

If you have the credit or cash to afford a better, more expensive electric bike or even scooter, STAY AWAY FROM THE ROKETA ES-44.

Here is a video from Global News from Toronto with a story about e-bikes. The Roketa ES-44, called Emmo Urban, is featured in this clip.