After many long, treacherous months away from my beautiful New York, I made my long-awaited return just a couple weeks ago. The purpose of this trip was to attend a series of concerts, on both Thursday and Friday, with my cousin, Kelly. But, everyone should know by now that in my case, there’s always an underlying motive: restaurants. from. shows.
Now this time is a bit different than one might assume from my previous work. I’ve traded in Elie Saab gowns for puffy shirts and Chuck Bass for Cosmo Kramer. If you haven’t figured it out by now, let me spare you the embarrassment. We’re talking Seinfeld people. So where was I headed? Let’s find out.
I was raised on the “submarine captain” principles of Elaine Benes and the alternative holiday traditions of Frank Costanza, so why now? Why has it taken so long for me to realize the importance of this monumental occasion? I’ll tell you why. I blame my unwavering love for Gossip Girl as the culprit of forgetting my comedic roots. But nonetheless, I had made it. No, not H&H Bagels or The Original Soup Man, but Monk’s. Obviously it’s really called Tom’s Restaurant, but for the sake of us fans, let’s play pretend.
I was dropped off down the street from Tom’s in my “shared saver” ride with Lyft, and after my directionally challenged brain took me on a few wrong turns, I had made it . The big, blue, sign reading “restaurant” in all caps. It was one of those unique experiences where you want to pinch yourself to make sure you’re actually there and living in this moment. I had been roaming the city alone while my cousin was at work, so I took some touristy selfies and headed inside.
As I waited by a “please wait to be seated” sign, I scaled the room, enjoying the array of signed cast photos along the wall. Though I probably would’ve preferred a booth, the staff member seated me at the counter, with the other singles of the lunch crowd. Side note, in this moment, I began having flashbacks to an epsiode of Sex and the City where Carrie is sitting at an eerily similar cafe counter, pondering the possibility of a life alone. Enjoy that little morsel of information however you see fit. Moving on.
A cheerful gentleman emerged from where I assumed was the kitchen, approached me from behind the counter, and took my order. Everything from cheeseburgers to the salads looked to die for, so it was basically the worst time to be on a diet. I eventually made a decision on the simple BLT wrap. My food came out quickly and was effortlessly delicious. As I sat there eating, it actually felt refreshing to be alone and take everything in. I will say, the inside of Tom’s is not much like what we see when the gang meets up in the show. In fact, I don’t think the inside was ever used in filming at all. But there was some beauty in this fact, because it was the real Tom’s that I was eating in, and I was in New York. It doesn’t get much better than that.
While nearing the end of my meal, I realized that I still had to head back to my cousin’s apartment to change for the concert we were going to later that evening. I got my to-go box, obviously picked out a t-shirt, and quickly paid the kind man working the register. Next stop, Penn Station.
Fast forward a few hours later,I was changed and back on the LIRR to meet my cousin in Manhattan. After my usual directional challenges with the subway, Kelly and I found each other and made our way to Webster Hall for our second and final concert of the weekend.
After the main act performed his last song, we took to the streets in search of sustenance. I had remembered from my extensive restaurant research that we were near the famous pierogi spot, Veselka.
I have a confession, I didn’t entirely trade Bass for Kramer. Why choose one when you can have both? Except in this case, it’s more of a Dan and Vanessa situation. That’s right people, Gossip Girl food tours are back and better than ever! I present to you the third edition of what is most likely a soon to be a short novel.
We arrived at Veselka just before midnight. The coolest part about this place, from what I could tell on the surface, is that it’s open 24/7. Upon walking inside, I noticed a wall engulfed in a collage of stickers to my left, and a large sign listing the specials above the food counter to my right. Even though we had a bit of a wait, I was pleased to see the place was very popular, even at the latest hours.
Once we were seated, I decided to treat myself and ordered a Coke Zero. Though the place was quite literally famous for pierogies, I couldn’t let go of my weight loss goals too much. I decided to be alarmingly boring and ordered the beet and goat cheese salad. Keep in mind, the Gossip Girl star power emanating from being in this very restaurant was good enough for me.
Kelly and I spent hours talking about anything and everything. We were periodically interrupted by a strange couple consisting of a woman that seemed to be an employee and a man in scrubs who was just outside the side door. The two would go from a screaming fit of rage to aggressively lip locking outside, for all of Veselka’s patrons to see. It was a memorable evening alright, and full of twists.
I found Veselka to be a bright and bustling spot for young people, largely consisting of what I observed to be NYU students. Though I opted for a salad, I was able to try a bite of one of the handmade pierogies, so don’t you worry.
I hope my strange addiction to living out this fantasy life of restaurants featured in television and film will inspire others to take the same weird turns as me. The possibilities of where you can end up in the city are all-consuming and endless, and in this I find the reasoning in why I just can’t stop writing about New York. Until next time…