The Strip

The popular image of New York is that of glistening skyscrapers, high end stores, fashionable theatres and chic eateries, and of course, it is all of these things.

However, the city has another side, not the shiny one shown in Sex and the City, but the grittier one of Law and Order, rawer and sometimes primitive, and all the more fascinating for being so. This is the New York I love, the one of coffee bars with 1970s décor and formica tables, Thelma Ritter look-alikes having lunch at the counter in cosy anonymity. You will need to go a few blocks above 59th street to find it, but it is well worth exploring.

Thelma Ritter, circa 1951. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Thelma Ritter, circa 1951. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

One of my favourite blocks is on Broadway between 123rd and 125th, an area which I call The Strip. Here you will find a row of independent restaurants overlooked by the last stretch of overhead subway remaining in Manhattan. Your dining experience is enhanced by the atmospheric clickety-click of the 1 train passing overhead, a gentle pink in the setting sun.

Walking down from the Liquor store on 123rd, you will find a row of Chinese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mexican bistros,  bustling places where you can eat with dignity for less than $20 a head. My particular favourite is an American restaurant, Toast , which provides casual dining at honest prices. The waiters here are friendly, efficient, and attentive without being overzealous. It has a magnificent wooden bar where real people while away the evening over a few beers.

Chatting with friends outside Toast with the subway train passing  overhead, I felt like the world was my oyster.

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