Hidden Gems on the Upper West Side

I love being able to share my favorite New York spots with you on “Meet Me There“.  Of course, showing you all of my favorites would have made the episode about two hours long! But here are some Upper West Side gems for your next visit:

  • As I said in the episode, Milo’s is my favorite restaurant in New York City. But my favorite neighborhood bistro is Cafe Luxembourg. It’s just around the corner from me, and it’s been a local favorite for more than three decades. The menu is wonderful and the bartender is top notch!

    Cafe Luxembourg New York City

    Cafe Luxembourg

  • I love the bright lights of Broadway, but I’ve discovered and even become a part of some amazing live entertainment at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. UCB was founded by some very funny folks—including Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live fame—and is the training ground for many of the cast members on that show, The Daily Show, and others. I started taking improv classes at UCB and fell in love with it. The shows are hilarious and, unlike some Broadway productions,don’t require you to take money out of your 401k to pay for tickets! If you like to laugh, you won’t be disappointed.

    UCB Theatre Chelsea

    UCB Theatre Chelsea

  • To my great relief, Corbin found a neighborhood toy store that has cut down on our trips to the Times Square Toys R Us! Now we hit Stationery and Toy on West 72nd Street. Despite the conspicuous lack of an indoor Ferris wheel, he is happy as can be, and so am I.

    Stationery and Toy David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    Stationery and Toy
    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

  • Some big name brand stores have moved onto my main drag, Columbus Avenue, but I still prefer to pop into A Tempo for a new dress or Cafe Margot in the historic Ansonia building for a hot cup of coffee after grocery shopping at my local Fairway grocery store.

    Cafe Margot

    Cafe Margot

  • I’m OVER the cupcake craze, aren’t you? When I’m hungry for a baked treat, I head over to Levain bakery on West 74th. The $4 cookies are as big as softballs. They’re meant to be shared – but don’t ask me to share with you. I won’t. They are that good! Get the chocolate-peanut butter chip cookie. You’re welcome!


    Cookies are THAT big!

Living the Dream in New York City

Living the Dream

When I was anchoring the morning news cast at KTAL-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, my dream was to move to New York City and take over for Katie Couric. I thought I’d look fantastic alongside Matt and Al. (Some days, I still think that!) But sometimes life takes you on the scenic route. That’s what happened to me.  Fast forward—A few years later, I was no longer in television news.  I was married and soon after nursing a baby and changing diapers. Fast forward to now…

sheep's meadow in Central Park

All Smiles from the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park

I am living in New York City and loving every minute of it. So half of my dream came true. But Katie, you can sleep easy. I’m no longer gunning for your job! So how did I get here? I would have never in a million years thought that my repeat vacation destination would later become my home town, thanks in part to our Exclusive Resorts Concierge in New York.

From Arkansas to the Apple

One day, at our home in Jonesboro, Arkansas, my husband and I had a serious discussion about moving to New York City. It went like this:

“DJ, what do you think about moving to New York City?”, said Mark.

“I’ll be ready in five minutes!”, DJ exclaimed.

It was one of the most decisive conversations we’d ever had.

We’d lived the majority of our lives in Arkansas, but from the first Exclusive Resorts trip to Manhattan, we were in love with the Big Apple. There wasn’t just one thing about the city that drew us here. There were a lot of different things. From the people and food, to the museums and lights of Broadway, the city captivated us in a way like no other city in the country.

After a few weekend getaways, we found ourselves scouting out apartments instead of sightseeing. Our ER concierge encouraged our curiosity. On her days off, she would go to real estate open houses and then call us with the scoop.(Talk about service that goes above and beyond!)

“It was awful. Total fixer-upper.”

“Those on-line photos have been photoshopped to death”

“It was AMAZING, D.J., you’d love the kitchen! But it’s under contract.”

It was a process. But finally, we found the right place for the whole family. We moved on August 10, 2010, and it was a day I will never forget. We walked into our beautiful new apartment on the Upper West Side with just a few suitcases and Leo, our dachshund.

living room

My Living Room featured in Lonny October 2011

I knew I was no longer just a visitor in New York City. There would not be a car waiting to pick me up in a few days to catch a return flight to Arkansas. Or a packed schedule of things to see and do. All I had to do was put down my bags, kick off my shoes and exhale! I was home and I was over the moon excited about this new chapter in our lives.

Settling In

When we moved, I knew New York pretty well—for a visitor. But as you can probably imagine, living in New York City is a totally different experience. I moved from Jonesboro, Arkansas, a town of roughly 60,000 people, to one of the largest cities in the world in a matter of hours. Everything was different. You can’t just zip across town to the grocery store and park your car in the lot. I learned to love the subway, which is hands down the fastest and easiest way to get around NYC, other than walking!

All-weather gear was not anything I spent much time worrying about before I moved. Proper outwear is essential every day of the year in New York. It is a walking city and you need to be dressed appropriately all the time. Rain, sleet, snow or sun, I don’t want to be stuck in midtown without the proper gear in the event of a downpour or a blizzard in January. Or caught in the sweltering heat of July without my sunglasses and a hat! Without the sanctuary of a car to duck into, it’s just me and the elements most days. Although a taxi or the subway isn’t usually too far away.

Full Contact Shopping

About that grocery store, and shopping in general? It’s not easy to trek four blocks from the grocery store with heavy bags in tow! I learned to shop for a few days at a time so I could carry the bags home—or better yet, have them delivered. I can even order groceries on-line and have them delivered….all from the comfort of my bed! Grocery delivery definitely comes in handy when snow is piled high on the side walks and the temperature drops below freezing.

Maneuvering in a Manhattan grocery store is like living in a bad video game. The aisles are tiny and so are the grocery carts. The energy in my local store, Fairway, is similar at times to what you’d feel at a boxing match. You can feel the anticipation of someone about to take out a shopper with a one-two punch at any given moment, for no reason other than they aren’t moving fast enough!

School Next Door—And Everywhere

Some things are more convenient in New York than they were in Jonesboro. Corbin started kindergarten in the public school right next door to our apartment – no morning commute for us. In Jonesboro, I’d have to get Corbin in his car seat and make the drive across town to his school every day. But now it was just a short three-minute walk to the front of the school! Reading, writing, and arithmetic just steps away from home.

Corbin at Bronx Zoo

Corbin and the Hairy Creature at the Zoo

And let’s talk about the field trips! Corbin and his class have visited the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the Natural History Museum, and Ellis Island. He even has an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., and a trip to London in his elementary school future. Growing up in Carlisle, Arkansas, I remember one time we checked out a local dairy farm and once even made a trip to the state capitol and the Little Rock Zoo! New York City itself is a classroom for Corbin and the rest of us, too.

Do Not Enter

What’s not part of my New York Experience? Two words: Times Square. Sure, I’ve done the touristy things in the city, and still do on occasion. But I only venture into Times Square if I’m on the losing end of a bet with Corbin and have to take him to the indoor Ferris wheel at Toys R Us to settle up. Other than that? Forget it. Even if I have theater tickets I’ll sidestep the whole area to avoid the chaos. (We did shoot ONE scene of the NYC episode of “Meet Me There” in Times Square. It was NUTS, even more so than usual. After we wrapped the episode, we found out that there had been a crash involving some tour busses a block away from where we were shooting!)

DJ in front of Juniors in Times Square

Escaping the Times Square Bus Crash Insanity

It’s been four years since we moved to New York City but it feels like I’ve been here much longer. I may be Southern by the grace of God, but I’m a big city girl at heart. As for the other half of my dream? I’m living it right now with Exclusive Resorts, getting to create “Meet Me There.” Sharing my adventures with you and introducing you to new people and places is also something my 22-year-old self would have never thought possible! See, dreams do come true, and sometimes turn out even better than you expected.

Om Shanti, 80s Music and Bearing Right in NYC

It’s graduation week for me.  “Some one cue up ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, please”.  I wrapped up my second story telling class at The Peoples Improv Theater last week.  The class graduation show was a hit! And I shared my story, “Om Shanti Mother F**ker” that started as a blog post!  You can watch it here!

My second graduation of the week took place on stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade!  I don’t have any video of the performance. Call me a scaredy cat, but you just never know what is going to unfold on a stage in an improv class!  As it turns out, the scenes were full of sex, twisted fetishes and bikini waxes!  Think I made the right call on giving my camera guy the night off!  I do have some photos as proof that the show actually took place though.   And I passed the class which means I’m moving on to Improv 2-0-1 in December.  Who knows, Lorne Michaels may decide he needs a southern belle in the SNL cast next season? Hah!  I won’t hold my breath.

Improv Homies

Improv Homies