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A quick bite of the Apple

Teeming with sights, shops food and culture, New York City has plenty to pique the curiosity, and the palate, of the short-term visitor.

January 28, 2007|Beverly Beyette | Times Staff Writer

New York — THIS is a West Side story, a chance for a 24-hour romance with Manhattan. Yes, I have been here many times -- and the Port of New York's cruise terminal at 55th Street and the Hudson River isn't in the most scenic part of town. But there's always a bit of romance in the air with cruise ships in the neighborhood.

I started with a walking tour of Hell's Kitchen, roughly between 40th and 59th streets, with 9th and 10th avenues as the main north-south arteries. Formerly filled with tenements, it's a bit gritty but not scary. I encountered homeless people and street characters, but I never felt threatened. Even as gentrification occurs and good restaurants move in, ethnic cafes and small storefronts continue to give the area its earthy character.

Pier 83 at 42nd Street, an easy walk from the cruise terminal, is the departure point for Circle Line sightseeing cruises. I've taken this trip several times and have never been disappointed. Choose the two-hour semicircle cruise that covers the highlights, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In winter, take the 4 p.m. and watch lights twinkle on in the city's skyscrapers. These cruises are popular, even in winter, so arrive at least 45 minutes before sailing. Two crosstown buses, the M42 and the M50, run between the port and the pier.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 04, 2007 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 18 Features Desk 2 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Airline information: A story about cruises from New York ports in the Jan. 28 section reported that American flies nonstop from LAX to LaGuardia and that Continental, Delta, Northwest and AirTran have connecting flights. From LAX, American, Midwest and US Airways fly direct (stop, no change of plane) to LaGuardia. American, Delta, Continental, AirTran, US Airways and United have connecting flights (change of plane). The restricted round-trip fare was incorrect. It begins at $248.

A Gray Line hop-on, hop-off, double-decker bus tour offers a quickie overview of the city. The two-hour uptown loop leaves from the visitor center at 777 8th Ave. between 47th and 48th streets. What you'll see: Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theater, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and more.

Because the city has good public transportation and taxis are plentiful, you don't need to find a hotel close to the port (a good thing, because pickings are slim there). On my visit in December, I chose two West Side (west of Fifth Avenue) hotels: one young and avant-garde and close to Times Square and the theater district, the other a traditional hotel convenient to Fifth Avenue shops and Rockefeller Center.

The demographic skews young at Hotel QT on West 45th, part of the Andre Balazs hotel empire that includes West Hollywood's Chateau Marmont. It's wedged between pubs, there's no lobby to speak of and a magazine kiosk doubles as the front desk. This is cheap chic (at least cheap by Manhattan standards). A big selling point is the indoor pool with a swim-up bar. My room in the back of the hotel was small but quiet, with a divinely comfortable king platform bed and a ladder to a bed above. Reaching the window entailed crawling over my bed. I also stayed at the Warwick, which some might call old-fashioned (floral draperies in the room, armoire with TV). But the room was a nice size and had a bit of a city view. The hotel has two dining options, Murals on 54 and the clubby Randolph's Bar.

If you decide to stay near the cruise terminal, try the stylish Hudson Hotel, which has stunning public spaces, including a library-pool room with fireplace and contemporary bar. But the typical room I was shown was small, with a minuscule bathroom separated from the bedroom by a filmy curtain.

Just up from the Circle Line dock on 42nd Street is the Travel Inn. I almost walked on -- the neighborhood is off-putting -- but reconsidered after I ducked in and found large, clean rooms and an outdoor pool. There's a small coffee shop next door, and a block away is the 42nd Street Pizza Corp., a reasonably priced, full-menu restaurant that's been there since the 1930s.

Another cost-conscious lodging option is the perfectly fine, if not exceptional, Holiday Inn-Midtown on West 57th Street.

Sushi bars, Greek restaurants, kebab cafes and noodle shops are all part of the restaurant mix in Hell's Kitchen (which city fathers prefer to call Clinton, not for the former president but for a prominent New York family). I had a good salad lunch at the smartly contemporary 44 & X, where waiters' brown T-shirts read "Heaven in Hell." The menu features such items as goat cheese pistachio souffle and lobster tacos.

Another winner is Whym, a spiffy minimalist space on 9th Avenue, which serves an excellent brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The dinner menu includes chipotle-spiked meatloaf and lamb shanks with saffron orzo. For homemade pasta in a convivial atmosphere, there's the neighborhood favorite, Puttanesca, nearby. If you're on the go, a quick deli sandwich or salad from the salad bar at the upscale Amish Market might be in order.

Farther afield on the Lower West Side and decidedly pricier is Spice Market on West 13th Street in the gentrified Meatpacking District. It's a restaurant, not a market, easily reached by cab or by the A, C or E subway trains from Times Square. Upscale Southeast Asian street food dominates at this big, bustling site that's decked out with Indian carvings, silk lanterns and palms. Dishes are infused with chili and curry, and reservations are a must.

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