Trip Notes: Staying At The Grand Opening Of The TWA Hotel At JFK And Eating In NYC Restaurants

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As a 5th generation Clevelander on both my paternal and maternal sides, I enjoy the slower pace of life, the low cost of living, and even our underdog sports teams. Every now and then I venture into NYC to try out the amazing kosher food available there and to remind myself how much I enjoy not living in a bustling city. But I also appreciate everyone who does live there for making it such a great place to visit for a couple days ๐Ÿ™‚

Last Wednesday I had a couple of meetings in NYC, Paid tickets between Cleveland and NYC can cost a small fortune, so of course I used 7.5K Avios to fly to LaGuardia and used 10K United miles to fly back home.

I got nervous as Delta and United took off on time while my American flight was delayed. I can’t even recall the last time I flew American where my flight hasn’t been delayed or cancelled. Luckily though it wasn’t too bad of a delay and we were on our way.

I didn’t have my camera at my seat, but the approach into LaGuardia on the clear day made for nice pictures on my Galaxy Note8:


 

Izzy’s Smokehouse in Crown Heights makes some of the best kosher BBQ on the planet and is a staple when I’m in NYC. This Whatsapp viral voice-note in Yiddish sums it up pretty well:

Pitmaster Sruli Edelman and Jose Soto recently teamed up to open Izzy’s Taqueria next door to the smokehouse, so I had to check that out.

I invited DDF members to come hang out for lunch at noon and despite the short notice and time of the DO, more than a dozen showed up. Zalmy Silver also stopped by to make sure that things were safe.

Some of the crew:

I didn’t really know what to order, but I figured that you have to order Tacos when at a Taqueria. They were out of Steak/Carnitas, so I started with Fish tacos, that were very good:

 

I didn’t care for the lamb tacos, which were too dry and spicy:

 

The pastrami tacos were very good:

 

I didn’t think the empanadas were as good as the ones in Izzy’s smokehouse:

 

The Churros were decent, but not as good as others that I’ve had.

 

I felt that the food was good overall, but if I have the choice between eating here or at the smokehouse next door, it’s certainly going to be at the legendary smokehouse.

After lunch it was into the city for a full day of meetings with American Express and WeWork. One interesting tidbit that I am able to share is that since Business Platinum cardholders were given complimentary access to WeWork offices, there have been more than 24,000 workspaces booked across 400 WeWork locations in 100 cities and 28 countries. The WeWork space we went to was pretty amazing and I’d certainly take advantage of it, if only they had offices in Cleveland. I do plan on enrolling in the benefit and taking advantage of it on a trip, but I’ll wait until closer to the 12/31/19 signup deadline.

There are lots of great dinner options in NYC. Meat restaurants like Allenbi, Mike’s Bistro, and Reserve Cut and dairy restaurants like Abaita and Noi Due are all phenomenal.

I asked DDF member AJK if he wanted to go out for a late dinner and we made up to try out Barnea Bistro, which would be new for both of us.

We arrived at 10pm and it was still packed inside. The temperature was perfect outside, so we asked to eat al fresco.

I’m a sucker for anything passion fruit, so I ordered a Golden Eye cocktail, made with Russian Standard vodka, passion fruit, ginger, spiced syrup, and tiki bitters. What a great drink!

AJK took a sip of mine and had to get it for himself. And then we each proceeded to order another one later in the evening:

 

The lamb riblets appetizer was the best lamb dish I’ve ever had. Succulent and melt-in-your-mouth goodness:

 

After having fish tacos earlier in the day I wasn’t running to try that again, but our waiter insisted that their red snapper version of the tacos would be memorable.

He wasn’t kidding, they were perfection:

 

We ordered Braised Beef Arancini, but our waiter came back and told us they were all gone. He recommended an off-the-menu substitute of braised brisket sliders. Neither of us were in the mood of washing for bread, but once again he promised that we wouldn’t regret it.

And once again he was on target. These were truly delicious brisket sliders on an absolutely perfect thin and crispy baguette. Wow!

 

Next up was short rib gnocchi. My favorite gnocchi is the duck gnocchi from Mike’s Bistro, but these are also unbelievable and right up in the same league:

After all of those appeatizers we shared an entree of 28-day dry aged delmonico in a peppercorn sauce. Out. Of. This. World. Quite possibly the finest steak either of us have ever had with a spectacular crust and cooked to juicy perfection:

For dessert we ordered the olive oil cake with lemon whipped cream and strawberries with strawberry jam. There are no words to describe this other than insanely good:

 

We were discussing how neither of us could recall eating out at a place where every single dish was perfect. What was even more surprising was that we had heard mixed reviews about Barnea. Chef and owner Josh Kessler came over to our table as we told him how impressed we were with every dish and he noted that he was on the station for the night, so make sure he is on the clock if you go here as well! He came over from Mike’s Bistro, another excellent restaurant, so it’s no surprise that his restaurant is amazing.

I daresay that I found a new favorite restaurant.

At midnight I finally headed over to the TWA Hotel at JFK. It was opening day, but they promised that the rooftop pool would be heated and open:

 

I flew on TWA from JFK to Tel Aviv as a 6 month old in 1985. Although I don’t remember the flight, my father always reminds me that he walked across the Atlantic Ocean on that flight carrying me, so that I didnโ€™t cry. I was excited to see how they had turned the old TWA flight center into a hotel.

The retro look of the lobby is amazing as the hotel tried to keep things to the time period of the 1962 opening of the terminal:

 

If you take a left after entering you enter the arrival hall, where you can check in:

 

There were computer kiosks for check-in, but I got an error message when I tried to use one:

 

Check-in was a bit of a mess. To my left was someone who was told that his reserved room type was not available. To my right was someone with a toilet in their room that was not operational and that wasn’t able to report it as nobody at the front desk answered the phone. Yikes.

I checked in and asked about the pool hours. I was told that the pool and observation deck were closed and there was no ETA for when they would open.

I rarely pay cash for airfare or hotels, but I decided to make an exception to check out the TWA Hotel. I had reserved a base room with an $224 advance purchase rate and when there was an issue processing my card, a hotel rep called me the evening before to confirm my payment. I told the front desk that I had confirmed that the rooftop pool would be open just the day beforehand and that I specifically booked the hotel for that reason.

At first they offered $60 off but when I balked they offered 50% off, which I accepted.

I walked past the sunken lounge on the way to my room:

 

 

Even the elevator has TWA branding:

 

Hotel hallway:

 

The room itself is small, but serviceable:

 

The shower has shared toiletries in the name of being green (or is that saving green?):

 

There is only a half door on the shower and the water in the shower only got lukewarm. The effect of this made for a very cold shower as the air blows in and the water isn’t hot enough to keep you warm:

 

 

I loved flipping through the 1962 issue of LIFE magazine:

 

Which had gems like this ad:

 

The hotel is a playground for aviation geeks and I set about exploring it. From the lobby you can go to the Hughes Wing or the Saarinen Wing. The lobby is actually the 4th floor and if you go down to the 1st floor of the Hughes Wing you can findย lots of cool TWA throwbacks:

Hughes Wing 1st floor: Hughes Wing 1st floor: Hughes Wing 1st floor: Hughes Wing 1st floor: Hughes Wing 1st floor: Hughes Wing 1st floor: Hughes Wing 1st floor:

 

Antique payphones in the lobby. Alas they were not functional.

 

The iconic flight tubes connect the Hughes Wing and the Saarinen Wing with the lobby:

 

At the end of the Saarinen Wing and Hughes Wing off the lobby level/4th floor you can find information and exhibits about the architect of the TWA Flight Center, Eero Saarinen:

 

A recreation of TWA owner Howard Hughes’ desk and lots of fun TWA brochures:

You can take an elevator right from the hotel into the JetBlue terminal 5 at JFK:

I wandered into JetBlue’s baggage claim area and then went back to the hotel via this elevator. No key is required, so this is a great place to explore during a flight delay:

 

If you take the elevator down from the Saarinen Wing to the 1st floor you can walk outside to the mock runway between the flight center and the JetBlue terminal:

There’s a restored Lockheed Constellation, Connie for short, on display. Inside you can order drinks, but it was closed when I got around to it:

 

View of the Connie, the lobby/TWA flight center, and the “runway:”

 

From the Connie you can see right into the hotel rooms, so you’ll want to make sure your shades are closed. Many rooms were in various phases of being prepared and were not yet ready for guests:

I walked around to the front of the hotel for a picture of the iconic TWA sign:

 

By now it was past 3 in the morning and I hit the sack. I briefly registered that the mattress seemed comfortable, but the sheets were rather scratchy.

Less than 4 hours later I was woken by the sound of loud construction, likely from the observation deck on the top of the Hughes wing where my room was. Talk about a double whammy of the observation/pool deck not being on time as promised!

I was upgraded to a view room as the base rooms were not yet finished.

The view looking down is not worth paying extra for:

Looking straight out you can see into the flight center. Worth paying extra for? You be the judge:

King view room with the shades open:

I forgot my toothbrush at home and looked around the room for a phone to call room service. But there was no phone to be found. I tried calling the hotel from my cell phone, but nobody answered.

The shower still didn’t give water any hotter than lukewarm, and with the open shower door it’s just not a pleasant experience.

Clearly the hotel wasn’t ready for prime time, though it was surprising to see damaged exit signs, random items outside rooms in the hallway, and dirty flooring.

 

 

Back to the lobby for the morning view:

And I went back out to see if Connie was open, but she was not:

Hughes Wing of the hotel:

 

At checkout I let them know about the issues like:

  • Rooftop pool being closed
  • Construction noise
  • Lack of hot water in the shower
  • Lack of a phone in the room
  • Nobody answers the phone when you call the hotel
  • Several elevators were out of service
  • Scratchy sheets

They apologized and offered to comp the room.

The hotel is in a great airport location, but I’d be hesitant to return until I learned if those issues were resolved.

There are day rates available, which is great for time between connections at JFK. If you stay at the hotel for a night or day rate I’d love to hear if things have improved.

If you just want to check out the hotel you can walk right in and look around. No need to spend the night to explore.

In the end I didn’t wind up getting a credit for the offered refund of my room and I called and emailed the hotel to no avail. I realized that I should try calling the hotel rep that had called me for my payment and sure enough he processed the promised refund. If you are offered compensation for issues, be sure to get it in writing in case of issues with a refund.

I checked out of the hotel and then went to daven Shacharis at the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ohel near JFK.

After that it was back to Crown Heights, where I went to Bakierie and picked up some delicious dairy croissants and a milk chocolate mousse salted caramel cake for my wife back home:

 

Then I walked to Gombos where I picked up some mouth-watering chocolate and some cinnamon kokush cakes and packed them into my carry-on to bring home. My kids gobbled one up on Shabbos and we froze the rest:

 

They also have truly divine cheese and caramel donuts that are just out of the world:

 

Finally I walked to Izzy’s where I picked up 4 slabs of Dino ribs that I had ordered the day before and had frozen. You can reheat them in a pan with some Dr. Pepper and they taste nearly as good as they do fresh from the smoker!

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#Heaven #BBQ #DinoRibs #MeltInYourMouth #CrownHeights #WorthTheTripFromCLE @izzysbbq

A post shared by DansDeals (@dansdeals) on

 

After wrapping up in Crown Heights, it was off to Le Marais for lunch. I used to be obsessed with the burger at Clubhouse Cafe (which was owned by and was located across from Le Marais) before they closed and some DDF members tipped me off that Le Marais’ burger is very similar to the Clubhouse burger.

Sure enough it was fantastic and it’s a great value at $17.50 for a big juicy burger along with grilled onions, delicious fries, and their house salad:

 

I’m also obsessed with Le Marais’ peppercorn steak. They charge $42 for it at the restaurant, but their butcher sells them raw for about $16 each. I ordered a couple dozen of them frozen and stuffed them into my now bulging carry-on for some grilling this summer.

 

I flew back home using 10K United miles from Newark.

New Kosher Special makes delicious Chinese food and delivers it for free to Newark Airport with a $40 minimum order. In the old days you had to pay with cash, but now you can even order online and pay with a credit card, so I earned triple points on my Sapphire Reserve card.ย  I always order from them when I connect in Newark, but I decided to bring home dinner and have them meet me at checkin. See my tips for the best meal in the Instagram caption below ๐Ÿ™‚

Cleveland might not have any amazing kosher restaurants, but my carry-on bag was about to supply it with food from Bakerie, Gombo’s, Izzy’s, Le Marais, and New Kosher Special.

With United Global Services status I was whisked to the front of the long security line and made it through security in less than a minute. The time savings is probably the best benefit of that status as I can show up to Newark Airport half an hour before a flight and not worry about missing it.

As usual for NYC though, the flight was delayed and the lounges were packed, but soon enough I was on my way home.

Until next time NYC!

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103 Comments On "Trip Notes: Staying At The Grand Opening Of The TWA Hotel At JFK And Eating In NYC Restaurants"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions arenโ€™t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Shaul Yaakov Morrison

Dr..pepper for the ribs, why? And you pour the soda in and just out the ribs on top of them?

Rand

Way to much a about food.

myi

Well that’s what happens when you live in Cleveland and there’s no place or nothing rather to eat.
He made up for it with the amount he ate.
Still waiting to be invited to one of these outings. ๐Ÿ™‚

SearchGuy

Why donโ€™t you use a TY Prestige for dining (5x)?

Jay

Great pics from LGA landing! Fave NYC airport (view-wise only)

myi

Well written, and enjoyed reading.
Seems liKe you had a party.
You ate more then I eat in a months time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Why would they only place one door on a shower? Weird is not the word.

I am guessing all the food you brought back was allowed to be brought back on a plain?

And I am assuming the AA was only tops 2hrs otherwise you would have wrote about the refund you requested from them. Lol(or start now and hope in the next few years you hear back from them.)

Mark

Really enjoyed, good to know about barnea, didn’t make it there, but wasn’t running, but that’s definitely my next date.

Opinion

@dan You seem to have โ€œMazelโ€ with your flights in and out of NYC. I book on an average business day 8 tickets for employees of the company I work for – some days even more – mostly that depart form NYC airports. My experience has shown me that American has had the least delayed flights if any. United both from Newark and LGA are pretty decent although from some particular routes like Rochester, NY they constantly cancel the flights and delay them. Delta is the worst by far, they reschedule and reschedule for the longest time and then cancel – and donโ€™t compensate easily.
All the tickets I book is with air miles or via Amex Platinum and get the 35% MR kickback. I know you hate American with passion, but with AAdisAdvantage Gold status I can move passengers to an earlier or later flight for free even if they are not Gold – as long as it was booked under my account, so that helps me a lot – I keep checking if w flight is someone is scheduled is delayed – if yes I move him to a later flight or an earlier one. And yes I will always count on American the first if I have to have someone for an important time sensitive meeting.

chaim

out of curiosity how did the first class twa product of the 80’s-90’s compare to todays business/first class

dhammer53

I was at TWA the evening of the 15th. I did see a couple of guys with keepa’s, and inquired if they were looking for a Minyan.

hino

Does the Hotel have parking?

Emes

Green soaps in the shower? Bring your own. Guaranteed whatever is in there isn’t sanitary.

Davidthebest

Wow. Didn’t get any notification about the DO ….next time tag me….

Dave

So if I’m coming for a visit to Cleveland this summer should I bring along food from NY ?

Points Refund

Great report Dan, thanks. Live in New York (CH) and never make it out to any of these places, so it’s nice to get an honest opinion with pics on them.

For real

How did u get GS?

theblaide

great TR, lots of info thanx!!

Ari

Barnes Bistro is now, IMHO, the best kosher restaurant in NY. Darjeeling used to be my favorite in the world, but with it gone, I’m not sure that anything domestic OR international quite compares with how good Barnea is. Truth is Josh has been in the kitchen all 4 times that I’ve been there, but I have not had a single bite there that isn’t a home run…

chaz

forget the old fashioned Twa situation , this was just a good old fashioned post! reminding me of the olden days with the old format, which you may or may not remember dan!!!

Tony c

Word is les Marais is closing……hope not but thatโ€™s what the street is saying

Jake

Side questions:
1)I used your code for silver car as a new customer but did not get any information from them re: the $25. Iโ€™m planning on renting the car tomr night.

2) Is there a way for you to sticky in the trip destination guide all the updated kosher restaurants and shuls? Itโ€™s so hard to find in the forums. Ex. Barcelona

Thanks

Emgee

@Dan your an unpredictable fellow, I was wondering what you will think about Barnea. I’m glad you liked it. My favorite restaurant to date. Grate food and exceptional staff..

Eli

You only brush your teeth in the morning not at night?

zvi

I live in NYC (unfortunately), and have eaten in many of Kosher steakhouses worldwide. I must give a shout-out to the best smoked meat restaurant : for me it’s GENESIS STEAKHOUSE in of all places, Houston Tx !

mileagejunkie

@zvi Genesis is amazing, I was not expecting such good food from an โ€œout of townโ€ place. Personally Iโ€™m not a fan of Mikeโ€™s (overpriced and small portions) or Noi Due (good food but the ambiance and seating donโ€™t make it enjoyable). You should try UN Plaza and Wall Street Grill ๐Ÿ˜‰

A

Texas has some of the best bbq in the world. No surprise you would find good bbq there, even if itโ€™s kosher.

Los

I thought you lost your GS status on 1/31/19 ??

Anon

Can anyone explain how to subscribe to the thread on the forums please . Ty Dan I really enjoyed reading the TR . I’d love to be at the next DO..

Sam the Dentist

@Dan You went to bed without brushing your teeth!!!
Next time you’re in the area let me know I’ll hook you up with a free cleaning!

Emes

ืกืคืจ ื ื“ื•ื“ื™ ืฉื™ื ื”
ื—ืœืง ื’’ ืกืขื™ืฃ ื–.
ืžื™ ืฉืื•ืžืจ ืงืฉืขื””ืž ืœืคื ื™ ื”ืฉื™ื ื” ืจืง ื‘ืจื‘ืข ื”ืื—ืจื•ืŸ ืฉืœ ื”ืœื™ืœื”, ืขื“ื™ืฃ ื”ื•ื ืœืฉื˜ื•ืฃ ืืช ื”ืคื” ืฉืœื• ืœืคื ื™ ืงืจื™ืืช ืฉืžืข, ืื‘ืœ ืื ืื—ื“ ืฉื•ื›ื— ืœืฉื˜ื•ืฃ ืืช ื”ืคื” ืฉืœื• ืขืงื‘ ืชืฉื™ืฉื•ืช ืžื”ืขื‘ื•ื“ื” ืฉืœ ื”ื™ื•ื ื”ืงื•ื“ื, ืคื˜ื•ืจ ื›ืฉื”ื•ื ื™ืฉืŸ ืœื ื™ื•ืชืจ ืžืฉืœื™ืฉ ืฉืœ ื”ืœื™ืœื” .ื ื—ืฉื‘ ืชื ื•ืžื” ืืจื•ื›ื” ื•ืœื ืฉื™ื ื” ื—ื•ืฅ ืžื™ื””ื› ืชืฉืขื” ื‘ืื‘ ื•ืœื™ืœ ื”ืกื“ืจ ืฉืืกื•ืจ ืœืฉื˜ื•ืฃ ื‘ื›ืœืœ .

Sg

Mekor?

mike

what service did you use to get your food delivered to the gate? beyond menu? i didnt see where you can enter gate info.

eliezer

dan is the man
d
a
n

I work

Which WeWork location did you visit? Was it on W31st near Penn Station?

anonymous

how did you get around im just curious did you use uber? do you have lots of uber cash from vlo?

TWA 800

DID you find the missing airplane?

Elaine

We will be spending the day at the TWA Hotel before our flight, do you know if there is anyway to get/order a kosher meal or two? Thanks!

Emes

Plenty of kosher establishments (and minyanim) within a 10 to 15 minute cab ride from JFK, along Central Avenue in Nassau County or Main Street in Queens County. If you don’t want to shell out for a cab, there’s public transportation to Main Street via Jamaica Station, but it will still cost you upwards of $16.00 round trip, and takes 20-30 minutes each way depending on your wait.

Ben

How you are not 350lb is beyond me… you must have a wicked exercise machine! ๐Ÿ™‚

T5\'er

Where exactly is there an elevator that connects the hotel to the T5 baggage level? Also, did when walking through the Tubes, did continue walking past the turnoff for the hotel rooms and continue right into T5?

The guy who warned you about the windows

I see me in one of your pics! ๐Ÿ™‚

Joel2

The Connie was open today. Didnt go check it out though.

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