The racing season concludes at Belmont Park on July 13th. Put on some red, white and blue for the Stars and Stripes Festival on July 5th or choose another outfit and another day.
Here are some suggestions for before and after your visit to Belmont Park, with some special attention paid to options around Penn Station - convenient if youʼre taking the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Elmont, N.Y.
I was lucky enough to be in Manhattan on National Doughnut Day (the first Friday in June) and we made a run to Doughnut Plant. I knew my daughter would love it and that my mother would tolerate it ... mostly because my daughter would love it. The selection dwindled dramatically while we waited in line. The last of the choices that excited us disappeared two people ahead of us. Fortunately, they were prepared and new supplies arrived just in time! Looks like my hand was shaking in anticipation based on the blurry photo.
We opted for blackout cake, coffee cake, and peanut butter and strawberry jam doughnuts. Although the cakes were delicious, I prefer the airier, less dense style. The square ones are fun and different and the peanut butter/strawberry jam went surprisingly well with my iced coffee. And I was right, my daughter loved it!
There are two locations, one in Chelsea and one on the lower east side (both are convenient to subway stops). Go to an actual Doughnut Plant, even though their doughnuts are also available at approximately 50 other locations around New York. I cannot vouch for miraculous resupply moments at any of these.
Now youʼre properly fueled and maybe even better prepared for a day at the races if you brought some past performances with you to study. When my brother and I headed back into Manhattan we had the added urgency of Stanley Cup hockey but also needed some cold beer and food. We headed straight out of Penn Station and this is what we found.
The game was underway and our first two stops were overflowing. We found an Irish establishment on 8th Ave with some space at the bar and settled in. The place was fine. It felt like any other bar. The three Hispanic bartenders didnʼt add authenticity but they were friendly and efficient and we were comfortable. However, the food that arrived around us looked like it went straight from the grocery store freezer aisle with a short stop in a microwave before hitting the table. That and Yuengling pints for $6 sent us exploring during the period break.
If the hockey game wasnʼt on we would have headed down to W 23rd St. and the Trailer Park Lounge. I am becoming a huge fan of this place (I also wrote about it here). The place is visually stimulating, some might even say overwhelming, and the bartenders are engaging. It is fabulously kitschy but it takes pride in it, right down to the donʼt mess with my drink coasters for smokers. My Belmont handicapping took place there over a couple of PBRs the day before. I had dinner waiting after a wine tasting later that day so I resisted the tater tots with chili and cheese someone ordered a few stools down. Next time...
But we did need a TV and across the street from our first Irish stop was the Tempest Bar, another Irish joint. This one had a much better beer selection and a place to sit but no food. Their website says they have “a select bar menu from noon to 4 a.m. everyday” but our bartender offered menus from local restaurants on a Saturday night around 10. Either they have added food service in the last three weeks or the website is out of date. It felt more like a pub and we decided this was the place.
We went next door to NY Pizza Suprema and got some slices to go. Mine were bacon but I have no idea what Zach got. Looks like peppers and mushrooms on one and the other maybe meatball? Nothing was labeled. We pointed to order and I had no idea what to tell the guy running the register since my slices were in the oven.
He spoke in that classic New York slightly gruff, ʻIʼm busy hereʼ way with an accent that sounded part Archie Bunker, part Mafia typecasting and part generic eastern European. I miss the get-to-the-point nature of the northeast and revel in small doses of it when I return.
“What you got?”
“Iʼve got two of those meat slices,” I offered.
“Where? What are you talking about?”
Again, I was reduced to pointing. “Right here, two.”
“Oh, bacon. Okay.”
So, mine are bacon (the two on the right in the picture). I could taste it pretty clearly but only after I paid. Since the pizzeria was there before Madison Square Garden I guess I canʼt say they should change the way slices are offered. Plus, it was delicious. Not in a gourmet way but in a beer and a slice way. In a way that reminds me I’m in New York and makes me wish I could get a similar option around the corner from my house.
We enjoyed our slices with a few beers at the Tempest and had a good time until the Kings won in overtime. California got it all wrong for me that day. The L.A. Kings won but California Chrome didnʼt.
You can win though, regardless of your success at the window, by heading to the Tempest with a slice or two from NY Pizza Suprema after returning from Belmont. Or any other time youʼre passing through Penn Station.