Sunday: Manhattan Circumference Scouting Trip (aka the Epic Bike Ride)

On Sunday, I biked the circumference of Manhattan. Clocking in at almost 35 miles, (including a few errant detours), I wouldn’t exactly call this an eating-centric ride, although we did make some great pit stops.

photo-9What it was, was: Part adventure, part fitness challenge, part remedy to summer island fever — if we didn’t get off the island literally, at least we were in parts we’d never seen before — and a really amazing day.

Our route: We began on the West Side bike path at about Christopher Street, 10:45 a.m. We headed in a counter-clockwise direction for one reason: Oh how sweet it is for the last fifth of the ride to just cruise down that long, curving bike path that runs along the West Side of the island, from nearly 200th Street all the way home. Nearly a straight  shot (no more lumpy island bell curves adding mileage), the sun on your face, virtually flat track. It’s the only way to finish.

On the topic of lumpy island bell curves … the bottom bit is full of them. I thought it outrageous when it was proposed that our first stop would be above 40th Street on the East Side but, in fact, it makes so much sense. Power through, and do it. Slog through that bottom part and take a snack/juice/coffee break once you’re clear of it. There’s still a whole lot of island left.

photophoto-1 Pit Stop no. 1: Orchard House Cafe, E. 58th Street at Fifth First Avenue. What a little gem! I’ve walked within two blocks of here, but had never seen it before. As we rode by, I literally slammed on the breaks — we have to stop here.

It’s a total neighborhood spot: Light meals, coffee stop by day, in the evening it kicks up a notch with wine and miscellaneous entertainment. The food isn’t exactly gourmet, but they bring in from decent sources. My angel food cake “muffin” with a drizzle of lemon frosting on top was so light and fluffy, almost efferescent — the perfect alternative for anyone who is not into hard, dense muffins.

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Pit Stop no. 2: Indian Road Market & Cafe, 218th Street at Indian Road. Indian Road is, essentially, the northern-most road on the island. (There’s a park on top of that that is technically closer to the proverbial tip, but this is the last establishment.)

I love this place! Inside, it’s a coffee shop/specialty market on one side — really great refridgerated case of craft beers — and a proper sit-down restaurant and bar on the other. On weekends, a live pianist gives the place a real sense of class. The staff are delightful.

In the park across the road, we shared a lovely but simple salad spruced up with a side of breakfast sausage (perk of brunch menu). and a couple of bottles of GUS Extra Dry Ginger Ale — so fizzy and refreshing.

photo-8photo-6 Pit Stop no. 3: Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue, W. 131st Street at Riverside Drive. With only about 130 blocks left to go, it was time to celebrate. A giant plate of some of the most giant chicken wings in the city and a bucket of El Presidente beers (6) did the trick — a small meal by Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue standards, but oh so satisfying nonetheless. Powered by beer and wings, we were on cruise mode the rest of the way home.

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