Sunday, September 06, 2009

Grand Slam Dining?

Continuing reports of “The Single Guy and The City” as I blog about my vacation in New York.

The primary reason for my late summer trip to New York wasn’t to eat (although I did a lot of that) but to watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament, one of my favorite sporting events to attend.

After riding the 7 subway train out to Queens, the stop for the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (it was renamed for the tennis legend two years ago) is near the end of the line in Flushing Meadows, across from the Mets’ new Citifield stadium.

I attended two day sessions during the early rounds of the tournament (which will wrap up next weekend) and like every year thousands of people were on the grounds that include three featured courts and many more smaller field courts (where you actually can get close up to watch your favorite tennis players if they end up getting relegated to the field courts).

Eating is always an expensive proposition. Think expensive baseball stadium food and then add on the Manhattan tax and you can expect to use up all your travel savings for your meals. One change that can help the budget-conscious is that outside food is now allowed at the tennis center as long as it’s packaged in a plastic container. (Years ago when I attended the U.S. Open you couldn’t bring any outside food so you were a captive audience, so this new rule is a welcome change although I was too lazy to bring my own food.)

The food court offers all your basic sporting foods like beer, burgers and sausages. It also has pasta, Philly cheesesteaks, burritos, salads and a few ethnic offerings like Indian and Japanese food.

On my first day, I was in such a frenetic state trying to figure out which courts to watch that I couldn’t focus on the food. So I ended up getting a bowl of penne rigate with meatballs ($11). The bowl was pretty large and I actually was surprised at how soft the meatballs were and not at all dense. The sauce was a little spicy and the penne was overcooked and slightly cold, but it kept me fueled up for an afternoon of jumping from one court to another.

Although the weather was especially nice this year at the U.S. Open, it was still warm because this is summer. So the Italian ices and Ben & Jerry outlets were always the longest lines.

On my second day, I wanted to check out the special U.S. Open restaurants. There are three fancy looking restaurant (one seafood, one steak, one Mexican) in the Arthur Ashe stadium, but when I tried to get in, ticket checkers kept trying to divert me sending me on goose-chases and to various gates. It was all very tiring and frustrating, and when I sneaked a peak at the restaurants I got a sense that you needed a jacket (which is silly given the heat but the Open does attract lots of fund managers from Manhattan) and that the prices would be too much for too little. So I ended up at the South Plaza where I got a chicken salad ($11) because I felt like I’d been eating too much meat over the last few days (specifically pork).

The salad was decent with a nice vinaigrette, but even the woman checking me out looked at me and said “you know, you could have packed that yourself.” Yes, I’m the lazy Single Guy who doesn’t want to cook. The shame.

For an afternoon snack, I got a packet of shiu mai from the Japanese booth. For 10 pieces ($9.75), they looked really plain and tasted like the frozen ones that were steamed up. Which is OK, but not really for the price.

But like I said, I didn’t come to New York just to cook or eat. It was for tennis, and I had a lot of fun photographing some tennis action. The food may not be a grand slam, but the tennis action was definitely aces.


foodhoe said...

single guy, are you posting while traveling? you've been very prolific in any case, I have a lot to catch up on! I was surprised to see fresh basil on the meatballs, that was a nice touch, but the shumai looked like they needed something to dip in. Great action shots!

Single Guy Ben said...

Hi Foodhoe, yes, I am posting while on vacation. Right now I'm in the Washington DC area visiting my sister. The meatballs and basil was pretty good compared to other things I had, and the shu mai did have a soy dipping sauce on the side. Maybe you can't really see it in the photo because it's in a black container in a black container. The dipping sauce helped.

Carolyn Jung said...

I'm so envious you got to watch part of the U.S. Open. I was a total tennis fiend back in the day. Haven't played in a long while, though. Did you try any of the great Chinese food in Flushing? Bourdain's "No Reservations'' show last night spotlighted some of the great stuff to be had in hole-in-the-wall joints there, including big bowls of awesome lamb soup noodles -- with the noodles pulled to order.

Mrs. L said...

Very cool tennis photos. I've only been to the local SAP Open in San Jose and would love to get to the US Open one day.

Single Guy Ben said...

Carolyn/Mrs. L, you should definitely go to the US Open. It'll get you addicted to live tennis. Carolyn, I soooo wanted to go to Flushing, which is the next stop after the stop for the US Open and I wanted to check out some underground Chinese food stalls, but I was so exhausted after a full day of tennis watching that I just went straight to my hotel room. Sigh, so much to do in New York and not enough vacation days!

New York hotel said...

All I can say is that when I travel it is never for the sake of food and great restaurants, especially in NY, and still, somehow that's what I remember from traveling :) Great photos. I hope you had fun..