NYC Reality: To cook or not to cook living in the East Village

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I moved to the supremely micro matchbox apartment in East Village without kitchen. My friends back in Dallas kept texting and calling me to make sure I’m alive and they shuddered at the thought of how tiny the square footage is and how I’m living without a kitchen. So here are couple of myths and how I broke them.
Myth 1: NYC is extremely expensive to do grocery
Reality 1: Most grocery stores in Manhattan are 200% more expensive for most of the items I used to buy in Dallas. However, there are smaller neighborhood groceries, located in middle income group neighborhoods, where you can pay the same money for the same food as you pay in Dallas. For example, my nearest grocery stores are on 2nd Avenue and they are very expensive- $7 for half a pound of butter or $9 for a bottle of cooking wine. However, if I walk for 15 minutes towards East River through Alphabet city, I can do my grocery at a Hispanic store at exactly the same price I did in Dallas.
A $10 claypot meal in a hole in the wall
tiny Cantonese restaurant

Myth 2: If you eat out every day, you will be sick and bankrupt

Reality 2: NYC is full of fancy, expensive, fusion and authentic restaurants. Yes, at my salary, I will be bankrupt within a week if I eat out every day in those places. But, a lot of people don’t know that NYC also has a lot of tiny hole in the wall restaurants where you can find very good quality, balanced and healthy meals within and around $10. NYC street meat stores have bad reputation and horror stories about their lack of hygiene. But, for past 5 years for my 14 visits to NYC I always tried the street meat carts standing by the side of busy streets and never got sick. As you can pretty much walk everywhere, you can also get fantastic carryout deals in pizza places. So, the verdict is – if your stomach can handle NYC street meat and you can spend time looking at discounts, you will be fine.
Myth 3: A cocktail will cost you $25 in NYC
Amazing price at a tiny bar in my neighborhood

Reality 3: As long as all you are not a queen for crazy expensive SpeakEasies or fancy cocktail bars, you can find many hole in the wall neighborhood bars where locals go. I have a bar within 5 minutes’ walk from my place, where you can find good branded whisky such as Johny Walker for $5, Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic for $4 and several signature cocktails ranging from $6-$10. I also found an alcohol store that sells imported wine and liquors in supremely low prices. Can you imagine a bottle of Rose’ from Greece for $6? Yup!

Honestly, you just need to explore the city on your own and take all the advice you get from others, including from those who claim themselves as native New Yorkers, with a grain of salt. NYC is a very rapidly-changing and dynamic city. So, trust yourself and you can find good quality and cheap places.
For me personally there are three main reasons for not cooking at home.
First, I hate doing dishes. Dishwasher is a dream for NYC studio apartments in lower Manhattan unless you make $150k and can afford one of the newly renovated lofts in SoHo. I don’t. So, for me, no cooking equals to no dishes equals to happier me.
Second, who wants to waste time cooking? Back in Dallas, I did not have enough good quality (yes, I’m a snob about art) art events to go to. So, I cooked while drinking wine and watching Friends, 2 Broke Girls or 30 Rock! Here, my weeknights are always flooded with open gallery events at Chelsea or Williamsburg and free hours at the art museums. I’m not Julie Powell or Monica Geller. Do you really expect me to stay in my micro studio and cook instead of checking these awesome art pieces out while drinking wine!
Finally, old buildings like mine in lower Manhattan will attract roaches. NYC has millions of horror stories about big rats and garden size roaches. If I do not cook at home, I’m probably safer in this regard.
In conclusion, for a 94% extroverted scientist and artist like me who loves to strategize, prioritize and plan about food, who gets immense amount of pleasure in figuring out discounted coupons and deals, in finding out underground, hole in the wall shops, bars and restaurants walking or travelling by the subway through the whole city, a solitary activity like cooking is depressing, boring and totally NAY!

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