Saturday, September 13, 2014

So you’re visiting New York City

Unlike, say, Florida, it’s always tourist season in New York City. I’ve had the pleasure of working in Midtown Manhattan for almost 15 years now, and regardless of the time of year there are thousands of tourists enjoying the city every day. It’s not surprising that many of you plan to visit, and as we modelers usually do, ask about hobby shops in the city. I thought I’d offer my suggestions for your next visit, with some perspective on the shops and destinations beyond.


If you were to ask me, “Steve, are there any good hobby shops in the city?” I’d tell you there are, but, cripes! It’s New York City. Forget the hobby shops for a few days and enjoy everything the city has to offer! But if you pushed me, I’d tell you about the only two shops remaining.

The Red Caboose (23 W. 45th St.) resides in a basement space. It’s likely to be the most cramped, scruffy hobby shop you’ll ever visit, but I love it. It has a small selection of kits, including some new releases, but you’ll pay New York City prices, which is MSRP plus extra. Rent doesn't come cheap in these parts! What’s most intriguing about The Caboose is what you can’t see. There seem to be places the general public isn’t permitted to go, and I can’t help but wonder what’s behind that closed door or deep into that shadowed corner over there. Imagine the treasures to be discovered! Or not.

It's easy to walk right past the shop.

Some of the aircraft selection.

Be sure to say hello to Lionel.

Jan’s Hobby Shop (1435 Lexington Ave) is a more traditional store. Like the Caboose, the shop is very small, but the owners have packed it floor-to-ceiling with product. They has a surprisingly large variety of plastic models, new releases and old, including aircraft, armor, ships, and cars. Very few magazines or books. They have a nice collection of built models, displayed in a two cases in the middle of the store that are worth a closer look. Again you’ll find NYC prices, but stop by the shop if you’re in the neighborhood. Bring your wife, too; the shop next door specializes in cook books.

Jan's on the Upper East Side.

I have to recommend The Strand, a huge bookstore two blocks from Union Square. With both new, clearance, and pre-owned books, the selection is always changing, and you’re sure to find something interesting to read on the flight back home. The history and military sections are huge, so a visit should be on your to-do list.

Just two blocks south of busy Union Square.

The military selection at the Strand

With the hobby shops out of the way, let’s talk about the more interesting things you should do in New York.


Do you like to eat? Of course you do. Here are a few suggestions.

Resto (111 E 29th St) is a man’s restaurant and my favorite in New York City. Lots of meat, and you can even dine on a complete pig’s head if you give them a week’s notice. They have a good selection of German beer and a handful of rotating, creative cocktails, many of them bourbon-based.

My favorite restaurant in the city.

Speaking of beer, The Ginger Man (11 E 36th St) is a must-stop for anyone who considers himself a beer aficionado. As I write this, they have 70 beers on tap and over 160 bottled. The selection is unrivaled, and the only downside to a visit is deciding which beers to enjoy. The food is good (typical pub fare), but then after enjoying a Belgian quad or two on my last visit I have no recollection of anything that had happened the prior 24 hours.

With two locations (382 8th Ave. and 747 9th Ave.) in the city, Uncle Nick’s is another favorite of mine. Greek food at its best. Everything on the menu is good, but I’d strongly recommend something off the grill, particularly the fish. For your appetizer, go with the oktapodaki (octopus) or glykadakia (sweetbreads).

Mapo Tofu (338 Lexington Ave) offers exceptional Szechuan style Chinese. That means spicy. You won’t encounter anything exotic as you would in Chinatown, so if you like the Chinese joint back home you're sure to find something enticing on Mapo’s meu. Everything is good, but I’m particularly fond of the stir-fried pork belly with chili leeks.

If you’re visiting the city with that special woman in your life and want to thank her for tolerating your visits to New York's hobby shops and book stores, the food at Blue Hill (75 Washington Pl.) is exceptional. President and Mrs. Obama dined here a few years ago, in fact. Located in a former speakeasy in Greenwich Village, Blue Hill specializes in seasonal, locally sourced ingredients from the Hudson Valley.


There are so many places to see in New York City it’s hard to recommend even three or four. Obviously the museums are excellent, and they're sure to inspire the artistic and creative parts of your brain, which should make you a better modeler. If you have kids, the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th Street) is a great place to spend an afternoon. If you don't have kids and you’re a little kinky, the Museum of Sex (233 Fifth Avenue) is, um...titillating.

The one place I know you’ll visit is the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (Pier 86 at 46th Street). The ship has been restored reasonably well, and there’s a – shall we say: interesting – selection of aircraft on the deck. I understand the the TBM, the F9F-8, and the A-4, but I don’t get the presence of the A-12 or Kfir in the collection. I suppose they were the equivalent of an impulse purchase for the curators!

And Times Square. At night. It’s an amazing spot.

Enjoy your visit!

1 comment:

  1. thank u for this post which brings good memories of my 7-years living and working in manhattan (on-and-off). i used to visit the red caboose as it was just behind my office. i would buy my paint from alan, but models i would buy direct from hong kong or e-bay. i had visited jan's in both their old york avenue & new lex shops and can't imagine how they could move those 2 impressive cabinets of built planes. i try to avoid going to the strand because every time i end up with a heavy bag of out of print books from the military & transportation sections which i cannot schlep home unless by taxi. and yes, i used to frequent the bottom 3 of the 5 restaurants u mentioned - hence the good memories. thank u again.