Get Discount Broadway Show Tickets at the TKTS Booth (See it after the Food Truck & Cart Tour!)

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One of the biggest reasons people come to the Big Apple is to see a Broadway show. But in a sea of choices, how do you decide on the best one? Some people want to tick off items on their bucket list and come specifically for the long-standing musicals that have stood the test of time, like The Lion King or The Phantom of the Opera.

Others want to try their luck at the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square, where the price for same-day tickets can be slashed by up to 50 percent. This is a great option if you want to save a little cash and enjoy the unpredictability of it—the offerings are different from day to day, so you won’t ever be totally sure what you’ll see.

And by the way, a matinee performance pairs perfectly with a Food Truck and Cart tour with Nice Guy Tours. The tour ends at 1:30 p.m. at the TKTS Booth so you have plenty of time to get to your afternoon performance.  

So, if you’re going for discount tickets, here are a few tips. The TKTS Booth in Times Square opens for matinee ticket sales at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and 11:00 a.m. on Sundays. Those are typically the three days of the week that matinees are offered, although always check the particular schedule of any show you want to see because times vary.

Aim to get in line around 9:30 a.m. and come with an open mind and a sense of adventure. You won’t know exactly what will be offered at discount prices until they open. I recommend downloading the TKTS Mobile App a week or so beforehand. Check the app every day for an idea of what productions are going for half price. You’ll start to see a trend and be able to make predictions based what’s been available in recent days.

Here’s a sample of recent half-price offerings:

A Bronx Tale
Based on the 1993 film starring Robert De Niro, A Bronx Tale tells the story of a young man growing up in the mob-ruled world of the 1960s Bronx. Expect some variations from the movie, but two of the film’s stars do heavily influence the play: De Niro co-directs and it was written by Chazz Palminteri, whose real life the story is based on.

Kinky Boots
This is a musical for people who love glitter and sparkle, and also Cyndi Lauper, whose talents won her a Tony for Best Original Score. Kinky Boots is a heartwarming tale is about the friendship between two men who could not be more different from each other. It is musical theater at its best, which means you’ll want to break out into song along with the stars on stage.

Once On This Island
This is a sweet love story about a poor girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy, and all the drama that forbidden love creates. The tenacious peasant girl, Ti Moune, enlists the help of powerful island gods to help her track down the boy she loves, and the story is set against the backdrop of the easy island rhythms of the Caribbean.  

Waitress
Based on a movie of the same name starring Keri Russell, Waitress is an inspiring story about a woman who finds herself in a bad marriage, and who sees her talent for making incomparable pies as her only way out. Six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles wrote the original music and lyrics to this age-old story about a woman remaking herself just when she least expected she would have to.

Avenue Q
Avenue Q is an off-Broadway, coming-of-age tale about a college grad named Princeton. Princeton is a puppet and yes, this is the play with the puppets that spout four-letter words, and sing about racism, coming out, and the dirty materials that a creature can find on the Internet. The play is hilarious, and you simply forget that there are people controlling the puppets because the talent is astonishing.

Jersey Boys
After years on Broadway, this beloved musical is now running off-Broadway. The cast is smaller by four, but that and a smaller theater also means better overall seats, and lower ticket prices. Jersey Boys tells the true story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and even if you’re not of their generation, you won’t be able to help but love the dance numbers and legendary songs, including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

I hope whatever you see is amazing, but the only thing I can guarantee you is this: if you take my Food Truck and Cart Tour beforehand, you won’t have to worry about food during your show.

 

 

A Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

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As a Yonkers guy, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Bronx and Manhattan, but I recently took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and I was surprised by its beauty, its fascinating history, and also by what I found on the other side. I love that I get to take people around New York on walking food tours, but sometimes I like to be a tourist, too.

About the Brooklyn Bridge: everyone who comes to New York should walk across it at least once. It’s a little over a mile long and the views are spectacular. You can see the Statue of Liberty out in the harbor on a clear day, and there’s a sense of wide open space, which is not an easy feeling to come by in New York.

I found out that the first person to cross the bridge when it was finished in 1883 was a woman named Emily Roebling. On her trip across, she rode in a carriage and carried a rooster, which apparently symbolized victory.

And the bridge was a victory. Even after tragedies and deaths and setbacks, Emily saw to it that the bridge became a reality.

The Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. Its opening day was presided over by the U.S. president and the governor of New York, and was proclaimed to be the eighth wonder of the world.

But let’s back up a little. Emily’s father-in-law John Roebling was a Prussian immigrant and brilliant civil engineer. He built bridges and buildings, and he had a son named Washington, who was equally gifted. Washington was sent to study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and then he served in the Civil War where he made a name for himself building suspension bridges for the Army. By 1865 he was promoted to Colonel, and he was married to Emily Warren Roebling.

In 1869, with John’s architectural designs, construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was about to begin and John and Washington were the chief engineers. The effort was unprecedented. About 600 workers—nicknamed “sandhogs”—labored away under dangerous conditions. By the time the bridge was completed, nearly 30 men had died in accidents, explosions, and other mishaps.

The bridge took 14 years from start to finish, and neither father nor son fared very well. Early on, John’s foot was crushed by a boat and he died from tetanus a few weeks later. The massive task of chief engineer was left to Washington.

Years earlier, to prepare for the bridge’s construction, Washington went to Europe to study the technique known as caisson construction. Caissons were large wooden boxes which were sunk into the bottom of the river to allow the men to work inside them, excavating the riverbed, laying granite, and building the bridge. To keep water out, compressed air was pumped into the caissons, which put the men in danger of decompression sickness when they rose back to the surface.

One day Washington was working in a caisson and ended up with this illness, also known as “the bends.” He was left partially paralyzed and too sick to head up the construction progress any longer.

This opened the door for Emily Roebling to step in. With the two chief engineers tragically sidelined, she brought the bridge to its completion. Emily went back and forth from home to construction site, delivering messages to and from Washington, and updating him on progress.

Emily adapted so quickly to the huge task in front of her that she quickly became the chief engineer. At the bridge’s dedication ceremony, Congressman Abram S. Hewitt said she would “thus be inseparably associated with all that is admirable in human nature.”

Time for Lunch
When I exited the bridge on the Brooklyn side, I went in search of some lunch and what I found was yet another family drama.

You can’t miss Grimaldi’s—the pizza restaurant with the line of people out the door every day, rain or shine, even before they open for business.

A couple of doors down is Juliana’s, whose website says that the owner Patsy Grimaldi is New York City’s “most celebrated pizza proprietor.” So—and stay with me for a second, it’s a real saga—Juliana’s is owned by a Grimaldi but Grimaldi’s is not.

Here’s the story. Patsy and his wife Carol opened the original Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton Street. The pies, made with Carol’s homemade fresh mozzarella and cooked in a coal-fired oven, earned them devoted fans.

When Patsy and Carol retired, they sold Grimaldi’s—name and all—to a longtime customer named Frank Ciolli. Ciolli turned Grimaldi’s into a brand. It became a popular chain restaurant, which Patsy believed led to a lower standard of ingredients. Original Grimaldi’s fans complained to Patsy that the pies just weren’t the same, and since Patsy had sold his name, too, he had a reason to be concerned.

In a turn of events, Ciolli was nearly evicted from his Grimaldi’s location. After a dispute with the landlord, he moved a couple doors down to 1 Front Street. Patsy and Carol leased the place Ciolli left vacant and Patsy named it after his mother, Juliana.

Patsy and Carol, to the great delight of their fans, returned to making pizza in their original location and in that original coal-fired oven.

Some say the two are bitter rivals. Ciolli sued Patsy, accusing him of trying to steal back his business, but the case didn’t go anywhere.

In the end, though, the most important question is, who has the best pizza? I couldn’t tell you because I was eating a lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster, but stay tuned. I plan to put Grimaldi’s vs. Juliana’s to a taste test, and you’ll read about it here.

A Walking Food Tour with Nice Guy Tours

very nice.

very nice.

On the Lower East Side, we might duck into Katz’s Deli and try the most mouth-watering pastrami on earth, or stop at Kossars Bialy's and experience what a true bagel tastes like. But it’s not only about the food—I’ll tell you the history behind these tried and true New York eats, too.

As CEO (Chief Eating Officer) of Nice Guy Tours, I get to share with you the city that I love through the food and stories that have shaped it. Everything we eat on my tours has a story behind it—like Katz’s Deli, who has been perfecting their recipes since they opened back in 1888! 

What a walking food tour is
It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. On a typical tour, we sample food at about seven different places, eating our way through New York’s most iconic neighborhoods, while I tell you a story or two about the people and places who have made this the great city it is today.

There’s no place like New York for walking and eating, and that’s just what we do. We eat a little, we walk and talk, we eat a little more—walk, talk, eat, repeat—the perfect recipe for creating long-lasting friendships.

If you wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a healthy appetite, I’ll make sure of two things: 1) you come away with a full stomach and some great memories; and 2) you know where the heck you’re headed in this crazy city, even if that means I hail you a cab or march you to the subway myself. We’re not called Nice Guy Tours for nothing!

Really, though. I care about my customers leaving with the impression that New Yorker’s are a pretty decent bunch of people.

As part of that, I make a point to bring you only to places where the owners and staff are friendly. You won’t get some cranky guy behind the counter, and no one will give you glaring looks for taking up a table for too long.

Like at Artichoke Pizza, where I tell you about the spectacular success of two great guys who started out working in their family’s restaurant on Staten Island, and are now about to open their 17th restaurant. Oh, and we’ll try their authentic New York pizza, too. You’ll find out how they prepare it just a little out of the ordinary from other pizza you’ve eaten.

What you can expect to eat on a Nice Guys tour
The food scene in New York runs the gamut from pricey and pretentious to laid-back but unbelievably tasty. Nice Guy Tours lean more towards—you guessed it—the simple, delicious meals that have been nourishing New Yorkers for longer than I’ve been alive.

On the Greenwich Village Tour, for example, we’ll stop at Mamoun’s Falafel, the oldest falafel restaurant in the city. Mamoun’s has been family-owned and operated since the day they opened their doors. Their falafels are created from a family recipe that’s more than four decades old; then they’re fried to golden brown perfection, served inside a toasted pita and drizzled with tahini.

So simple but so good.

What a walking food tour is not
Alright, we talked about what a food walking tour is. I’d like to take a second and tell you what a tour with me is not.

It’s not crowded. I keep my tours to 12 people maximum, so you’ll never have to crowd around or stand behind some tall person while you try to hear out what I’m saying. I like to get to know everyone on my tours.

It’s not led by anyone but me. I hope you read (and write!) glowing reviews on Facebook or TripAdvisor about Nice Guy Tours. Wink, wink. If you do, know always that I was the tour guide then and I’ll be the tour guide later.  

It’s not boring. I give you a little history lesson on the places along the tour, but I love telling the most interesting stories I know. Also, there’s food. How could you get bored?

And of course, you’ll get a great sense of New York’s historic neighborhoods as we walk. Watch the city transform from block to block and street to street. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Lower East Side, where we’ll stop in at Yonah Schimmel Knish, named after a Romanian immigrant who peddled knishes to the millions of people who lived and worked on these streets during New York’s peak immigration era.

Now this establishment sits alongside expensive boutiques and hip fusion restaurants in this trendy neighborhood where the rent has soared in recent years.

Learning by eating
And finally, I love when my customers have a great time but I also like people to feel they’ve learned a little something. Like, did you know that Neapolitan Express, part of the Food Truck and Cart Tour, is passionate about the environment? They not only want to serve you an insanely delicious slice of pizza, they also make a point of being eco-friendly by using only organic, non-GMO ingredients, and running their food trucks on natural gas fuel.

So, maybe you’re visiting New York from abroad, and a Nice Guy tour has totally changed your perception of American food and the history that goes with it.

Or you might have come from another American city and eaten a chicken Kati roll from Biryani Cart for the first time. I’ve even been known to introduce true blue New Yorkers to places they’ve never tried before.

Whoever you may be, I welcome you on a food walking tour with me, and I look forward to sharing my city—and some of New York’s incomparable food—with you!

Nice Guy's "Famous Chicarron!"

Jorge and his wife were visiting from Puerto Rico. Their daughters live in Connecticut and DC so the whole family was on the tour recently. At one point, Jorge and I were walking ahead of the group and he said to me "make sure you get my telephone number from my daughter so when you your wife come to Puerto Rico I make you my famous chicarron". What a nice guy!

Call it a Comeback

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So last year this young lady Kyla and her mom Heidi took my tour to celebrate her 13th birthday. They came back to celebrate her 14th birthday. I was so happy to see them and show them around. When I saw Kyla was wearing the T Shirt I gave her last year it touched my heart. So nice to see you guys again. Hope to see you soon

Write? Talk. Eat. Repeat.

Hi I'm Dante Mercadante. I'm Founder and Chief Eating Officer (CEO) of Nice Guy Tours. You remember that old commercial with Robert De Niro when he said "this is my city?" I'm borrowing from that. This is my New York City - a collection of stories,  photos, and everything in-between that I experience on my tours on the city streets. Enjoy the show!