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All aboard the D train
The D train connects Norwood in the Bronx with Coney Island in Brooklyn. In Manhattan, it stops near historic sites like the Apollo Theater and Hamilton Grange in Harlem, as well as tourist havens like Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park in midtown. Before crossing the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn, it also stops in Little Italy and Chinatown.
My journeys along the D train usually start at the W 4 St-Wash Sq station. Bleecker Street is right around the corner, which has two advantages. First and foremost, it’s a great place to go shopping for sweets! French macarons (Bisous Ciao) and Japanese chocolates (Royce) can be found on the same block. The salted caramel and blood orange macarons at Bisous Ciao made Time Out’s list of best macarons in NYC and Royce specializes in Japanese chocolates, which are not nearly as popular as their European counterparts but every bit as good (in my opinion). My chocolate and macarons tour stops at both places!
In Brooklyn, the D train stops near the Barclays Center, Green-Wood Cemetery and runs along 86th Street in Bensonhurst before terminating at Coney Island along with the F, N and Q trains. My favorite restaurant (L & B Spumoni Gardens) is near the 25 Av stop and I’ve taken several people there over the years. My best friend from high school and I get together in NYC every year and since 2012 we’ve been eating at L & B Spumoni Gardens when we do. This past Sunday, we did our annual NYC trip and started with shopping on Bleecker Street and then lunch at L & B Spumoni Gardens.
From the W 4 St-Wash Sq station, it’s about a 40-minute train ride to 25 Av and then a less than 10-minute walk on 86th Street to get there. They get busy around noon and even busier in the evenings, so I always try to be out of there by 5:00. They are famous for their Sicilian Pie, which comes in 12 (thick) slices (half) or 24 (full). I’ve never seen anyone eat more than six slices. Most eat three or less. Although they have a full menu, you are likely to see their Sicilian pie on at least half of the tables if you look around. I recommend the seafood salad for an appetizer, but there are plenty of others. However, if you are looking for something less heavy, the seafood salad is the way to go. There were four people at our table and we barely finished the half pie. I recommend finishing it there since it’s not nearly as good reheated. Eat it while it’s hot. In fact, if you order other things, eat the pizza first before it starts getting cold! When you are done, try their Italian Ice. Lemon and cherry are my personal favorites, but if they have watermelon, that’s excellent too!
L & B Spumoni Gardens has a small parking lot, but if you are arriving by train, the D and the N are your two closest options. The nearest N station is 86 St, which is just a few blocks away. For those who want to explore Coney Island, it’s just one stop away. Unfortunately, 86th St is one of the N stations, which will not be stopping on the Manhattan and Queens-bound platform starting in 2016. This means that if you are using the N train to get to Manhattan and/or Queens, you must take it one stop to Coney Island and then get in the Manhattan-bound train in order to get back (like the Beatles song). Although this is inconvenient, you have the option to explore Coney Island as long as you are willing to pay the extra $2.75 if you leave the station.
All aboard the N Train
From Coney Island, the N train runs north of the D and then west of it before they meet up at 36 St and then separate in Manhattan. If you are taking the N train back to Manhattan and/or Queens, it’s worth a stop at the 8 Av station. The Chinatowns in Manhattan and Queens are more famous, but walking along 8th Avenue between 61st and 39th Street is very similar to walking along Canal Street in Manhattan or Main Street in Flushing. There’s bubble tea, Chinese restaurants and fish stores on every block. If you head west on 44th Street you’ll walk through Sunset Park, which provides you with amazing views of the World Trade Center. It’s especially nice if you visit during sunrise or sunset. The park’s western border is 5th Ave. The R train runs along 4th Ave., just one block west.