Checkmate: The Queen City vs. The King City

By Becca Hartman

Assistant Features Contributor

When I left college in New York City behind last year to transfer home to Buffalo, it was with the knowledge that I was never going back. New York had left a bad taste in my mouth and on my final day there, almost exactly one year ago, I knew that my time there had run its course. Naturally, like all plans, that changed. This past weekend I found myself back on the Empire Line Amtrak train to Penn Station with one backpack, one travel companion, and a lot of questions about how the next couple days would go. One of these questions was one I had never before considered, but that leapt to mind after spending the past few weeks investigating different local neighborhoods: just how similar are Buffalo and New York City? My new goal was to find out.

Upon arriving in New York, my friend and I quickly met up with another friend that lives in the city in order to safely navigate the subway system. (Thank you, Rebecca from FIT, for taking the time to ensure that we did not end up in Brownsville by mistake) The subway is the first major difference from Buffalo; here at home, I drive my faithful Jeep to get wherever I need to be. In New York, anyone who drives themselves from place to place does not respect themselves and desperately wants to be miserable. The subway is the answer to that and, unlike Buffalo’s subway, it is large and it is confusing. There are letters, numbers, colors, line changes, stations that are periodically skipped… The list goes on. Personally, I’ll take paying $2.25 a gallon over ending up on the wrong subway line anyday.

My first day in the city was spent in Williamsburg, a quaint and artistic neighborhood of Brooklyn right on the East River. If you’ve never been to Williamsburg, just picture the last Wes Anderson movie you saw. Now, picture it taking place inside an Urban Outfitters and starring every vegan you’ve ever met. You’ve got it. The first place I checked out here was Black Brick, an effective hole-in-the-wall cafe with a bucket hat-wearing barista and the best espresso that I’ve ever drank. It was the type of cafe that doesn’t exist around Buffalo, or if it does, I have yet to discover it. (If you know of a local cafe that fits this description, lovely readers, please send me a tweet/email/shout down the hallway of Old Main)

Day two found me in the Manhattan neighborhoods of Soho and Greenwich Village, both of which surround Washington Square Park and the New York University campus. In a small store right off the Bleecker Street subway is Pressed Juicery, an aesthetically-pleasing yet cramped juice kiosk. Pressed is extremely similar to Ashker’s Juice Bar on Elmwood; in fact, I would even dare to say that Ashker’s is better. Soho is also home to McNally-Jackson Books, my favorite spot in the entire city. Half-bookstore, half-cafe, MNJ is fairly similar to the Caffe Aroma-Talking Leaves corner on Elmwood as well. The only difference, to my knowledge, would be in that MNJ is one establishment. Both set-ups work to provide quality literature and quality coffee, and that’s all anyone, especially us English majors, can really ask for.

With these similarities in mind, and all of the differences accounted for, is there anything that Buffalo wins at? The answer is a firm, definitive yes: pizza. I would give up my life for Buffalo pizza; it’s the perfect median between Chicago deep-dish and New York thin crust. My Williamsburg dinner consisted of a spinach-and-mozzarella slice from Joe’s Pizzeria (a walk-in, walk-out style joint where a white man with dreadlocks asked my friend to hold his dog’s leash for him while he bought his food), and while it wasn’t horrific, it definitely lacked in comparison to just about any pizzeria in Buffalo.

My spontaneous weekend trip to New York City ended up putting a lot in perspective for me. When I initially moved there for my freshman year, I never considered all the ways in which it was similar to Buffalo because my only focus was getting out of Buffalo. I have a newfound appreciation for my own city, and I don’t think I’ll be calling it “lame” again any time soon. I also regained my forgotten love of New York, something I never would have predicted. But does one overpower the other? That, readers, is something you’ll have to decide for yourselves.


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