Ever since Taylor Swift was named New York City's global welcome ambassador for tourism in late October, I have been filled with pride, for her and for the city I've called home for six years.
Here is a 24-year-old singer-songwriter, a wonderful lyricist with a talent for crafting incredibly catchy country/pop music. All she needed was a chance. After a series of failed relationships, she risked it all: She left behind her homes in Nashville, Los Angeles and Rhode Island, and moved into a quaint penthouse in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City. Eight months later, she released an album that was so successful that it led to an offer to become the new global welcome ambassador for tourism for the Big Apple.
Taylor Swift is living the New York City dream. She provides hope to every struggling musician in the five boroughs who aspires to follow in her footsteps and become a global welcome ambassador for tourism.
I must admit, I am a little envious of Taylor -- her stardom, her wealth, her number of Twitter followers. However, I would not want to be in her shoes as a welcome ambassador. I would not want to openly welcome tourists into the city. Quite the opposite. I find tourists to be annoying. I should know -- I have been a tourist in dozens of cities in the U.S. and around the world, and I irritated myself in each one.
I have many friends who have been tourists here in New York City. And knowing that I've lived in New York City for a while, they asked questions. A lot of questions. Which subway lines will take us to Rockefeller Center? Are any of those subway lines close to where we are now? How much will those subway lines cost? Can you arrange for Al Roker to meet us in Rockefeller Center? And so on.
I'm often asked for restaurant suggestions. My top suggestion: Log on to TripAdvisor. It ranks 11,630 restaurants in New York City, based on customer reviews. And you can sort by price and cuisine type. Want to eat lunch at the 18th-ranked, mid-range-priced African restaurant in the city? TripAdvisor can point you in the right direction.
By comparison, I can only offer my personal review of the 11 or 12 restaurants I've dined with in the city -- five of which are Subway shops. Having said that, if you're in the mood for a family-style restaurant that serves meals that are cheap and filling, and is located in the heart of the action, there is one establishment that receives my highest recommendation: Roy Rogers.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Roy Rogers, it's a fast-food chain named after the cowboy and known for its hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken. It has locations scattered across six states on the East Coast.
The average tourist may scoff at the idea of eating fast food in one of the culinary capitals of the world, but Roy Rogers is a favorite of many New Yorkers. At the least, it's a favorite of New Yorkers who frequently drive on the New York State Thruway in central and upstate New York, where Roy Rogers is established at several rest stops.
However, there's only one Roy Rogers location in the New York City area. It's right across the street from Penn Station, in midtown Manhattan. A perfect spot for commuters, tourists, and pedestrians too tired to walk to the nearest McDonald's three blocks away.
There is one reason and one reason only why I'd recommend Roy Rogers to a tourist: the Fixin's Bar. It's a bar where customers can fix their meal with as many pickles, tomatoes and onions, and as much lettuce, horseradish, ketchup and barbecue sauce, as they desire.
I can't overstate how much I love the Fixin's Bar. It's the single greatest dining experience in New York City, I believe. When you have autonomous power to control the exact number of pickles in your meal, and their distribution on your sandwich...well, it's an intoxicating feeling, a feeling you won't be able to duplicate in at least 11,500 of the restaurants listed on TripAdvisor.
I could eat a whole meal based on the condiments offered at the Fixin's Bar. I wish that was a menu option, because I'd choose it every time. The "Neverending Fixin's Bar" would be deeply satisfying for lunch. Or dinner. Or a late-night snack.
Typically, I order a roast beef sandwich, then load up on toppings at the Fixin's Bar. I'll eat the pickles and onions in less than 90 seconds, and return to the bar for seconds. And then thirds. And maybe fourths, if I'm not feeling too gluttonous yet. The sandwich is a complete afterthought.
I shouldn't even bother with the sandwich. I should simply ask for an order of fries, finish them quickly, and then stuff the empty carton with veggies from the Fixin's Bar. Or maybe I should purchase a small soda and sneak a few pickles and a small squirt of ketchup into the cup. No one would have to know.
In any event, tourists ought to try Roy Rogers and its Fixin's Bar in midtown Manhattan. That's the best restaurant recommendation I can give. Any other recommendations will have to come from either TripAdvisor or global welcome ambassador for tourism Taylor Swift.