I'm sure this is coming from the fact that it's the end of January and I CAN'T TAKE THE COLD ANYMORE. It makes me really depressed. I would love to move somewhere that's warm year round.
But I can at least look forward to this:
That's Long Beach, NY. It used to be a major resort for weekenders from the city, but now that it qualifies as an "inner suburb" it's more just a recreational beach and boardwalk for people who live in the area. It's famous for having some of the cleanest, whitest sand you'll ever see anywhere. I actually boosted the color in that pic a bit because otherwise, it just looks like snow in photographs.
I'm not a huge beach person, but I love the whole feel of coastal towns. It's like being in a whole other world compared to the city. Long Beach is a pretty big town, but there are others around it (along the same inlet) that aren't. And you can just go wandering around in areas like Point Lookout and be pretty much totally by yourself in the middle of sand and reeds, with the ocean beyond. But you can see that even Long Beach is not that crowded; it's not like most of the Jersey Shore. Part of it's that I think there's not enough parking, and most of what there is is reserved for people who actually live in the oceanside apartment buildings. But it keeps it from getting crazy.
This was actually taken on the north shore... but just look at how peaceful this is:
Back down on the south shore, we've also got this for year-round enjoyment:
So it's the best of both worlds, really. City fast food with country recreation. That's Nathan's, the hot dog place born in Brooklyn. There's a ludicrously large one on the way to the beach, and I stop there every couple of weeks for a chili or corn dog. (No, those aren't both mine! One's for my wife.) This Nathan's really brings back memories of my childhood in a way that most of them don't - it's still got a big game room (ie. an arcade) and they play mostly 80's music. Last time I was there, I actually heard Loverboy for probably the first time in 20 years.
It's actually pretty pathetic - we live in a huge Italian area and we've never been to an Italian restaurant here, but I could tell you the names and locations of probably every fast food outlet within 10 miles. There's of course McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, also Pizza Hut, KFC, and lesser-known chains like Nathan's and White Castle. I go to White Castle a lot because they still have deep-fried apple pies (though their fries are the worst of any fast food chain).
We've also got some of the best diners anywhere. I mean the real thing, with neon lights and chrome and art-deco interiors lifted out of a 1930's-era train car. Real Greek diners with gyros and souvlaki mixed in with the burgers and fries. Every town around here has at least one major diner; some have two. We've got our favorite, and this is it:
Yeah, picture looks like it was taken from a speeding getaway car or something, but I just happened to snap it as we were leaving one day.
You know how you can tell a real diner from a fake one? Order a cheeseburger and see whether they put raw onions or onion rings on it. I have never seen a fake diner get this right. Real diner burgers have onion rings. It's universal.
Of course, we still go to (or stay in) the city to eat a lot of the time. That's still where the really great restaurants are, and I'm sure I'll write about more of them in the future. But I love the food on Long Island, even without having tried much of the local ethnic food. I think we've already fallen into our habits.