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Recap: Thrillist’s #BDOYL

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I love discovering innovative ways to explore New York’s food and drink scene. When I lived in D.C., I would always be the first in line to buy tickets to the next beer festival, bar crawl, or food crawl. Sadly, I feel like these kind of events are few and far between in the Big Apple.

So, when I stumbled across Thrillist’s 3rd Annual “Best Day of Your Life” event and they invited us to participate, I was intrigued – was it a food crawl? Was it a festival of some sort? Was it just one gigantic party? I wasn’t exactly sure, but I couldn’t wait to find out.

I met my friend, J, in the Lower East Side, eager to finally learn exactly what Thrillist’s #BDOYL was all about. I was so excited after we checked in and discovered it was what I’d hoped it would be all along – a food AND drink crawl!

Thrillist partnered with 20 restaurants and bars throughout the LES. Each stop featured their own unique specials. We were handed a map of the area with the stops clearly marked, and set off for the Best Day of Our Life! Here were some of our favorite, and least favorite stops of the day.

We figured our check-in point, Clemente Soto Velez, was as good a place to start our day as any. After wandering out back, we grabbed a handcrafted cocktail that tasted like peach sangria. It was good, but sweet to the point that was almost dangerously so. Next, we dug into the food offerings: seared Ahi tuna sliders, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalepenos, and ghost pepper and garlic parmesan wings.

We assumed the grub was being served courtesy of a local restaurant nearby, but to our surprise it was from the T.G.I. Friday’s food truck! Gasp! This Bitch normally turns her nose up at chain restaurants such as Friday’s, but it seems they’ve revamped their menu. These particular bites were really tasty.

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(photo ℅ Thrillist)

I was excited to check out the Thierry-Goldberg Gallery, which was recreating the loft from Showtime’s Ray Donovan. It was a neat way to bring a great show to life, while also showcasing a local installation space. While here, we nibbled on lobster rolls and sipped on scotch and beer. I love a good lobster roll, and hadn’t had one since summer started, so I was really looking forward to this particular stop. Sadly, I left disappointed. The meat in the rolls tasted more like imitation crab meat than actual lobster, and they were doused in a mayo-based sauce.

One of the most unique experiences on #BDOYL was the bar Welcome to the Johnson’s. It was definitely a dive bar, but their schtick is that they treat it like a family home. “Grandma” was waiting outside to greet us with Werther’s Originals and birthday cards. “Family photos” hung on the walls inside, and the bar was filled with furniture that looked similar to things you’d find at Grandma’s house.

They served a Taquito Bloody Mary (yes, that’s exactly as it sounds – a Bloody Mary with a Taquito garnish) and “Beer & Pretzel” cupcakes from Prohibition Bakery. As you probably know by now, I LOVE Bloody Mary’s, but this one was a little much for me. It was almost like sipping from a bottle of hot sauce with a straw. I actually couldn’t finish mine, as my throat felt like it was on fire. Probably the only time I haven’t finished a Bloody Mary. Le sigh. The cupcake, however, was delicious! A bite-sized cupcake, infused with beer, with a hint of salt from the pretzel. The perfect combination. Welcome to the Johnson’s was definitely a bar unlike any other I’ve been to in New York so far though, and I’d be willing to go back and give their Bloody another shot.

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(photo ℅ Thrillist)

Later in the afternoon, we arrived at Lucky Jack’s. I had been waiting for this stop all day long. They were serving a full cereal bar and – wait for it – CEREAL MARTINIS! Basically an adult version of my childhood Cocoa Puff’s breakfast. J and I got lucky and snagged two of the last martinis they were serving for the day, as they had run out of ingredients. Popeye the Sailor Man and Papa Smurf were handing out the drinks, to play into the cartoon theme. It was such an innovative cocktail, but a bit stronger than martinis usually are. I was expecting a sweeter aftertaste.

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(photo ℅ Thrillist)

Next, we ran across the street to the Grey Lady. We had both been looking forward to this stop all day too, and it ended up being our favorite one of the whole event. The atmosphere was great; chalk drawings and writing covered the walls, with hints of reclaimed wood here and there. A live band was playing some funk music, and everyone had reached the stage of the crawl where they didn’t mind dancing. They were serving fresh oysters, which you really can’t beat, as well as specialty Wild Turkey American Honey cocktails. My favorite was the Toasted Bee. I will definitely be coming back to Grey Lady for the amazing ambiance in heart of the LES and the sea to table fare!

Oysters at Grey Lady_Photo Credit Thrillist

(photo ℅ Thrillist)

Our last stop of the day was Cheese Grille. We were getting a bit tipsy, and wanted to snag some carbs before we headed to see DJ Pauly D at the afterparty. I had passed Cheese Grille a couple times, and it always caught my eye, so I was glad I could finally experience what it was all about. They serve sweet and savory grilled cheese sandwiches, but today’s feature was their classic cheddar grilled cheese with a spicy tomato soup “dip.” This was probably one of the best grilled cheeses I’ve ever had in my life. It was cooked perfectly, to the point where the cheddar was oozing, but the bread wasn’t overly greasy. The tomato soup “dip” was great as well. It wasn’t spicy as described, just an outstanding soup with a bit of a kick.

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(photo ℅ Thrillist)

So, was it really the Best Day of Our Lives? Not quite, but it was pretty close! This is definitely a one-of-a-kind event that fulfilled my need for a food & drink crawl in New York, and I already plan on attending again next year.

For more Thrillist events in New York, keep an eye on their website.

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(photo ℅ Thrillist)

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