European Hostels Managing Editor T.J. DiChristopher administered the tried-and-true EuroCheapo Q & A. Read on to see what he has to say about local cuisine, great cheap hotels and how much he enjoys reviewing hotels on the Upper West Side.
Reviewing New York
1. Three favorite hotels
My favorite hotel in New York is the Harlem Flophouse, a small guesthouse with four rooms. It's so warm and inviting and classic. It's the kind of place I wish I could go home to every day. I also liked the Chelsea Inn. The rooms are snug but very intimate, decorated very tastefully. And since I still have quite a few hostelling years left in me, I have to shout out Swiss 1291 Hostel because it has a terrific vibe. Plus, it's located in Hell's Kitchen, one of my favorite neighborhoods.
2. Favorite thing about working In New York.
I have a very scattershot personality, so I really love that New York has such a schizophrenic geography. My friends back home in Buffalo always ask about the nightlife, meaning the bar scene, but I'm psyched to get out of work and eat some soul food around the corner from my place in Harlem or to see a midnight showing at the Sunshine Theater in the Lower East Side.
3. What surprised you about New York?
How affordable it can be. If you do your research before you get here, set a budget and stick to it, you can have a really great experience. Of course, if you're into boutique hotels, haute cuisine and doing the Lindsay Lohan lounge circuit, you're going to spend. A little discretion goes a long way here.
4. Funny Story
Midway through my New York hotel reconnaissance mission, I went to Buffalo to see my family. I was at a barbecue, and someone who was planning a trip to New York City caught wind that I work for a travel guide in SoHo. She was astounded at how much I knew about the city. I wanted to tell her that if she'd just gotten done scouring databases, plotting hotels on a city map and debating the neighborhood boundaries of, say, Chelsea, she'd know an awful lot about the city too, but instead I just let her think I was this man about town. Ha!
5. City Secret.
The fluctuation of hotel rates here is very volatile. The larger chain hotels even hike their rates in anticipation, as soon as they've heard that a competitor hotel has began to sell out its rooms. So if you prefer a Red Roof or Days Inn, don't assume that that obscure weekend in September is safe because that might be the weekend that the National Podiatrist Association decides to hold its conference in New York. If you're a chronic procrastinator, check out hotels or hostels with fixed seasonal rates.
6. Favorite local foods.
See 2. I'm a big soul food fan, yum.
7. Highlights of reviewing period
I might be biased because I hang out there a lot, but visiting hotels in the Upper West Side was really enjoyable. Dropping in on the Midtown hotels can be stressful, with their packs of guests and stressed-out employees, but staff at Upper West Sides hotels and hostels were very welcoming and eager to show me their digs. There's a terrific energy there. Best of all, you get the feeling that these smaller hotels are genuinely invested in attracting tourists to the neighborhood.