Editor’s note: As part of this week’s cover story on Los Angeles, Time Out New York features editor Tim Lowery and Time Out Los Angeles restaurants and bars editor Erin Kuschner swap coasts (and lives) for a week. Read Tim’s take on L.A. here.
I always thought I would live in New York. For someone who wanted nothing more than to work in print, it seemed like a natural move after finishing college in Boston. That didn’t happen, but to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve seriously considered moving there. It’s not that living in Los Angeles for the past five years has made me soft—I don’t fear the cold or have claustrophobia, I just enjoy perfect weather and personal space. Outside my Echo Park apartment, a line of palm trees greets me every morning, a quick walk lands me at the idyllic Echo Park Lake, and avocados on my tacos are a given, not a bonus. But the prospect of living in the city has always been a tempting one, like a tree branch I had chosen not to climb. When Tim and I decided to swap lives, I was curious to see where that branch would take me.
Tim lives at the top of a four-story walk-up in Greenpoint with two roommates. I live in a one-bedroom bungalow by myself. (Yep—in L.A., it’s possible to roll solo without depleting your savings.) Still, I was excited about dwelling with roommates for a week to see if I could still coexist with other humans. Walter and his girlfriend, Laurie, are wonderful—kind and friendly, they humor me when I ask if its possible to walk to the nearby pizzeria Paulie Gee’s or if I should take a Lyft. “You can walk everywhere,” says Walter, a bit confused by my question. Touché.
There are challenges that come with having roommates—one night, the two debate the definition of polenta, and despite being in the next room, I feel like I’m unwillingly in the middle of their conversation—but sharing a pad isn’t as existentially confusing as the New York subway system.
Tim’s apartment is near the Nassau Avenue G-train stop, and each day’s like a choose-your-own adventure catastrophe. One morning, I go uptown instead of downtown, because what the hell does downtown mean when it is, in fact, uptown from you? (Don’t laugh.) I seem to exit the Times Square station from a different stairwell each day—once, inexplicably, I get shuffled into an underground tunnel and end up at Grand Central Terminal. Another time I take the F to the G, thinking I’m going to connect at Court Square and instead end up near Prospect Park. Yes, the traffic in L.A. during rush hour can rival the ninth circle of hell, but you are in control of your car, existing in your own quiet world and listening to some of the best radio stations in the country (shout out to 93.5 KDAY) while driving down idyllic palm-tree–riddled streets.
Is this a way of life that just requires getting used to? I meet up with Tim’s friend Trixie at Ramona, a sleek cocktail bar where we talk about making the cross-country jump. She moved to NYC from L.A. two years ago to be with her boyfriend. Trixie misses California’s laid-back lifestyle, telling me that New Yorkers don’t mentally take care of themselves in the way that Angelenos do, but she’s also charmed with her life in Brooklyn. “You really just have to sacrifice some things—living in a shoebox, winter, always hearing your neighbors—for other things, like great restaurants,” she says.
I get that. Throughout the week, I feel like some of the best eateries and drinkeries on the planet are waiting for me to discover them. Los Angeles has an incredible food scene, but it’s also a city big on trends and destination dining—more often than not, we’ll drive across town for a raved-about sushi spot rather than wander into an unknown Cuban place around the corner. In NYC, I walk into Dutch Kills to meet friends for a drink one night and walk out having a new favorite bar. I eat phenomenal doughnuts from Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop almost every morning and have an unforgettable meal at D.O.C. Wine Bar, a Sardinian restaurant with low ceilings and an old-school vibe that’s hard to find in L.A. Going out by yourself—to dinner, to drinks, for a show—also seems to be easier in New York, and when I find myself at Goldie’s for a beer, I end up talking movies and pounding frozen penicillins with some new friends for the rest of the night.
Still, by the end of the week, I’m ready to return to my life of sprawl and warm weather, tacos and hiking. New York is a frenetic playground, and while that’s an exciting factor to consider when moving, the city also makes it hard to take a deep breath. “New York City is like boot camp for life,” says Trixie. Maybe I’m just more into Pilates. And I’m okay with that.