Why Staten Island:
The city of New York is comprised of five boroughs or districts. Those boroughs, which are actually all distinct counties are: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island. Having been to four, I set my sights on Staten Island.
Staten Island is quite removed from the rest of the New York City. It is located on the western bank of the Hudson River. Staten Island should probably be part of New Jersey, but became part of New York when the British took control in 1664. The legend states that all the islands in the Hudson River were deeded to New York. The Duke of York decreed that any piece of land would be considered an island (and therefore New York) if it could be circumnavigated by ship in under 24 hours. The Duke of York contracted Captain Christopher Billopp for this task… and he took 23.5 hours to sail around it. Therefore, Staten Island was given to New York and Captain Billopp was given the land to settle.
Despite being part of New York City, Staten Island remains suburban and more culturally like New Jersey.
From the rest of NYC, there are only two ways to reach Staten Island: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn or a ferry. The main ferry leaves from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan.
March 15, 2022: A Long Way for Sri Lankan Food
My friend Michael contacted me about taking a post-work dinner trip for Sri Lankan food on Staten Island. He worked in Lower Manhattan and suggested we take the ferry, which runs 24 hours/day and is free. We met at 5:15 pm to catch the 5:30 ferry.
The ferry terminal and ferry were far nicer than what I was expecting. It felt more like a mall. The boat was so large I couldn´t feel the undulations of the tides.
The boat left right on time, and we cruised across the harbor with shocking smoothness. We were blessed with free sunset views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and a close-up of the Statue of Liberty.
30 minutes later, we made it to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal – which is attached to a mall. 70% of the passengers got right back onto the boat to Manhattan.
Michael and I walked down the street past a mall to the Staten Island September 11th Memorial. As Staten Island is mostly working class, most of the names seemed to be firefighters. One name stuck out, Scott Michael Davidson, the father of famous comedian Pete Davidson.
Eventually, we were joined by Michael´s friend who missed our boat and had to take the next one. We walked over to the Staten Island Railroad Station, an aboveground NYC subway line.
On the train, an inquisitive bald white middle-aged man bearing a striking resemblance to Rob Corddry approached us. He had a thick northeastern accent and asked us what we were doing in Staten Island. He seemed pleasantly surprised to hear that we were local tourists and went on a rant about his love for Staten Island. He then INSISTED we go to a cocktail bar called the Coupe.
We got off the railroad and so did our new friend. For a second, we thought he was going to follow us to dinner, but instead headed off in the opposite direction to his home.
Four minutes of walking later, we reached the Lakruwana restaurant. As soon as we glimpsed the golden door and brightly painted wall of Hindu gods, we all knew that we were in for a treat.
The interior of the Lakruwana is like a museum with artifacts on all walls and hanging from the ceiling.
I really don´t know how to describe the food, but some of it is similar to Indian food (curries and roti), but much is quite different (lamprais, pittu, and kottu) . I would encourage you to try Sri Lankan food and taste the unique flavors.
The entire experience of Lakruwana: the food, the décor, the random location all made It a meal I will remember for quite some time.
Next, we decided to take up our friend´s advice and headed over to the Coupe. After going through a thick red curtain, we entered a dimly lit lounge. Nobody else was here. The bar has no menu, you tell them what you want, and they can make it. I asked for a sour cocktail and got something with blackberries. At only $12, it was a steal by NYC prices.
Was it a good bar? Absolutely. Was it life changing? No, but it’s probably the best on the island.
With that, we headed back on the Staten Island Railroad and then back again on the ferry. This time, we were gifted with night views of New York Harbor.
Final Thoughts:Staten Island was a pleasant surprise. Yes, it is not as busy as Manhattan, but that doesn´t mean it has nothing. The ferry ride is really fun and the views are spectacular. While most people will only take the ferry, there is a lot to explore beyond. I am certain that there are plenty of other landmarks.