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Summer: Where to Go in Astoria After the Pool, and Open-Mic Night and Dumplings in Chinatown

Summer: Where to Go in Astoria After the Pool, and Open-Mic Night and Dumplings in Chinatown

Hello, summer readers!

Here we are, in the thick of summer. If the thermometer has got you down, we’ve got another, even more accessible swim spot that’s downright dreamy. And, culture fanatics, we’ve got a great one for you too. Read on!

And don’t forget to forward these itineraries to friends, share your thoughts with us, read our previous plans that still work, and find our recommendations’ exact locations, hours and so on by clicking on our Google Map.

Yours in air conditioning,

Margot and Tejal

Astoria Pool, Queens

Margot, What’s the Plan?

They say Astoria is where you go to have it all: great food, more space, cheaper rent. But it’s the Astoria pool that really seals the deal.

This gem sandwiched between Astoria Park and the East River offers that lovely, lazy, classic day-at-the-pool day, right here in New York.

Kids scream playfully in Spanish and English as they fail to escape in games of tag. Adults splash gently through the lap swim lane. A rainbow of towels brightens the pool’s edge.

And the pool din is punctuated by short, reprimanding whistles of orange-clad lifeguards keeping a watchful eye as their off-duty colleagues flirt on the sideline.

It’s a vision of summer. (Yes, I get paid to do this.)

Even the snack bar is the stuff of memories: Get hot dogs or hamburgers made to order, or go straight to the ice cream case for a rock-hard chocolate ice-cream sandwich or the pink-pebbled Strawberry Shortcake bar. There’s also coffee — phew.

Good thing they’ve got all the goodies because you can’t bring in your own food. That’s high on the long list of rules on what you must and must not carry with you when visiting any city pool.

Musts are a bathing suit, to be shown at entry, and a lock to secure your other belongings within the vast, dank changing rooms. For the unprepared, locks, suits and more are available to buy at a stand outside.

The list of contraband includes bags, water toys, chairs, newspapers (we broke this rule) and, amazingly, phones.

The technology-free zone forces you to keep track of your people analog-style. Inevitably this leads to intercom announcements like, “Laura, please come meet your boyfriend under the clock. He’s waiting for you.”

You know what else is waiting for you? Summer. And it won’t stick around for long.

Off you go.

We highly recommend biking to Astoria, both for the views of the water and for the mobility afforded by wheels.

The pool is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (That hour is a closure for cleaning.) Sign up for extended lap swim hours here. All public pools are open until Sept. 9. (Google Map)

Before and After

Restaurants From Tejal

You’re in Astoria, so eat well: For a whole dinner of perfectly fried summer vegetables, Greek-style dips, slabs of fried Kefalograviera cheese and maybe a whole grilled fish (if you’ve still got a little room), go to Telly’s Taverna.

If you’ve come with a group, you can strategically order the family-style barbecue meals at Salt & Bone. If not, go à la carte with half birds, smoked brisket sausages and peppery beef ribs.

We’ve been eating a lot of pizza this summer, in a lot of boroughs, and that’s exactly how things should be. So add another location to your list: Milkflower. Its bubbly, beautifully charred wood-fired pies come scattered with what’s in season. (Google Map)

Bars From Tejal

There’s good reason that Bohemian Hall, built by Czech immigrants more than 100 years ago, may be the most well-known beer garden in the city. (Read all about the history in its walled courtyard of maple and sycamore trees here.)

An alternative location to drink those beers outside is Judy & Punch, which has a $5 happy hour with big bowls of popcorn and tables that can fit large groups on its back patio.

Cronin & Phelan’s isn’t fancy, but it’s friendly — the kind of no-nonsense, old-school dive bar that’s so much rarer in New York than it used to be. As a bonus, if you’re hungry, there’s an unexpectedly extensive food menu. (Google Map)

• Read the Bowery Boys’ history of the Astoria Pool, which discusses Robert Moses (whose love of summer can be seen in most New York pools and beaches), the W.P.A., and more.

• Love that iconic Greek diner coffee cup? Read about its history here.

Open-Mic Night, Chinatown

Margot, What’s the Plan?

On a perfect, sunny New York day recently, I wandered into Wing on Wo & Co., a century-old gift shop on Mott Street, to learn a little about our city’s history.

Among the brightly painted teapots, I spoke with Gary Lum, the man behind the counter, who shared his own story as well as that of the shop and the neighborhood.

Speaking in a distinct New York accent acquired in part from Italian-American classmates at the parochial school across the street, Mr. Lum, 63, told me about his father’s butcher shop, among the first in Chinatown; about summering as a child on the Jersey Shore next door to the girl who is now his wife; and how exceptional it was in the 1920s, under the Chinese Exclusion Act, for his wife’s family to buy the building we were standing in.

Pausing for a sip of ginger tea to stymie a tear, he murmured, “these oral histories are hard to recount.”

It was amazing to hear, and offered a good taste of what’s on deck at 7 p.m. next Thursday, when Mr. Lum’s daughter and fifth-generation store owner, Mei Lum, hosts an open-mic night to share Chinatown’s oral histories. More than a dozen people of the Asian diaspora will tell their stories, personal and political, through prose, music and other creative media.

The event is part of a series called “Homeward Bound: Memories, Identity and Resilience Across the Chinese Diaspora,” created to draw attention to efforts made in gentrifying Chinatowns to uphold Chinese culture and traditions. Though the open-mic night is one of the last Homeward Bound events, Ms. Lum often hosts film screenings, public workshops on arts like papermaking and puppetry, and other events through her community group, the W.O.W. Project.

But don’t go to the store for open-mic night, which is happening at Project Reach, a youth center on nearby Forsyth Street. Take the elevator to the fourth floor, and be prepared to sit on the floor if you don’t arrive in time to snag a seat.

This event is open to all ages, and a suggested donation of $5 to $15 benefits Project Reach and the W.O.W. Project. (Google Map)

Before and After

Restaurants From Tejal

The only hitch with Kopitiam used to be the improbability of finding a seat. But the Malaysian cafe has reopened in a larger space with a larger menu, packed with chilled noodles and beautiful rice bowls. Don’t miss the shaved ice with a rainbow of fruits and jellies.

You’ll find Kyoto-style cold brew and dreamy dishes of wafu, or Japanese-style spaghetti, at Davelle. One is dressed with butter and soy sauce and tossed with pieces of sea urchin; another is sweet and simple, tangy with ketchup.

If you want to spend a little less, and eat just as well, head to Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle, where the juicy, nearly translucent pork dumplings are drizzled in a delicious red chile oil (boiled is the way to go) and the hand-pulled noodles are slippery and tender. (Google Map)

Bars From Tejal

It’s officially highball weather and Bar Goto, a suave little bar on Eldridge Street, makes them particularly well. Look for a precisely tuned ume fizz made with plum brandy, or stick with the classic whiskey and soda.

The Dancer is a friendly, no-nonsense cocktail bar (new, from the owners of Eastwood down the street) where you can find great drinks and simple snacks like smoked whitefish with potato chips, or chicken liver mousse, made right.

Walk in to Wildair for delicious wines by the glass and a snack or two — the kitchen is just as exciting as the bar. But keep in mind that it’s often busy and can be a tough spot to navigate if you’re in a big group at prime time. (Google Map)


• Visit Wing on Wo & Co. to buy a teapot, and then hit GTW Tea and Water on Grand Street, which sells teas and Buddhist goods like incense and wooden altars. Sample teas and learn about their use and provenance from the owner Mr. Liu, who often goes by “Teafucius.” Finally, KK Discount Store on Mulberry Street has a ton of home goods, almost all of which are displayed outside.

Tip Line

Extra, Extra

• The Backstreet Boys play a free 7 a.m. show in Central Park tomorrow for “Good Morning America.” What an opportunity!

• The Afro-Latino Festival is going down this weekend in Harlem, with talks, films and live music from Amara La Negra and others.

• Or take advantage of Open Garden Day NYC on Saturday. More than 40 community gardens will open to the public, each offering activities. Need some exercise but still like the green? Join a free 10-mile guided bike ride through the gardens of Harlem, Randalls Island and the South Bronx and hear stories from gardeners at each stop. Bring your own wheels or get a free Citi Bike for the day!

• Later on Saturday, the Happy Family Night Market celebrates Asian-American heritage through the lens of food. Go for tastes, talks and films in Bushwick.

• Ending Sunday: the large-scale organism sculptures, made of balloons, at Brookfield Place in Jason Hackenwerth’s “Animal Soul” exhibition.

AND… In case you haven’t turned on a computer or a television recently, the World Cup final and Bastille Day are this weekend. Sounds like a party. Catch the game and a lot of France fans outside at 60th & Lexington as part of FIAF’s Bastille Day street fair on Sunday. Find other places to watch the game here.

From You

“This is the America I want to know!” — Norina

“I’m a newcomer to NYC and appreciate this newsletter. I’m hoping for simple descriptions and exact locations of various destinations. Bullet points are good too so readers will have an easier time scanning for what might interest them.” — Eleanor

From Us

Norina — we’re so glad! And Eleanor, is our map not enough? We thought that would be handy, especially on the phone. But let us know.

Next week we’ll stay in Lower Manhattan and then go way north. How far? You’ll have to see.

Please continue to write us at with tips or suggestions on what you like to do or see. You can also check out our previous ideas.

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