By Jess Goulart
Photos by Jess Goulart.
I’m from Colorado, but I currently live in New York City, land of mild weather and affordable living.
You can’t see the stars, but you can see garbage floating on the wind and when it catches the moonlight exactly right… if you squint… and have been drinking… well, it still looks just like garbage.
Indeed, the Freedom Tower is the tallest summit around here, and I have it on good authority if you try to scale it you’ll be shot. You can take the elevator to the top for a view but, spoiler alert, even from way up there you’re not going to see much natural beauty.
As you maybe can tell, I rag on New York a lot. I think that’s one of the ways to survive here. Like, if I whine loudly about the train mysteriously being an hour late I’m less likely to throw myself in front of it when it finally arrives.
It’s easy to recognize the city’s worst traits, but in the six years that I’ve lived here I learned to focus instead on NYC’s best trait–it’s food and drinks scene. It was on one of my most miserable, homesick days when I was honestly considering moving back west that I stumbled upon a gastropub called The Wayland.
A couple feet of dirty, slushy snow was caked to the streets and the wind was whipping me like an enraged-Christian Grey as I made my way to Alphabet City, where The Wayland nestles on an unassuming street corner.
From the outside it looked like a cedar plank cabin in the woods; enormous street facing windows run its modest length, all hemmed with Christmas lights and (then empty) flower beds.
When I opened the door the fantasy was complete–the city faded completely and I was back in a ski lodge on Vail Mountain. Inside were long wooden picnic tables with rosy-cheeked people packed along the benches, the patrons’ gloves and hats and scarves and coats all piled up around them. The back bar was dotted with wreaths and a live bluegrass band strummed in one corner.
I instantly recognized the smell of campfire permeating the cozy air and shortly thereafter discovered what was The Wayland’s kicker (for me!)–their signature cocktail, called I Hear Banjos.
The unique drink is apple pie moonshine, rye, and bitters, served in a rocks glass with a dome over it filled with applewood-cinnamon bark smoke so that the liquid infuses with the aroma.
The rest of the cocktail menu is no slouch, either. It features fresh or homemade ingredients, like the Garden Variety Margarita: tequila, ginger, kale, and agave, rimmed in smoked sea salt, or the Hot Cold Summer: a blend of vodka, watermelon juice, and Thai chili syrup.
After a couple Banjos I was ready for dinner, and though the menu is small, it continues the theme of locally sourced, organic fare. The main courses are a selection of literally the most delicious artisanal sandwiches known to man–my favorite is the Pernil Romero: pork shoulder marinated in sour orange and slow roasted with garlic and rosemary (WHAT?!).
To start a meal, though, you HAVE to try the burrata with unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, raw honey, smoked pepper, and sea salt, or, if you’re the healthy type, crispy cauliflower that is marinated in chilies and tossed with cilantro, with a side of herbed jalapeno yogurt for dipping.
That was my first, but far from last, night spent drinking, eating, and dancing at The Wayland. Through the ups and downs of my tumultuous relationship with NYC, it is where I go for a breath of fresh woodland air and a welcome reminder that there are some things you simply won’t find anywhere else in the world.