Dykes on Dates: A Chill, Food-Filled Day on the Upper West Side

Welcome to Dykes on Dates, the series in which I, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, usually tell you about the dates I go on with my fiancé Kristen. Well, Kristen has been out of town for two weeks, so I haven’t really been on any dates! Instead, I thought it’d be fun to have a guest spot this week. Here’s Anya Richkind with a rundown of a recent date she went on with her girlfriend Jess! Enjoy!

a film photo of the upper west side

My favorite thing about living in New York City is that after almost seven years of living here (?!??), it still feels endlessly explorable. When Kayla asked me to write an edition of Dykes on Dates (an HONOR!), I thought about the kinds of dates Jess and I go on, and they have a commonality — we love to explore The Big Apple. Jess has lived in NYC for even longer than I have, and we’ve been exploring this strange, gorgeous city together for almost six years. And I still love it every time.

One thing about Jess is that she has an intrinsic gift for transforming a moment of joy into a whole Experience of Joy. She’s basically the “yes and” of joy. If you’re throwing a party, she’s the one who will show up with hand-made decorations and a cake she decided to bake that morning. If you’re a Eurovision fan, she’s the one who will insist you make a scorecard to score each performance to make your own Top Ten (I actually witnessed this happening last week). If she’s craving Sonic’s Ocean Water, she’s gonna look up how to make it online, get all the stuff from the bodega, and actually make it — blue food coloring and all.

So when we explore a neighborhood, you can be sure we’re not just going to one place. That would be just a moment of joy. But with Jess, it’ll be an Experience.

Welcome to my edition of Dykes on Dates: The Upper West Side Experience.

It starts how it always starts: with a very long ride on the subway.

We live in Brooklyn, so going to the Upper West Side means taking the F to the B for about an hour. But even taking the subway can be part of the date! We shared our headphones (I have a soft spot for that) and listened to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me because we have become NPR girlies, as well as fun bops, because I literally know nothing about pop culture and Jess is always teaching me about new music. Isn’t it amazing to sit in a metal canister being slingshotted through space, discovering a song you’ve never heard before?

Eat breakfast at Jacob’s Pickles.

Once we finally completed our subway journey, we arrived at the first destination: Jacob’s Pickles. Is this place pricy? Yes. But is the food absolutely amazing? Yes. Also, the portions are quite large, so if you’re trying to be a little more spend-thrift, you could probably get away with splitting a dish!

biscuit brunch at Jacob's Pickles

I’m certainly not a biscuit expert, but in my HUMBLE OPINION, the biscuits here are absolutely amazing. After much debate, we BOTH decided to get the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwich. (We considered what I was raised to call a “splitsy-splitsy” situation for a while, but honesty is important, and we both had to admit that we really just wanted the same dishes. And we had to accept that.) We also got a side of pickles because you can’t go to Jacob’s Pickles and NOT get pickles!!!

One other thing to share is that we did NOT have a reservation — very brave in NYC! On a Saturday morning! With great weather! However, we waltzed in at 10:30 AM, fully expecting to be told we’d have to wait an hour, and they sat us RIGHT AWAY! A pickled miracle.

Jess, a white woman with glasses and a baseball cap, holds a menu at Jacob's Pickles

Explore the museum that is Zabar’s.

After breakfast, we walked over to Zabar’s, which I can only describe as a famous Jewish grocery store that feels like it still has one foot in the 1940s (I feel like it’s in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel a lot). You don’t even need to buy anything there — it’s truly a trip just to walk through.

groceries at Zabar's

Despite what I said about not needing to buy anything, Jess did buy this hat. Can you blame her??

a tan hat with orange lettering that reads ZABAR'S

Explore the actual museum that is the American Museum of Natural History.

From Zabar’s, we walked over to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) — all of these things are within a 10-blockish radius of each other! Because Jess is a public preschool teacher, we have a “Cool Culture” pass (you just gotta love that name), so we were able to get into the museum for free. We did have to wait in a line we lovingly, tenderly referred to as the Ninth Circle of Hell, because the museum only had two people checking folks in, and some folks buying tickets were perhaps discussing the degree to which living ethically under capitalism is possible or not because they were up there for a WHILE, so the line — full of hangry children, exasperated adults, and a whole lotta tourists — was… an experience. But eventually we made it through, and it was all worth it!

Our first stop was the Bernard Family Hall of North American Animals — we’ve both been there before, but it’s a treat every time. To be honest, as a lover and maker of theater, my favorite thing about this is how theatrical it feels. You see each of these animals not just in a regular moment, but in a critical moment — the Bighorn Sheep glancing up like they just heard a strange sound; one Alaskan Moose charging the other. The stories tell themselves.

My favorite exhibit of all of these is unquestionably the wolves — they’re in a mini-room of their own, lights dimmed so you really feel like it’s nighttime and you’re scouring Gunflint Lake for prey. It’s easy to forget the pair of wolves are frozen in time — they look like they’re running right toward you.

the american natural history museum

Going to the museum as an adult, I thought about things I didn’t consider as a kid. Jess and I talked about the ethics of this kind of conservation — we learned about so many plants and animals we’d never seen by viewing them at the museum, but of course, we’re not really seeing them. It is, indeed, theater of sorts. But if this is theater, are the taxidermied animals the characters, or are we — the ones falling for the facsimiles — the characters? We wondered.

Make sure to make time for the whale.

If you’ve never been to the AMNH before, let me tell you about the whale. In the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, on the second floor, there is this huge, blue orca whale affixed to the ceiling. So it looms over the first floor of the hall, like it’s swimming through unseen water.

Beneath the whale, there is a large mat — big enough for maybe 50 people (or more? I’m awful at estimating these kinds of things) to sit on. I hadn’t noticed it before, but Jess insisted we go down there and lay down, like other folks were doing. We laid down on the mat and stared up at the whale, and I knew right away that this was my favorite part of the day. I felt so calm. The belly of the whale was so huge. The body of the whale was so blue. I was a little kid again, marveling at the grandeur of the world and the smallness of myself. But I was an adult, too, holding hands with the woman I love.

the whale at the natural history museum

If you go to the AMNH, don’t skip the whale.

Go eat more snacks and hang out in Central Park!

After the museum, we were hungry again so we got cookies and also froyo because if it’s above like 65 degrees, we’re getting some version of ice cream. Then we walked to Central Park, laid down our blanket (I told you, the Jess Experience is gonna have a lot of parts to it!!), and listened to this honestly amazing street performer playing Beatles songs at the John Lennon Memorial. I fell asleep, as I am wont to do in almost any setting where falling asleep is remotely possible. When I woke up, we decided it was time to head back to Brooklyn because, let’s be honest, we missed our cats.

Go home.

The day ended the same way it began: sitting on the subway, sharing headphones, drifting asleep and drifting through space.

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Anya Richkind

Anya is a writer, a Pisces, and a huge fan of Survivor. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner Jess and their kittens, Buckett and Tubbs. She writes a substack called Questions I Have in which she explores questions big, small, medium, and more. Check it out here: anyarichkind.substack.com

Anya has written 37 articles for us.


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