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Upper West Side: Cafe Lalo for Lunch, and a Stop at Tip Top Shoes

It's hard to know how to react to this financial crisis, but I definitely needed to get out of the apartment today, meet a friend for lunch and then pal around and look at architecture, streetlife, and some shoes. Maybe this is what we do in New York, have lunch and shop for shoes.

This afternoon I met a friend for lunch on the Upper West Side at Cafe Lalo (201 W. 83rd St.), a charming cafe that fashions itself in the tradition of the classic French Belle Epoque cafe but with a palatable Upper West Side vibe. After sitting down at a sunny table facing the street, it took me a long time to read the menu and to decide what to order, as I was somewhat paralyzed by the extensive dessert offerings on display in the counter when I first arrived. I finally decided on the spinach quiche, a great choice it turns out, because the combination of spinach and cheese with a generous crust was the best I've had in the city. The Mediterranean salad that accompanied the quiche was delicious, with lots of well-cut diminutive cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and herbs. I enjoyed my large cup of good coffee and the little piece of wrapped chocolate that came with it. The fall sun that trickled through the trees and into the cafe window made me feel relaxed.

The early fall weather, with a lukewarm sun that's not yet chilly, invited a stroll, so after lunch we walked south along Amsterdam Avenue (stopping in the Scharffen Berger Chocolate store at 473 Amsterdam) toward W. 72nd and then turned back east toward the park. I asked my friend, a longtime resident of the Upper West Side, to describe the area, and she responded by saying it was "eclectic," with bohemians and yuppies and a mix of old and new. Aside from my neighborhood, the Upper West Side strikes me as a place I could feel at home.

We stopped at Tip Top Shoes (155 W. 72nd St.), a place my friend pointed out as a neighborhood institution, and I found the store to possess a solid collection of stylish walking shoes - Clarks, Merrells, and Mephistos, among the brands. "Stylish walking shoes" is sometimes an oxymoron, but I don't think it should be.

Further east on W. 72nd, we passed a yoga studio and an office of the offtrack betting corporation that share the same storefront. We thought that was funny. I then got on the downtown train and made my way home. When I walked back into the apartment, I turned on the TV and saw that the stock market had dipped lower. I was sorry then I had not stayed out the rest of the afternoon.

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