For Writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner All the Places in New York are Home
Seeing a movie is a must do for the 'Fleishman is in Trouble' author, as are pierogies.
By Kerensa Cadenas and Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Published on 12/29/2022 at 12:00 PM
Taffy Brodessor-Akner | Photo by Heather Sten
Novelist and New York Times writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner recently added something new to her resume: TV writer and producer. After the release of her bestselling novel Fleishman is in Trouble in 2019, Brodesser-Akner had been developing it into a limited series, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Lizzy Caplan, for FX, which began airing in November. Aside from hitting the nerve of late millennials everywhere, Fleishman is, through and through, a very New York show. For Brodesser-Akner, a born-and-raised New Yorker, she knows just how special, hard, and expensive it is to shoot a television show in her city. Luckily, some of her favorite places like Central Park were included. But for her own ideal day off, Central Park can play a part, but it all begins with a newspaper.
I live on the Upper West Side. We moved here about two months before we went into production on Fleishman. So when I have a day off—which I have not had—I dream that I would sit on my couch for several hours, but then I would start to feel the creep of existential dread and all the days off I've missed in my life. So anyway, what I would do is then look through all of the listings. I would read the New York Times, which I subscribe to in paper because it's a delight. My children now read a newspaper because they see me read a newspaper.
But I love the tiny little boxes that tell you what's playing at the Angelika and things like that. Then I freak out about all of the options and how New York is a wonderland and you just have to decide every day.
I will say to everyone, "We should go to a museum," and they will be angry at me for saying we should go to a museum. And then I'll say, "We never go to museums and I haven't raised you well." The museums I go to very often are The Met. I just went to the Alex Katz exhibit at the Guggenheim on Claire Danes' recommendation. She said it felt very Fleishman to her. Maybe it was the first time I had been to a museum since the show launched, and I decided on Friday I was going to go to a museum and I just kind of sobbed. I was standing in the lobby looking at this giant painting of Alex Katz's wife, and I just thought it was so beautiful.
Shakespear and Company | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“But I will also consider going to Books Are Magic, which is a great and a very warm bookstore where people give you recommendations and make it joyful to be there.”
I am a member of Film Forum and Film at Lincoln Center. So I will first check those places out. But ultimately, I will probably end up at one of the great movie theaters that is unsung and that is the Lincoln Square AMC. I saw Magnolia there. I saw The Crucible there. I saw House of Sand and Fog there. And recently I saw The Banshees of Inisherin there. It is just such a well-maintained movie theater. I'm proud to say that I have recently become a Stubs A-list member.
I will try to go downtown, and if I go to Film Forum, I will then eat at Jack's Wife Freda, where maybe we'll spot Sofia Coppola, who is my New York icon. I see her sometimes and I'm not cool about it. I don't say anything to her. I will consider getting the tofu with spaghetti squash, but something will happen between the time I decide that and the time I order, and I'll end up with the schnitzel. They make it like my mother makes it and my mother is Israeli. And then I will have some sort of fancy coffee drink afterward, like a cappuccino.
I will consider going to Brooklyn to visit my family. I'm from Brooklyn and they all still live there. But I will also consider going to Books Are Magic, which is a great and a very warm bookstore where people give you recommendations and make it joyful to be there.
I will decide against going to Brooklyn and go back uptown where I will go to Shakespeare and Company first, and then maybe I will go to The Strand. Both of those are really great bookstores that offer different things. I take my kids to bookstores a lot. I know I should be taking them to libraries. But once they get to a certain age, and if you work, it becomes very impossible to go to a library during library hours. Though I love libraries and how they smell.
Pastrami Queen | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“I grew up going to the B&H. My parents took me there as a baby, and the people there still recognize me, which is a great comfort.”
That night I will say, "What do we want for dinner?" My family newly speaking to me again after my museum rant and we decided, should we watch a movie at home? Should we go to a movie? It'll be my second of the day, but I don't have regrets. And we'll decide where to eat. If we end up going to the Angelika, we will absolutely either eat at the B&H Dairy or Veselka. I grew up going to the B&H. My parents took me there as a baby, and the people there still recognize me, which is a great comfort.
But Veselka, it's more popular, so it's hard to get a seat now. When I was growing up, you could just walk in and sit. It has a more delicate pierogi, a thinner-skinned pierogi, so it depends what kind of pierogi are you interested in. If you are interested in one that's like a great, delicious, croquet ball, go to the B&H. If you want one that's a little bit more delicate and that there's more variety, you go to Veselka. But also they will have a hamburger there for my older son, who eats hamburgers at as many meals as he can.
If we stay on the Upper West Side, we will try to get into Cafe Luxembourg, but not be able to. No matter how often I go or how familiar I try to make myself, I cannot ease my way in there without a reservation. However, there's always, on 72nd Street, the Pastrami Queen. People talk about Katz's and they talk about the Second Avenue Deli. But in terms of Jewish delis, Pastrami Queen is the hands down best and also has the best matzo ball soup. I don't understand why there's a debate about these things. Some people like a fluffier matzo ball, but I just think it's absolutely perfect there. Then we will come home and we will disagree about what to watch once we get home.
After the Pastrami Queen, I do not feel confident that I will fit into anything I try on at a store, and so I go to Big Bag. When I was at NYU, Big Bag was on 8th Street. When I was 28, I moved to Los Angeles and I'd come back to New York to visit my family, and one day I noticed that Big Bag was no longer there. I was so upset about it because it's where I got my favorite bag from Jack Gomme. He does not make that same bag anymore. I wish he did, but they are one of the only dealers of Jack Gomme. Then when I was looking for an apartment, I was on a bus and I passed Big Bag on 72nd Street, and I couldn't believe it was there. It's owned by the same people. It still has everything I want and it is a great place to buy a bag.
Big Bag | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“And perhaps the honor of my life as a New Yorker was to shoot in the same places that I visit. I go to the Ramble a lot because it's very exciting to get lost in Central Park.”
Also, I just want to say that sometimes if I'm lucky, I will go see some theater, perhaps. If I'm going to a musical, I will take my sister Tracy. And because Tracy is kosher, we will probably go to Mr. Broadway, an outrageously priced Jewish deli in Times Square. So because it's kosher, they serve deli, sushi, and maybe some Chinese food. But I will always get the same thing, which is a bowl of matzo ball soup, a turkey sandwich on rye with the turkey warmed up and then you put coleslaw on top of it.
On my day off, I just like to be home. All those places are like a home. I live close to Riverside Park, but I go to Central Park a lot. And perhaps the honor of my life as a New Yorker was to shoot in the same places that I visit. I go to the Ramble a lot because it's very exciting to get lost in Central Park. It's hard to get lost in Central Park the longer you live here, but in the Ramble it's still completely possible to get lost because the trees are so big and rambly that if you make a couple of turns without paying attention… It's great because, no matter what, if you keep walking in a straight line, you'll be at the edge of the park in one way or another. My younger son and I have started every weekend going on Citi bikes and doing the loop.
Places to Eat & Drink
226 Lafayette St, New York
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18 W Houston St, New York
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