New York, New York. Preview of a Whirlwind Trip Back to STJ

At the end of February, a day after my birthday actually, the kind folks at Volvo (@Volvo_US) are sending me on an all-expenses paid trip back to my alma mater, St. John’s University, thanks to my involvement in their “Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST Contest“. Not only are they putting me up in a hotel in New York City, giving me tickets to the STJ – Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden and spending money, they are letting me test drive the brand new Volvo S60, all weekend long.

In preparation for the big weekend, I have been tasked with listing the must-see attractions and stops to make when I am back in NYC for the game. This is the second challenge post in the contest.

Needless to say I will have Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” on repeat, pumping through the sound system for three hours as I drive the S60 down to Queens (Maybe a ‘lil Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York” thrown in as well).

The first stop I’ll make once I get over the Throgs Neck Bridge and on to Union Turnpike will definitely have to be Romeo’s Pizzeria. Any St. John’s student can tell you that once you have had one of their “chicken cesar slices” you will never go back. My mouth is actually salivating right now as type this (February can’t get here fast enough).

From there it’s on to visit Big Ed over at the Sly Fox Inn (just five blocks down)… wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Of course, I have to stop at Iguana’s Mexican Grill and Cantina for a margarita. To bad I won’t be there on a Wednesday (O, how I miss dollar beer night). I’ll also try to avoid the tequila museum (Yes they have a giant room with about 300 different types of tequila).

Ok, now on to the Sly Fox, for a barbecue burger and Hoegaarden (and probably a bear hug from Eddie). The Fox was always the place to go after all athletic events on campus at St. John’s. Much obliged for all the hospitality over the years.

From there, I have to make a stop in the “Verizon Store.” Now most recent St. John’s grads know that the “Verizon Store,” which is actually a cellphone store now, used to be one of the best bars at STJ. I myself actually worked the door there for a year. Whether it was known as Last Call or Gantry’s, the new phone outlet just serves as a reminder of all the good times we shared there.

Now that I’ve made it all the way to the corner of Union Turnpike and Utopia Parkway, I have finally reached the campus of St. John’s. Of course any time I stop by the school, I have to go in and say hello to the many members of the Athletic Department that still work there (special shoutout to the Sports Information Office). I spent four years as an undergraduate student worker in Carnesecca Arena (then known as Alumni Hall) and then two more as a graduate assistant. I can’t even imagine the total hours that I spent in that gym, whether it was working for the administration office, helping out with Red/White Club, watching the Red Storm play a game, or just shooting around on the court to pass the time. The days I spent there will always be some of the best years of my life.

Ok, where to next? I may actually have to head down to Fresh Meadows just to grab a queso burrito from Qdoba. I know its not local to Queens, but anyone that worked with at STJ with me knows my slight obsession. From there it will be on to the LIE, heading towards Manhattan.

Now, we are talking about the “greatest city in the world.” To be forced to have to pick just a few establishments to visit is almost near impossible. There is a reason that the BIG EAST Conference hosts its annual basketball championship at Madison Square Garden. You could go to the city for the tournament every year for the next 20 years, and do something different each time you go. That said, I am going to do my best to pick out some of my favorite spots in the city before heading to a game.

The cheesy pick will be Times Square. It is a complete tourist attraction, but no matter how many times you have been there before, any chance you have to stand in the middle of it and do a .360, you have to feel like you are a part of something. And that goes for any time of day. Whether its 8 a.m., or 5 a.m., the place always has a ton of people in it. It is simply amazing.

The next stop would probably be Bryant Park. I know a lot people would choose Central Park, but for some reason, for the first four years as an undergrad at St. John’s, whenever I took the E or F train into the city, we would always end up getting off at Bryant Park (usually with no plan of what to do, what-so-ever, but eventually having another amazing and memorable night) before we would head out. A chance to go back and feel the nostalgia set in would be well worth it.

The pregame spot for any St. John’s game at the garden has to be Stout. Whether we were hanging out upstairs getting some good food and watching whatever other game was on, or going downstairs for some darts or karaoke (both are always in play), I always had a great time there. The other good thing is that many other people felt the same way, and you never knew who would walk in the door. You could end up meeting a friend you hadn’t seen in nearly three years and not miss a beat as both of you had shown up for the game that night. You could also easily find tickets outside (not that I condone that type of thing).

After a St. John’s game, the world is practically your oyster (I’ve heard people use that saying a lot, and I don’t think I’ve ever used the saying before. Feels pretty good). As many of my friends have now moved to the city, it becomes a flurry of texts and phone calls to find out where everyone is meeting up. Riding the train around the city at one point or another is also a must as you never know what you may see (seriously, anything is in play on those things). The best part is that once you get to the first “spot” you immediately get another text that says plans have changed and we are now heading to another place 40 blocks away. Into the cab and away we go.

No matter what happens though, you are guaranteed to have a good time. And if you’re lucky you’ll end up looking out over the water at 4 a.m., staring at the Statue of Liberty, humming the lines “… concrete jungle, where dreams are made, there’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York, New York, New York….”

If you haven’t voted for me yet, please do at

And as always, follow me on Twitter at @BIG3Sports.

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