Non-Touristy Guide to NYC – The Today Show and Ramen Burgers

Our trip to New York City continued with a busy day, that started bright and early!  Feel free to look back to Day 1 of the non-touristy guide to a weekend in New York City, which included rushing tickets to see The Elephant Man on Broadway and meeting People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (2011).

Day 2 began with a rude alarm awakening at 4:30AM.  Annalisa, normally not an early bird, was bright eyed this morning though – we would be starting out day two by watching her favorite morning show being filmed: the Today Show!  Before we went, I did some research to find out more about when we should get there, what we should prepare for etc.  To help readers out, here are some tips that will help you maximize your experience.

 Arriving at the Today Show

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Tip: The Today Show broadcast starts at 7AM. However, you want to get there much sooner than that if you want a prime spot, especially if it is tourist season (think July/August), or there is a musical act performing, or a well-known celebrity visiting.  We arrived at 5:30AM and were the 20-21st people in line.

Tip 2: The line-up for the Today Show forms on 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.  If you need an address to enter into your phone or to tell your Uber driver, you can use 56 W 48th Street.

Tip 3: Do you see that truck parked in the picture above?  It is a glorious perk that NBC and the Today Show don’t advertise!  Every morning, from about 5:30AM-6:30AM (give or take), the food truck offers breakfast items including coffee, doughnuts, cookies etc. completely free of charge!  So if you’re one of the people at the back of the line and don’t hear the Today Show staff announce this, just walk on up and enjoy!

The Early Morning View

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Tip 4: You will have to clear security, so make sure you don’t bring too much stuff.

Tip 5: If you forgot to bring a sign for the show, they offer poster boards and markers, free of charge.  However, taking the time to make a sign could mean you don’t get the spot you want!

Tip 6: You will not have restroom access until you exit the Today Show area – meaning you will likely lose your spot.  The nearest bathrooms are located underneath Rockefeller Center.

Where to Wait at the Today Show

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Tip 7: There is plenty of room along the fence for you to wait.  If you want to increase your chances of being on TV, I encourage you to check out the spot marked with the red star.  If you wait at the fence running parallel to W 49th St you will see that this is where the Today Show hosts tape several of their segments.  Their backs will be to you, but you will be facing the cameras.  The Today Show hosts exit the building at the red arrow, and generally do a loop around the fence to meet visitors.

Meeting the Today Show Hosts

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The wait wasn’t too bad, and from about 6:30AM onwards, there was a constant hub-bub on the plaza.  NBC staff first filmed people shouting how excited they were into the cameras, and then they had other staff walk around chatting people up to pass the time.  If you have ever watched the Today Show before, you know that the 7 o’clock hour is mostly filled with news stories, so the hosts were inside of the studio.  There were television monitors outside on the plaza (as you can see above) which broadcast the show.  Starting around 7:30AM, hosts started to trickle out, depending on what programming was on the air.  On the day we went, Al Roker appeared first, and stayed out the longest.  To their credit, the Today Show hosts as a whole were remarkably friendly and willing to interact with visitors.  Given their time constraints (it is live TV, after all!), they did their best to try and sign autographs, take selfies and shake hands with as many people as they could.  On the day we were there, we met Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist and Carson Daly.

After our visit to the Today Show, we were both starved (and really had to use the bathroom!).  The Starbucks beneath Rockefeller Center gave us a chance to catch our wind after the early wakeup and the caffeine kick propelled us to our next stop: getting the 12th most influential burger of all time, according to Time Magazine!

Ramen Burger “Buns” on the Grill at Smorgasburg

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Invented by Keizo Shimamato, the ramen burger took NYC by storm 2 years ago.  Since then, the hype about the burger has only grown.  This hybrid burger is made up of 2 ramen “buns” and a beef patty sandwiched in the middle.  The phenomenon began at Smorgasburg, an open air food market in Brooklyn, open every weekend between April-November.  When we visited Smorgasburg during a beautiful summer day recently, the line ups for the ramen burger was 1 hour 15 minutes!  Instead of Smorgasburg, we chose to go to Keizo Shimamato’s restaurant Ramen.Co in the Financial District.  Salivating with anticipation, we dropped $8.75 for the Original Ramen Burger: a certified Angus beef patty, arugula, their version of shoyu sauce, and scallions squished in the ramen bun.

The 1 hour 15 Minute Lineup at Smorgasburg for the Ramen Burger

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And the verdict on the ramen burger?  Let’s just say that your views of Lower Manhattan from Smorgasburg (see above) are far better than the burger.  It was horrible!  The ramen bun tasted exactly like you would imagine eating dried ramen straight from the packaging (and yes, as most college students will attest to, we know exactly how it tastes).  Their shoyu sauce tasted like salt piled upon salt.  Their beef patties were frozen, straight from a box that looked like it was delivered from Restaurant Depot.  This was NYC hype at its finest.  And shame on me for not trusting the lowly 3 star Yelp rating that Ramen.Co received.

 


About the author: Eric is a young professional living in Boston, MA with his wife, Annalisa.  We try to balance work/life responsibilities with a desire to travel as much as possible.  To make this work, we take weekend trips to domestic and international destinations, trying to maximize our $/points while seeing the best tourist attractions and local favorites.  How much can you can pack into A Weekend In…

Comments

  1. Surprised your definition of “Non-touristy” consists of going to the Today Show and trying the most gimmicky food the city has to offer. I wrote an awful review for the ramen burger at that exact location in FiDi and received threatening messages from Keizo’s family members, bullying me to change my review. It’s a godawful establishment and an even worth franchise.

    • Henry-
      For many folks who are traveling to NYC for the first time, their tour guide during the planning stages tends to be TripAdvisor, or an old copy of Fodor’s. A quick look on TripAdvisor for the top things to do reveals what most visitors will flock to: Central Park, the Met, Empire State Building etc. I agree that visiting the Today Show is not Smorgasburg, but is hopefully non-touristy enough for even semi-casual visitors to NYC who have not considered this activity. I would love to hear some of your suggestions for NYC too – we have another trip back to the city coming up in August!
      On the topic of the ramen burger – I suspect that unless you are a frequent Eater.com reader, novelties like the ramen burger or the cronut are simply not going to be on your radar. I could be wrong though. And Keizo Shimamato (or a representative of Ramen Co) directly contacted me on Yelp to demand that I remove my negative review of their product, so it does not surprise me that you had a similar experience.
      Thanks for the feedback!

    • DaninMCI-
      You would be surprised how many New Yorkers were at the Today Show! See my reply above for some more thoughts on why I think that because NYC has so much to do, that many travelers to the city don’t ever think of something like the Today Show.

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