Brunstetter, who was in town to celebrate her Tony nomination for The Notebook. Illustration: Adam Mazur

The last time Bekah Brunstetter was in New York, she was in rehearsals for The Notebook — and she still remembers smacking a drinks-carrying waiter (accidentally) with her backpack during dinner at Via Carota. “I felt like a Cathy cartoon,” she says. Last week, she was back, having booked a last-minute flight to New York from L.A. after finding out she was a Best Book Tony nominee for that same musical. On this trip, she went full tourist, trying the restaurants and shows she hadn’t gotten to last time, eavesdropping at Joe Allen, rekindling her love of the High Line, and managing to find a $9 glass of wine in the middle of Manhattan.

Wednesday, May 1
I landed at Newark Airport at 4:40 p.m., but in reality, I didn’t really know where or when I was, because 24 hours earlier I’d found out I was nominated for a Tony award. The past day was a mad dash to find child care, get my eyebrows waxed, and get onto a plane from my home in L.A. for press events. I was exhausted, thrilled, and grateful. I had nothing but popcorn and Champagne for my five-hour flight, which, by the way, are the perfect foods to consume during turbulence. There’s nothing like a salty snack to distract you from the fact that you are a human being flying through the actual air.

I took a cab to midtown. Staying in midtown means being a full-blown theater tourist, and I completely embraced that with no shame or apologies. I lived in NYC years ago, when I was in grad school. I lived in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and the West Village, and I avoided Times Square like the plague, but this week, it would be my backyard, my living room.

I went straight to one of my favorite Theater District dinner places, Bond 45, because they have really good vegetables. Anytime you’re traveling for a few days you can very quickly eat crap and feel gross, so I love Bond 45. I got ratatouille, spring peas, and roasted carrots with red-pepper aioli. I met a friend from L.A. there for dinner who I hadn’t been able to connect with back home. She lives in Santa Monica, and it’s easier to meet in New York. My go-to New York drink is a Tito’s martini with a twist. I have it every meal.

I went to the 8 p.m. show of The Notebook. I hadn’t been since opening in March. It was really emotional to get to see it this way. In previews, you’re sitting there, taking notes, still picking things apart. For six weeks, it’s your dream coming true, but also torture. You’re forced to watch and sit with other people responding to your baby, and sometimes they don’t like it and it’s really hard. This was the first night that I just sat and watched it and enjoyed it and felt really proud of what we made. I ate some peanut M&Ms. They are the perfect snack for both stressful and joyful play watching, but there’s a very specific way in which you’re supposed to eat them as an audience member: Don’t be the person who takes them out of the bag one by one like a monster. Empty a bunch of them out into your hand and eat them that way!

Thursday, May 2
Thursday was the big press day. I got an Americano from Bluestone Lane. I really started to love it when we were in rehearsal. Carmel Dean, on our music team, is Australian, and the location on 41st and Eighth became a real go-to during rehearsals.

I walked to Friedman’s because, even though I’d never been, it looked like it would have good breakfast. It didn’t feel super-touristy; I’m always looking for the not-super-touristy-feeling places in the very touristy neighborhoods.

I had this long press event, which was overwhelming and wonderful, but just a lot of interviews. As soon as I arrived I saw a bunch of old friends who had been nominated, too. We all were little baby playwrights together — Kristoffer Diaz, Brandon Jacob Jenkins, Josh Harmon, Amy Herzog — and some of us were in the same group at Ars Nova. It was so joyous.

After I finished this surreal experience, I just went, “I’ve gotta go to Magnolia.” I used to live on Christopher and Bleecker, and I’m absolutely of that generation of young women who moved to New York thinking that Sex and the City was real. The one near Rockefeller Center is a mass-production factory that’s schlepping out banana pudding, but I still love to go there when I’m in town just because it’s got that nostalgia thing for me. I got a cupcake and just stood on the street to eat it in full hair and makeup.

New York has changed so much since I lived here. It used to be cupcake places everywhere, and now it’s all create-your-own-salad places. Culturally we’ve evolved and now we care more about salads than cupcakes, I guess. And then I did get a salad because I was really hungry for real food. It was a Just Salad near Bryant Party. I got the Thai Crunch Chicken Salad and a side of salt-and-vinegar chips. It was exactly what I needed. The location is on a side street. Anything on a side street is better than an avenue.

My husband’s brother and his family live in New York, so my sister-in-law is my go-to theater buddy when I’m in town — we always have dinner and go see shows. Joe Allen is my favorite midtown dinner place. I just love it so much. I don’t remember ever going there when I lived here, but now I go once, twice, or even three times whenever I’m here. I always get the same thing: steak frites with a side of spinach. We had so many fries by accident, but no one was mad about it. They have my favorite martini in the city, too, with the little sidecar. It’s like a martini and a half. I just love to eavesdrop in there, listening to people talk about the shows they’ve seen. I heard some really good gossip at dinner, but I can’t share. It’s that good.

Then we went to see Hell’s Kitchen. Such an incredible show.

Friday, May 3
I woke up and had some coffee, and then I found Cook’s Eatery. The concierge at my hotel told me about it. I got one of the best bacon, egg, and cheese bagels I’ve ever had. The bagel tasted like it had just come out of the oven. It was so soft. It didn’t feel like it had been sitting in a bin for a few days. It’s just a bodega, but it’s one of those nice ones where it seems like you could also get a really good smoothie.

After trying on some Tony dresses and Zooms about other projects, I went to Green Symphony for lunch. I freaking love that place. It was in a different location before the pandemic. It reopened recently; they have really good soup. There’s this one smoothie called Almond Greens. Before I had my kids, when I was trying to get pregnant, I wanted to treat my body well and I fell in love with this smoothie. I was like, “Well, it’s green!” I felt like such an L.A. douchebag the first time I got it, because it was 20 degrees outside and I was walking around with a cold green smoothie.

I met a friend, Marilyn, for coffee. We were baristas together at a place called the Chocolate Bar (which is not there anymore). I hadn’t seen her in 12 years, and we met up at Paper Coffee. The weather was so nice so I got to do my favorite thing and wander down to her.

Then I walked back uptown and had dinner with my sister-in-law at Lodi, which I’d walked by a million times but had never been inside. It’s kind of in the craziness of Rockefeller Center, and a little pricey. We got there, I think, at 5:30, so it was still happy hour, and they had a really nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc for only $9, which I always appreciate. We shared a perfect little snack trio with salted peanuts, olives, and potato chips. I got the steak with arugula and fava beans. We then went to see Suffs, which was so wonderful. I planned this trip a little beyond the press events so I could stay and see some of the other shows. The Notebook opened so early that none of the other shows this season had even started previews, and even if they were, I was seeing our show every night, so I couldn’t go.

Saturday, May 4
I love the High Line unabashedly. When I was living in New York, they had just started to build it, and there was only a little section. Hudson Yards was not there at all, either. The whole thing blows my mind because I went to the New School, which is down off Bank Street by the West Side Highway. I spent some time kind of around that area, and I just love what they did with it.

I had brunch at Zou Zou’s, right by the High Line, with my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece Djuna, who sat under the table the whole time. New York restaurants can be so small, and I love finding places where you feel like you have a little bit of space to move around and breathe. My husband is really tall, and I’m very tall, and we’re always on the lookout for places with that space to spread out.

We all shared the dip tower with a really fresh pita. And the pita was so good for my shakshuka. We also got cinnamon-labneh French toast and snuck some bacon to Djuna under the table.

I wandered around by myself for a little bit — at home, with my two little kids, I don’t get to be alone a lot, and I love being alone — before I had a couple of phone interviews. All of this press was very different. When This Is Us got nominated for Emmys, I was a part of a writing staff, but I wasn’t the creator or showrunner so I didn’t do a single interview. I’m sure my boss did. I had done stuff for theater before, and a bit when the show opened, but this was my first time being thrown into it. The heartbreaking thing about all of this is that Ingrid Michaelson didn’t get nominated and she’s my partner. I was expecting to do all the press with her.

I grabbed a little bit of time to work on a pilot rewrite that I had due before dinner at Westville with an actor friend. I got grilled chicken breast, Moroccan carrots, kale with pumpkin seeds, and turkey chili. I have to put on a Tony dress in six weeks, so I’m trying to make healthy choices, which isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about. Westville is another place where you can get a really good $9 glass of wine. It’s just so uncomplicated there.

I didn’t see any shows or anything. I took the night off ahead of my flight and crashed. I needed to finish those pilot rewrites anyway. I decided to conserve energy so I could crank those out on the plane.

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