On March 22, 2020, I moved my family forty miles northwest from New York City to Warwick, New York, into half of a house. On September 3, 2021, we will return to the city. During that time, we’ve spent the vast majority of days in this city, with only a handful of bus trips into Manhattan, the occasional day trip to the in-laws twenty minutes away, and a few vacations and other trips.
I’ve come to be rather fond of this town. I would categorize Warwick as ‘best of breed.’ It’s a nice place with nice people, it’s mostly walkable, and there’s a great playground, a post office, a CVS and a solid supermarket, with a variety of surprisingly good places to eat relative to the relevant baselines. There’s no train access, but you can take a bus directly to or from the city.
It seems worthwhile, before I go, to write down the specifics of what’s here and which things are good and how to best take advantage of them, in case it is helpful to others, and so I can look back upon it in the future. If that isn’t interesting to you, by all means skip this – this post is straightforwardly exactly what it says on the tin, and nothing more.
I’ll start with the overall structure and then get down to detailed infodumping about what’s here.
Overall Structure of Town
Warwick has a main street upon which are the bulk of the things, which mostly runs north and south, and on the south end swings to go west, at which point there aren’t any more side streets. We lived on Grant Street, one block west of the main street, which is a bunch of houses plus a maternity hospital directly across from us. If you go east or west of main street, you get some useful things one block in either direction, but the pickings get slim farther out than that.
The main street looks like this, which faces south just before it turns to head west:
The only important thing more than one block away from main is the playground, which is about three blocks due east. A few other things are several blocks from main but they never seemed useful. This is not a large town.
It is somewhat of a tourist trap, in the sense that the area runs largely on agricultural tourism and Warwick is where people in the area go to find nice things.
The transportation situation isn’t the worst, but it’s definitely not great either.
If you want public transportation, you can board a bus here and it will take you first to the Willowbrook Mall and then on to Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, which takes two hours and leaves reasonably frequently. You can also board a bus at Port Authority or Willowbrook, and take it back here, which also takes two hours. As these things go, it’s not so bad, and if isn’t rush hour the bus won’t be crowded.
If you want public transportation within Warwick, you can call the Warwick Bus, which will charge $2 cash to take you wherever you want to go, which isn’t bad as these things go.
If you want an Uber or Lyft, your chances aren’t great. Since your chances aren’t great, I’m not confident I know how good they are, because I never planned on being able to get one and thus never used them.
If you need to get to the airport, you can get a limo service, which will take over an hour and charge you something like $150, which isn’t great. Price of being in the middle of nowhere.
Cost of Living
Warwick is of course much cheaper than a place like New York City. It’s not on the cheap end, and prices have gone up substantially through the pandemic even more so than the norm. The area has done very well, because it specializes in places to travel to and be outside, and there’s been huge demand for that. That doesn’t mean there’s things to do if you live there, or anything, at least not that are relevant to my interests. If you’re considering moving here, and if this is the type of place you want I think that’s very reasonable, be prepared for the prices to have gone up.
The other ‘cost of living’ is that you are sometimes without power and/or internet. It’s rural New York, so storms will often cut out the power for minutes to hours. This happened maybe 5 times in a year and a half, although it was never out so long that we lost what was in the freezer.
Internet and cable is only Optimum, which sucks, in that they usually work but only usually. Most of the time rebooting the router has fixed the issue, but that’s necessary several times a month. I would be nervous doing something like trading from here. How much of that is the particular house versus Optimum in general is hard to say.
Early on, case rates were surprisingly high, and the hospital across the street from us was clearly serving as a place to treat Covid patients. All of Orange County had remarkably high rates early in 2020, often higher than the city, although it was still easier to play full defense here if one wanted to do that. It’s more that people took the pandemic much less seriously.
By the middle of the year, mask compliance was very high and generally people were very good about social distancing, offering smart outdoor dining solutions and so on. That was the good news. The bad news is that there’s been enough red tribe energy that the vaccination rates clearly aren’t that high. At one point, we tried to hire babysitters, and the majority of applicants were not vaccinated despite it being well past the point where vaccinations were freely available. When I got a haircut post vaccination, the barber was clearly hesitant, and so on. Once the CDC told people they could take off their masks, most people did, although some are coming back recently with the Delta wave. We’ve noticed that the people who took us up on our offer of free stuff before our move tended to mostly wear masks while doing so, for what that’s worth.
Public Services, Utilities and Generally Useful Things
There’s a small hospital directly in town. It seems nice enough. There are a number of doctors nearby as well.
There’s a post office on the north side of town, which generally has a short line. There’s also a private local shipping business akin to a UPS store.
There’s two gas stations opposite each other, charging different prices. At least one of them has a surprisingly reasonably priced small convenience store.
There’s several playgrounds, the largest of which is off a few blocks to the east. It’s pretty great. If you go there early, it’s deserted. If you go there late, it’s still not bad.
There’s multiple churches, if one cares about that. The nearest synagogue is up north a few minutes drive out of town.
There’s a town hall with a notary public, that only lets one person in at a time. Never went in.
There’s a Verizon store a bit out of the main town where the supermarkets are.
There’s multiple places to do martial arts, which I didn’t investigate under the circumstances.
The local community theater is sadly up for sale. There’s a drive-in movie place.
There’s a lot of stores selling antiques. When we looked in a few we did not find anything of interest, but that’s how it goes. Likely tourist traps. There’s also an amish-made furniture store that had good but expensive stuff.
There’s a CVS with a pharmacy, another pharmacy at the Price Chopper outside of town, and a local place whose shelves are never stocked where I literally never saw a customer inside. No idea what that was about but in theory it’s another pharmacy.
They have schools, but given the pandemic we never used them, so nothing to report.
Food Not From Restaurants
There are two supermarket options. You’ve got Price Chopper, and you’ve got ShopRite. Both are as large as one could need them to be. Instacart works great.
In general the quality of things at ShopRite is higher, with more of the higher quality brands, better meats and so forth. The exception is the bakery department, where Price Chopper makes solid bread and ShopRite doesn’t. As usual, while the low end Price Chopper is generally cheaper, when you want something high end like Kerrygold Butter, it’s more expensive at Price Chopper, so mostly better to stick with ShopRite, unless you need the pharmacy at Price Chopper.
As supermarkets go, I was happy with our ShopRite. It was reasonably priced, had solid fresh food and most of the brands one could reasonably hope to find. Rana pasta, Garibaldi cheese, Kerrygold butter and all that. It’s no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but that’s fine, and compared to places I scouted when looking at places for MIRI and other similar missions in small towns, the place overperformed. Meat section is fine if you can’t do better, and they carry La Frieda steaks. We ended up using mail order (mainly Omaha Steaks and Crowd Cow, also happy with La Frieda and Kansas City Steaks) for steaks, and getting most of the rest at ShopRite. Joe’s Kansas City Barbeque will sell you very good ribs among other things, and yeah they’re expensive, but remember the discount on rent.
A word of warning and/or enticement on using the internet mail order websites is in order here, which is they will run endless advertisements of the delicious foods you look at. So if that’s not something you want, keep that in mind. If it is something you want, you know what to do, and you don’t have to buy anything to make this happen. I may write up more on the topic later.
If you want a butcher, you can get one about ten minutes north (five miles) in Florida, and it’s all right but nothing impressive. There’s also a farm in town that sells meat, but it’s frozen, so no real benefit of getting it from the farm rather than the internet, and when we’d try going they’d often be out of many or all things. A bunch of farms sell eggs and honey and such, if you’d like, and you can go apple picking, which the kids enjoyed.
A thing to remember is that while ordering food shipped on the internet is relatively quite expensive, especially compared to having the relevant shop next door, you’re saving a ton of money by not living near such things. The effective cost of living near All The Things is very, very high, much higher than the combined cost of the things themselves. Thus, if you end up paying ‘way too much’ for the things you love the most, look at the absolute amount extra and ignore the relative price hike entirely.
One place to check out is the Candy Apple Shoppe.
That’s all good, but their best thing is their fudge, which goes in and out of stock.
There’s an olive oil store that sells good premium olive oil.
The real star of the town food supply is the Farmers’ Market
The Farmers Market is available on Sundays, from 9am-2pm, from May to Thanksgiving.
Apple Ridge Farms sells excellent fresh bread, although it won’t be hot. Focaccia, country loaf, ciabatta and pull apart loaf are the best in my book, but that’s also my general preference for bread. Their sweet items are not as good.
Jersey Girl Cheese sells mozzarella, burrata and ricotta as their main products, and some other cheeses as well. I wouldn’t buy these in the city, but in context they are quite good. A warning is that they don’t keep long even if unopened, so use ‘em or lose ‘em.
Roaming Acres sells excellent pork. As seen a few weeks ago, pork is generally super cheap, so even the ‘expensive’ pork is still cheap. They also have bison steaks, which are not as cheap, but are quite good, competitive with mail order options. Everything’s frozen.
Woodside Blue Preserves has the best jam, to the extent that I plan to have them ship it out to me after we leave. Great stuff, especially the strawberry. Get there early or they’ll sell out.
Scotty’s Country Kitchen sells good pies, and they’re especially good if you can grab ‘em hot when the market opens. I liked the blueberry pie a lot.
Buddha Pesto is good pesto if you don’t want to make your own.
There’s a bunch more stuff too, including the fresh fruits and vegetables. There’s also local maple syrup and honey, and several additional sources of baked goods. This is less than half the stuff, but it is the stuff that was most relevant to my interests.
This is of course the central question. I’ll be going over the places in rank order. Delivery in general is spotty at best, so pickup is better if you can.
This humble place is the best restaurant in town. Their gyros are cheap, quick and quite good. Their dips and pita are very good too, and there’s nothing wrong with the various platters if you’d prefer to go that way. There’s a few small tables outside, so I’ll call ahead a few minutes, grab a classic gyro and sit out there. They’re closed Mondays, like most places in town.
If you want to sit down for a civilized meal at a reasonable price, this is by far your best non-pizza option. Food is fast, hot and quite good, and portions are gigantic to the point where I wished they were smaller so I wouldn’t eat as much. They have great outdoor seating. I’d rotate between the curries, pineapple fried rice, drunken noodle and the pad see ew, as that was the type of thing they did best. They also offer sushi, which I found not quite as good as that at Tokyo Plum House.
The pizza is legit given you get it right out of the oven, a solid 7 or 8 out of 10. This is a pizza place, full stop, don’t order anything else. I wouldn’t use them in New York City, but I’m actively happy with them given I’m anywhere else. Sit down, don’t get delivery. Their ratings are mediocre, but when you look at the food pictures people upload, it’s clear people are using this place wrong.
This used to be a bookstore, which makes me abstractly sad but not in practice. In practice this means you can get fresh hot croissants at 8am every day. They’re not top notch artisan, but they work, and they’re hot and fresh, and that’s the most important thing. Gelato is solid too, as are their crepes, and it’s a nice place to sit down and work if you want that. I can’t speak for the coffee but others like it.
This is an assembled-to-order-from-vats Mexican place, and it’s a solid but unexceptional example of the genre, a notch below Dos Toros but very playable when one is in the mood.
This is not the place to find the fatty tuna, and isn’t pretending otherwise but it’s reasonably priced sushi for what it is. Luckily for me I hadn’t gotten into sushi before, so I didn’t know what I was missing. Their non-sushi main dishes should be avoided.
If you’re up for a drive, and you can make it when they’re open, The Grange is a nice place. They’re not cheap and they require a drive and good timing, so they’re a bit down the list. Outdoor space is available.
They opened up recently by the playground. If they opened earlier than 10am and I knew how to get the donuts hot and fresh at 7 or 8, they’d be ranked a lot higher. As it is, hard to use them well, but they do make their one product well and you can then customize it to your taste.
Fourteen Railroad is new and plays in Hard Mode. They care, and it shows in everything they do. They’re still overpriced for what they are, and they’re still going through growing pains in various ways and their menu has gotten less exciting multiple times. The meat and cheese plate was quite good, but it seems it’s now off the menu as are the two pastas. Hope they get it together. If you’re looking for Fine Dining, this is the only option unless you’re prepared to drive a bit, and if you don’t mind the price, you’ll get what you came for. Don’t order the pizza.
They have a legit bread basket, which matters – very good olive oil dip and good hot bread to go with it. Their main dishes are medium but play in context.
They make an excellent if expensive Italian-style pizzetta that would play in New York, but I couldn’t find a picture. The rest of the things we tried were disappointing after that, but not disastrous. There’s an outdoor area where there used to be a parking lot, and it’s not bad. Bread baskets are mediocre.
If you want a New York style pie to go, this is your play. Ingredients aren’t top notch and the crust isn’t either, but it delivers the essence of the thing. Better than the photos online would lead you to believe.
If you want barbeque this is your place, and it will give it to you. It’s not great, but it does the job. Nice outdoor space.
If a place isn’t listed, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad, but it does mean either I didn’t like it, or I didn’t judge it to be worth checking out. It definitely means I didn’t see high upside. Fannie’s is the one place I didn’t notice until too late in the game that I’d still like to check, it could be a good breakfast spot, but I don’t have much call for that these days.
Your chain fast food options are Burger King and Dunkin Donuts.
Frank’s Trattoria is actively bad and should be avoided.
Wolfies of Warwick I found to be insultingly terrible, but kids ended up going there several times.
The Warwick Inn isn’t doing anything interesting, but serves food.
The Blarney Station has mediocre food, but might be fine as a bar. There’s a bunch of bars and it’s not my department to judge them as bars, except that they didn’t have any promise as good places to eat rather than drink.
There are several Chinese places. All of them are members of The Chain, the network of low-end places that use similar methods and cheap ingredients, and which I’ve judged not to be worthy of my calories. If you want to do this anyway, my pick is Lai Shun, and it will be disappointing but do the job. Long Spring Chinese Restaurant was especially bad despite having a higher rating.
There are several diners as well, if that’s something you want, but they didn’t seem like they had any upside.
On weekends they do outdoor dining on the main street (there are detours around it, which are moderately annoying but practical), it looks nice and feels like a wholesome nice thing, they even occasionally have some live music:
Unfortunately none of the places in that physical area are relevant to my interests, so I never got to partake myself.
Living in a tiny town far away from the city was extremely isolating. Few people came to visit, and we didn’t get to visit anyone I knew other than the in-laws without a multi-hour trip each way. That was the biggest change, but in today’s age of the internet I was still able to mostly do the same things day-to-day that I’d usually do as I’m mostly on a computer all day. The food situation was much better than I expected. It’s definitely not great or anything, but the supermarket plus mail order frozen foods kept our kitchen stocked well enough, and the restaurants added good variety once we stopped being super paranoid about them, and provided reasonably nice experiences in a few places. It’s a nice place to visit, or take a quiet vacation. It’s even a nice place to live for a while.
The problem is, it’s not where the people are. And it’s not home. So home is where we’re headed, and I couldn’t be happier about it.