Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Insider's Guide: My Favorites in NYC

By Neighborhoods:

1. Lower Manhattan and Battery Park City
2. Tribeca
3. Soho
4. West and Central Village
5. East Village
6. Lower East Side
7. Nolita and Noho
8. Gramercy Park and Murray Hill
9. Chelsea
10. Midtown East and Sutton Place
11. Midtown West and Hell's Kitchen
12. Upper East Side
13. Upper West Side
14. Morningside Heights
15. Harlem
16. Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights
17. Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill
18. Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens
19. Red Hook
20. Dumbo

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS AND BEYOND: This area boasts one of the city's best and least-visited treasures.
  • the Cloisters – Although it’s a bit of a long bus ride, this recreation of a French medieval cloister is dedicated solely to medieval art, and boasts famous tapestries, medieval gardens and sculpture, and the area is absolutely tranquil and difficult to fathom that you’re in Manhattan at all.
  • the Riverside Park – a beautiful park & promenade along the Hudson river where you can see some of the most spectacular architecture in the city, including the flying buttresses of the Riverside Church on 125th St, Grant’s Tomb, and the perpetually unfinished but breathtaking Cathedral of St. John the Divine, arguably the world's largest Gothic cathedral.
  • Columbia University campus and the neighborhood, where there is a great selection of restaurants and cafés
UPPER WEST SIDE: It has undergone quite a bit of gentrification in recent years but still remains to be my favorite area in NYC.
  • the Dakota – one of the most beautiful and historical residential buildings in NYC, and John Lennon "Imagine" Memorial in Strawberry Fields at the entrance to Central Park is a must see
  • the Children's Museum & the American Museum of Natural History
  • Lincoln Center & Juilliard, where you can see world-class ballets and operas, and in the summer, there are several dance performance outside on the plaza
  • Green Flea Market on Columbus Ave. btw. 76th & 77th Streets (opened usually on the weekends), where it's a great fun to spend an entire day just strolling through it discovering one-of-a-kind items.
  • Calle Ocho (45 W 81st St) – a great nouveau Latin restaurant … also has a cool but cozy bar attached to the restaurant
  • French Roast – a café so charming that you’ll never enter Starbucks again
  • my favorite Mexican restaurants: Gabriela’s (688 Columbus Ave btw 93/94th St) & Mama Mexico’s (2672 B'way btw 101/102nd St)
  • Ocean Grill (384 Columbus Ave btw 77/78th St) – a fabulous restaurant specializing in great seafood dishes 
  • le Pain Quotidien (in Central Park on W 69th Street near Sheep Meadow) – charming café that offers a great selection of breakfast, brunch and lunch
UPPER EAST SIDE: It’s one of the more residential and conservative neighborhoods in the city. However, there’s no denying that UES also has some of the most picturesque tree-lined streets filled with upscale shops, restaurants and gorgeous turn-of-the-century buildings.
  • the Central Park – Walk, bike or rollerblade, it’s an absolutely beautiful place to be.
  • the “Museum Mile”: the Metropolitan Museum of Art , the Guggenheim , the Whitney , the Museum of the City of New York , and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design … also, not to miss, the outdoor roof garden at the Met has the best view of the park
  • shops on Madison Avenue, my favorite Barney’s (Madison & 60th) has a great restaurant at the basement level
  • Daniel (60 E. 65th St btw Madison/Park Ave) – a perfect place if you're on a business trip looking to impress clients or have generous expense account, but not really a place I would recommend. The food is as good as everyone ... or all the guidebooks says, and the ambiance and the service surpasses all expectation of a 5 star restaurant; however, you won't find too many locals there, and for the price, you can definitely find a much better meal elsewhere.
MIDTOWN: Known as the most visited (touristy) area in NY; however, there’s definitely a lot to see and do.
  • the musts: St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center & its skating rink (beautifully decorated during the holidays), Radio City Music Hall, and Museum of Modern Art
  • Time Square, esp. at night – the view is certainly worth the hassle of shoving and being shoved through the crowd
  • NY Public Library, the main branch (42nd & 5th Ave) and Bryant Park behind it – one of the best undiscovered treasures in the city
  • Grand Central Station – I just love to see NYC on the move, and there’s no better place to see the city in motion than Grand Central Station!
  • Asia de Cuba ( 237 Madison Ave btw 37/38th St) – If you want a "Sex and the City" like experience, this is the place to be, and after all these years, it's still a fabulous place. Expect beaucoup d'ambiance but mediocre food.
  • Bann (350 W. 50th bt 8/9) – upscale Korean cuisine
  • Breeze – a moderately priced Thai restaurant in Hell's Kitchen that also serves up tasty fusion French dishes
  • Le Cirque (151 E 58th St btw Lex/3rd Ave) – a gorgeous restaurant in mid-town with a great atmo; a little pricey for dinner but worth checking out the lunch
  • Le Colonial (149 E 57th St btw Lex/3rd Ave) – another great restaurant in mid-town that serves nouveau Vietnamese
  • Man Doo Bar and Pho 32 & Shabu (2 W 32nd St btw 5th/B'way) – great ‘cheap eats’ in Koreatown
    For list of top 5 Korean restaurants in NY
  • Uncle Nick’s (747 9th Ave btw 50/51st St and 382 8th Ave btw 29/30th St) ) – tastiest Greek & seafood dishes
CHELSEA / UNION SQUARE: Also a relatively residential area, but there’s a lot of creative energy and is becoming increasingly upscale.
  • the High Line (W. 30th St & 10th Ave to Tribeca) – NY ingenuity at its best … NOT TO BE MISSED!
  • Chelsea Market – a heaven for foodie
  • Union Square Greenmarket , where over 70 vendors sell high-quality produce, meats, baked goods, and other wares to discerning consumers.
  • Pier 17 (Chelsea Piers Sports Complex) – a playground for adults, batting cages, rock climbing, simulated golf course … you name it, they got ‘em!
  • the shops along 5th Ave & Broadway bt. 23rd – 14th St – offer a much more reasonable selection of clothing and there are a lot of corky little antique/book shops along the way
  • Loeman’s (17th St. & 7th Ave) - the discount stores in NYC are totally different ball game
  • TJ Maxx (6th Ave btw 18/19th St) – TJ Maxx is on the 2nd floor of this gorgeous building that Bed, Bath and Beyond is in.
  • Petite Abeille (17th St btw 5/6th Ave) – a charming little restaurant that offers a wonderful selection of Belgian/French cuisine, but of course, mussels & fries are their speciality
  • Republic (Union Sq) – The food is on a mediocre side but the ambiance is superb; definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.
WEST VILLAGE: an absolutely picturesque part of town full of turn-of-the-century brownstones and beautiful tree-lined streets
  • Tea & Sympathy (108 Greenwich Ave btw 12th & Jane St) – a quintessential corner of England in the heart of Greenwhich Village, unlike anything I was able to find in London
LOWER EAST SIDE: This area has undergone major gentrification in the recent years and has lost some of its former edge; nevertheless, it has remained its cultural diversity and retained its bohemian vibe.
  • Strolling through NoLita (north of Little Italy) – wonderfully eclectic area reminiscent of SOHO
  • a wonderful selection of Indian restaurants on 6th Street (literally the entire block) between 1st & 2nd Ave, my favorite, Banjara (corner of 1st Ave & 6th St)
  • Café el Portal (Elizabeth & Spring)
  • Danal (59 Fifth Ave btw 12/13 St) – a quintessential NYC restaurant full of charm, comfort and delicious items on the menu
  • Indochine (430 Lafayette St btw 4th St & Astor Pl) – a nice Asian fusion restaurant with great atmosphere ... very old-school glam, the food is so so but the drinks are fabulicious!
  • Il Buco (47 Bond St btw Lafayette/Bowery) – an absolutely charming little place reminiscent of an intimate restaurant in Tuscany with a great selection of Italian dishes with a twist
  • Katz's Deli (Houston & Ludlow) – the oldest deli in New York, a true NY landmark that serves kick-ass pastrami sandwiches
  • Veniero's (1st Ave & 11th St) – heavenly Italian dessert place
  • Strolling around in SOHO, preferably on weekdays, as on weekend, it’s filled with tourists
  • bargain hunting in Chinatown
  • Prada (SOHO) – you definitely should see the store, the interior architecture is brilliant!
  • Pearl River Department Store – has a great variety of eclectic goods; a great secret among New Yorkers
  • Bar 89 (89 Mercer St btw Broome/Spring St) – a relatively laid back bar with a cool atmo, which is a rarity in SOHO … make sure to check out the bathroom while there
  • Excellent Dumpling House (Lafayette & B’way) – the best damn dumplings and Chinese food in NY
  • Kelley & Ping (127 Greene St btw Prince/Houston St) – a Pan Asian restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere
  • Noho Star (330 Lafayette St btw Houston/Bleecker St) – technically in north of Houston Street, a classic NY diner that serves up fabulous brunches
  • Penang (109 Spring St btw Mercer/Greene St) – a great Malaysian restaurant; 2-3 locations throughout Manhattan, but the on in SOHO has the best atmosphere
  • Peking Duck House (28 Mott St btw Mosco/Pell St) – best damn honey glazed pork ribs and of course, the DUCK
  • 9/11 Memorial Preview Site – Being back 10 years after 9/11 at this memorial, there are no words that can describe how I felt ... like all New Yorkers who lived through that horrid day, I was just grateful to be there.  Understandably, the security at the entrance is stringent; however, the logistics of getting into the site is relatively easy if you reserve a pass(es) online.   
  • the lovely park in front of the City Hall 
  • South Street Seaport – It can get a bit crowded at times, but the view of the harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge alone will make it worthwhile. 
  • walk across the Brooklyn Bridge … or just a half way to it we’ve always done
  • Century 21 (Wall Street) – the mother of all bargain basement shopping experience, BUT it’s only worth it if you’re looking to doing some SERIOUS shopping, as it will be unbearably crowded and crazy on the weekends
  • the Staten Island ferry, during which you can get a spectacular view of the Statue of Liberty
  • the Brooklyn Academy of Music, aka BAM, has the more contemporary and interesting performances, versus the more traditional ones at the MET.
  • the Brooklyn Heights has a great selection of antique shops … also might be interesting place for you to find one-of-a-kind furniture.
  • Beacon Hotel (Upper West) – a charming little hotel in a beautiful residential area
  • Park 79 (Upper West) – a moderately priced wonderful little boutique hotel
  • The Mark (Upper East) – a beautiful hotel that will take you back to old NY
  • Roger Williams (Midtown East) – a modern and reasonable hotel in a central location
  • Ink 48
  • Staybridge – can't say enough great things about the staff, who were absolutely wonderful throughout our entire stay ... rarity in NY.  Also, it offers a nice modern accommodations at accommodations for families in great location
  • Gershwin Hotel (Gramercy) – a bit eclectic and fun
  • Washington Square Hotel (East Village) – a relatively inexpensive but charming hotels across from the Washington Square Park
  • Soho Grand (SOHO) – a gorgeous hotel with stunning decor, definitely worth the splurge
  • Cosmopolitan Hotel (Tribeca) – a nice and comfortable accommodation in the heart of Tribeca
  • July/August – Free outdoor concerts
  • 1st Sunday in November – NYC Marathon
  • the last Thursday in November – Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
  • November/December - lighting of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center
  • December – beginning of all performances: classical ballet, Alvin Alley, opera, etc.
  • every weekend – the brunches! 
  • fall foliage in Central Park
For a list of all year round free events and museums in the city


Post a Comment