I’ve lived in New York since 1989, in a suburb just north of the city. Ironically, I often introduce my city-dwelling friends to places they’ve yet to discover there.
I spent the weekend in the city, borrowing a friend’s apartment while they are away.
It’s a holiday weekend here and the city is filled with tourists — maybe even some of you!
Here’s my short and highly personal list of things I think worth discovering, some well-known, others much less so; you’ll notice these are mostly adult-only.
Many are old-school, 100+ years old and still going strong.
Feel free to add your suggestions!
The Pegu Club: elegant, a long gorgeous wooden bar, delicious old-school cocktails, on Houston. (pronounced HOW-ston street.)
Temple Bar: been there forever, marked only by a small white lizard light in the wall. The best bar for a sexy first date, it’s tiny, dark, cosy, grown-up.
Old Town: I love this place. Opened in 1892, its wooden booths and super-steep staircase are a step back in time.
McSorley’s Ale House: Originally open only to men, this scruffy spot in the East Village has been around since 1854.
Fanelli’s: Cut glass doors, tiny tables, a back room, a mix of tourists, businessfolk, NYU students, this one’s been going since 1863.
Dublin House: Dive bar!
Brabant Brasserie: Why eat Belgian food in NYC? Because it’s delicious, well-served and well-priced. I ate there three times in three weeks after discovering it this year. The East 50s are a food desert, so this is a real find for the area.
Lucky Strike/Pastis/Schiller’s/Balthazar: All owned by the same man, and all sharing a stylish weathered charm. Settle in at the bar with a magazine and a cold beer and watch the beautiful people (at Balthazar and Pastis) in those oversized antiqued mirrors.
The Red Cat: One of my favorites. Welcoming, good food, a pretty room, an old-timer with charm.
Toloache: We love this place! I’ve been coming here since it opened and its chef not yet well-known. A two-level room with an enormous mural of tile, gorgeous cut-tin hanging lanterns, welcoming service and such great food. This is Mexican food at its delicate, small-portioned finest. Good before the theater; right at the corner of 50th. and Eighth Avenue. (pronounced Tolo-ah-chay.)
The Oyster Bar: In the bowels of Grand Central Station (see below,), sit beneath Guastavino’s curved tile ceiling and enjoy an oyster pan roast or fish stew. Check out the overhead lights with their fleets of boats — shown in the photo with this post. Born in Valencia, Spain, Guastavino invented this handsome form of curved ceilings, patented in the U.S. in 1885.
The Hungarian Pastry Shop: Fuel up here with hordes of Columbia University students with an espresso and strudel. Then cross the street and visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
La Grenouille: Oh, go on. It’s wickedly expensive, but this is one of the classic New York City experiences: quiet, slow, delicious. It’s set into a former townhouse and opened in 1962. Huge floral arrangements, waiters in waistcoats. The real deal.
The Tenement Museum: This is truly a don’t-miss, if you want to understand something of this city’s history, and how America came to be. Tenements were narrow apartment buildings with shared bathrooms where many working-class immigrants settled after arriving in New York, fresh off the boat from Europe. The museum re-creates the period look of three families’ homes. Moving, emotional, this place isn’t — like most museums — a celebration of wealth and power.
The Japan Society: I so love this place. The building has an interior garden and pond. Their current exhibition, of Japanese Art Deco, is fantastic — on until June 10. The block also holds the UN’s church, a stunning 1960s period piece right next door.
The Neue Galerie: I’m crazy for Secessionist art, which is what you’ll find here in an exquisite Beaux Arts mansion. Have a coffee or lunch in its lovely Cafe Sabarsky and read a newspaper tucked into one of the classic wooden reading rods. Heaven! (pronounced Noy-uh Galerie)
New-York Historical Society. Check out their current exhibition — on beer-making in the state, with samples at the end! — on until September 2. Here’s a review of it.
Bergdorf Goodman: Such gorgeous stuff. (The Men’s store is across the street) The Fifth floor is marginally more affordable. Great shoe department. Eat in the cafe and sit in one of their adorable balloon chairs with the ladies-who-lunch. Elegant, old-school, fantastic views.
Macy’s: Still has wooden escalators. This place is enormous and exhausting, but offers a tremendous selection. Its red star on every shopping bag is a tribute to R.H. Macy, the former 19th. century whaler who had a red star tattooed on his hand before going into the retail biz.
J. Crew: Not a New York company, but well-loved by the classicists/preppies among us. Cardigans, ballet flats, great shirts and T-shirts in the softest of cottons. The flagship at 44th and Madison is worth a stop. Men and women’s clothing.
Chelsea Market: This converted biscuit factory at 15th. and 10th Avenue is now an afternoon’s worth of fun: fantastic food shops, bakeries, florists, chocolate, a bookstore, a flea market. Love this place!
Aedes de Venustas: If you love exotic and unusual fragrances, this is not to be missed. Christopher Street has lots of lovely shops and this one offers brands you’ve never heard of. (No idea how to pronouce this one!)
Grand Central Station: This glorious Beaux Arts building, from 1905, has a brilliant turquoise curved ceiling with the constellations painted on it in gold. It’s where commuter trains arrive from New York and Connecticut. Renovated in the 1990s, it now houses a terrific array of shops and an excellent food court downstairs with Italian, Mexican and Indian food, among others. Posman Books is a fantastic indie bookshop; Cursive offers lovely gifts and Papyrus has gorgeous stationery. Try the Junior’s cheesecake. Yum!
Paul Stuart: OMG. Stroll through, quietly humming “If I were a rich man”….Triple-ply cashmere in jewel colors, gorgeous jackets, shirts, shoes. I want it all. An affordable piece are their knotted silk cuff-links. Men’s mostly, some women’s.
Brooks Brothers: I’ve been shopping at B-squared since I used to smuggle their cotton shirts back into Canada. Classic, great quality, this is an old-school piece of New York. Nothing is wildly fashionable, but the look is elegant and understated. You can find almost anything you need here, from a great-looking umbrella with a bamboo handle to a dopp kit to a silk scarf or a polo shirt for your 8-year-old nephew. Men,women, kids.
Tiffany: Oh, all right. I never go there because the tourist crowds are insane. But the place is gorgeous and the upper floors offer more affordable options. A sterling Tiffany keyring, $125, is a pretty cool souvenir.
ABC Carpet and Home: Not cheap, but well worth a visit, if only to the main floor. Lots of lovely items, from candles to stationery to china.
Edith Machinist. Go! One of the city’s best vintage stores, on Rivington Street in Nolita. Tons of great shoes, boots and purses. I scored a silk Genny dress (from the 1980s) for $180 five years ago…That was a bloody fortune in my world, but I’ve gotten a ton of wear out of it. Love this place.
Fishs Eddy: So fun! Pick up some glassware or a platter decorated with New York designs. Cheap, great quality.
C. O. Bigelow Apothecary. If you can’t find it here, you don’t want it. Founded in 1838, it offers lots of great fragrances, Roger & Gallet soaps, Marvis toothpaste, even lovely jewelry and headbands. But no photos allowed! The staff is a little ferocious, but go anyway.
Porto Rico Coffee & Tea. I never fail to leave PR without a pound of Earl Grey tea or a mug or some allsorts or a pound ($9.99) of freshly-ground cinnamon or pumpkin spice coffee. Huge burlap sacks overflow with coffee beans and enormous battered tea tins line the walls. Pick up an iced cappuccino 0r, as I did this weekend, a fab string bag for your goodies, in a rainbow of colors, for a big…$5. Best part? Two large benches outside to sit on and watch Bleecker street parade by. This place has been in biz for 105 years. I hope it lasts another 105 more!
Yaso. Most stores in pricy Soho come and go with lightning speed — this one has been here since the 1980s. Women’ clothing only, the style is European, edgy, minimal, in linen, wool, silk. Clothing in neutrals: gray, black, cream, brown, tan with some great jewelery and scarves. Be prepared to spend — you won’t find much less than $175-350+ but these are investment pieces you’ll wear and enjoy for years to come.
Global Table. Run! If you love beautiful glasses, dishes, trays, anything tabletop.
Here’s a list of 38 indie stores here, 13 of which are in Brooklyn, from RackedNY. The list is brand-new. I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve been to any of them…But I’m not a huge shopper, have very specific taste and am larger than a size 12, which probably means a lot of their stuff isn’t for me. But accessories, yes…