NYC—sigh. I lived there once, before there was a Pinkberry on St. Marks, and I hope to live there again, hopefully in more than the 300 square feet I had the first time around and minus the drunk Russian (harmless, just sleeping) I hurdled over to unlock my door at night. Until then, I’m lucky enough to go for work once a quarter, where I run myself happily ragged visiting all of my usual haunts and checking off whatever’s new on the list from last time. Here are a few of my favorite things…
eat & drink
I’ve made a sport of stalking reservations and always run out of days for all of the restaurants I want to try. And while many have dedicated phone lines that open up 30 days in advance with a perpetual busy signal, there’s an insane number of delicious spots to walk-in or grab-and-go. Here are some recent standouts and you’ll quickly see that I’m a downtown girl.
- Freemans: At the end of an alley, this rustic spot has twinkly lights, deer heads and American fare. Their Hot Artichoke Dip is a must.
- Perla: When my then new boss, the editor in chief from Zagat, asked me to pick the restaurant for my welcome dinner, I thought it must be a test. I researched, picked Perla and held my breath—rave reviews all around.
- Acme: I recently met a chef who had just moved to SF from NYC. When I asked where to go, his first, only and emphatic answer was Acme. Menu highlights included Farmer’s Eggs, Black Barley and Cauliflower Stalks. Lafayette is across the street for cocktails before or after.
- Locanda Verde: Getting a table here took tenacity, but it finally happened and lived up to my expectations. Trust me and get the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta.
- Blue Hill: A high-end, farm-to-table experience. Visiting Blue Hill at Stone Barns is on the wish list.
- Lupa: While Mario Batali has created an Italian empire with fancy, renowned picks like Babbo and Del Posto, I personally think he does casual best and Lupa proves it.
- Pure Food and Wine: People either passionately love or hate this raw vegan concept. I’m firmly in the former camp and have seen some carnivores feel the same. It’s also a beautiful, upscale space with a peaceful patio. Or pop by One Lucky Duck (I like the one in Chelsea Market) and try it to-go.
- Frankie’s Spuntino 570: Laid-back, seasonally-driven Italian from the beloved 457 in Brooklyn.
- Kava Cafe: This is my go-to for Iced Lattes and pastries from Balthazar when I’m at at the Standard (see “stay”).
- Ground Support: My caffeine of choice when I stay at The Soho Grand.
- Eataly: Mario Batali’s a partner in this monstrous marketplace on 5th Avenue brimming with all of the gluttonous goodness of Italy. You can eat or shop here, but be prepared for throngs of people most times of day.
- Chelsea Market: Spanning a city block, you can also eat or shop at this indoor food hall whose character and diverse choices are usually worth the crowds.
There are dozens of options in every price range, but, for me, it’s a tie between two.
- The Standard, High Line: Sure, it’s a scene. Yes, your room, with floor to ceiling windows, will come with a polite reminder that any exhibitionist antics will be seen by hundreds on the High Line (likely all a well-planned publicity stunt). And the heaven-to-hell video installations in the elevator can make for an awkward ride. But its prime location, stunning views and modern, minimal vibe (white bedding and wood accents) can’t be beat. Don’t miss beer and pretzels at the Biergarten (open-air in the summer and heated in the winter) or the outdoor skating rink at the holidays. Good to know: If you’re sharing a room with friends, the shower is in the middle of most rooms so time your mornings accordingly.
- The Soho Grand: Also a scene in a slightly subtler way, The Soho Grand has an eclectic, artistic feel with a bottle-glass staircase, turquoise chairs, black & white photos, and warm, cozy rooms. Whether you’re staying here or not, meet friends for a drink at the Salon where you’ll likely see a celebrity trying to hide their fame under a fedora. When it’s warm, check out Gilligan’s, their outdoor, seaside-inspired pop-up for cocktails and shared plates. Plus, it’s pet-friendly for when I finally get my Frenchie.
I can’t pinpoint when this tradition started, but I always take myself on a date night to Broadway. Bonus? It’s easier to find a good seat for one.
- Book of Mormon: Yes, it’s so worth it. I don’t remember the last time I laughed this hard, not helped by the grandfatherly-type who leaned over to me and whispered, “Miss, I wouldn’t tell your parents you saw this.”
- ONCE: An unbelievably moving love story with beautiful music. The movie’s worth a watch too.
- If/ Then: Fans of Rent will love seeing Idina Menzel (Maureen) and Anthony Rapp (Mark) reunite. Fans of Frozen will love hearing “Adele Dazeem” belt out lyrics like only she can. Everyone else will love it just because it’s great.
- Matilda the Musical: Inspired by Roald Dahl’s book, a charming and whimsical reminder of how staggeringly talented children can be.
I admit it. I save up all quarter to shop in NYC and I’m extremely strategic about how I do it. Starting first thing Saturday morning to beat the crowds, I hightail it to Soho and weave my way back through the West Village and the Meatpacking District, hitting a few wild cards if there’s any time left.
- Vince: Over half of my closet is filled with their chic, comfy clothes. I prefer the airy Soho boutique where they always know what will suit me better than I do.
- Helmut Lang: A new weakness for the minimalist style and asymmetrical flair.
- Piperlime: Yes, they have a store! I love the layout and inexpensive finds, but get here early to avoid what can truly become a madhouse.
- Rag & Bone: It’s the shoes I fall for over and over again, especially the Newbury booties with a heel I can walk in for miles.
- Barneys: Oh, Co-ops, I miss you. Still, so far, the Wooster Street spot feels untouched by the shift in branding.
- Intermix: Another new habit because of the Washington Street location where they could not be more helpful or have a better eye.
- Theory: The Gansevoort one is more spacious which tricks me into thinking there’s a better selection.
- C.O. Bigelow: This historic apothecary on 6th Avenue stocks staples and cult brands like Rodin and Tracie Martyn.
- McNally Jackson: An independent bookstore with a great selection and uncluttered presentation.
- ABC Carpet & Home: Warning—wandering around this stunning store will make you want to drop thousands to redo your entire home. When you’re done dreaming, head down to the new abcmkt for affordable and edible picks.
As the countdown to my next trip begins, I’ll leave you with this lovely farewell from Acme. And they say New Yorkers aren’t friendly.