Since I lived in Manhattan for 5 years (New York 101: Manhattan is an entire island, and it’s 1 of 5 ‘boroughs’ that make up New York City), people often ask what they should do when they visit.
When in New York, do these things
Live Jazz: VJO Monday nights at Village Vanguard
Pizza: Juliana’s on Old Fulton under the Brooklyn Bridge, Motorino in the East Village, Don Antonio’s on 50th in the Theater District. If you want to venture beyond Manhattan for good pizza: Roberta’s and Di Fara are excellent. Di Fara’s is a legend. (btw, if you go to one of these places OUTSIDE New York you’re nuts if you expect the same experience)
Note on Juliana’s: Some people might tell you to go to Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton. Up until a few years ago, that was the advice you wanted. You see Patsy Grimaldi is one of New York City’s Pizza Godfathers. And, true enough, he opened a shop on Old Fulton. Then in 1998, someone convinced him to sell the business, including the rights to his name. The lure of retirement was sweet, so Patsy sold his name.
That person ran Grimaldi’s into the 2000s until 2011 when a little dispute with the landlord arose. By 2012 he was out, but not for good. He simply opened shop on the corner of the same block. He bought an old bank and, still owning the name, slapped “Grimaldi’s,” above the front door. To this day every tourist from Torrence to Tokyo doesn’t know any better, so what happens on Saturdays? A 2-hour line forms at Grimaldi’s doors and snakes down to the water.
HOWEVER . . . those who know, know that when O.G. Grimaldi got wind of the dispute between the landland and the owner of his namesake, Patsy started making moves. No one who loves food enough to open a restaurant ever truly retires. I mean really. Here in Utah the family behind Gloria’s Little Italy spent a couple years off the map and Florida and where are they now? Back in Bountiful with a pizza shop.
Patsy was restless. You bet he was making pizza from 1998 to 2012. And with the tenant of his shop on the way out, it was time. No way would he hold back … the original location, AVAILABLE! So move he did! Right.Into.His.Original.Shop. Patsy rebuilt the oven, refreshed the dining area and set up a bar so guests can watch him and his proteges do their finest work. And just before opening, he christened his comeback with a new sign, emblazoned with the name of his mother: JULIANA’s.
Burgers: Shake Shack (handful of locations; there’s even one in JFK and Las Vegas and other places, so don’t go out of your way for this, but say you go to the Museum of Natural History, well, it’s across the street). If you have time and want to try a +$20 burger, start with the Black Label at Minetta Tavern. If you don’t have time, try your luck watching the bar like a hawk and snag 2 stools as soon as they open. Full menu service there.
Cookies: skip Levain, go to City Cakes on 18th and 8th
Pastries: Pretzel croissant (City Bakery, on 18th and 5th. If it’s cold, they have killer hot chocolate too), a REAL cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery (arrive an hour+ before the store opens to get a spot in line. The cronuts sell out once the store opens)
Asian: Oh my, how did I leave this out for months? Xi’an Famous Foods (original in Chinatown, convenient locations on 45th near GCT, in the UWS on Broadway and 102nd and elsewhere). There’s only one thing to get your first time: the N1, spicy cumin lamb with hand-pulled noodles. Never seen another noodle like this anywhere. Yum. This is NOT a sit-down restaurant. You MIGHT find a spot at the counter to put your plate and eat while you stand or sit on a stool. Make plans to eat it hot and fresh. It’s better that way.
Korean BBQ: KOKO Wings opened around the corner from my front door and man alive I was a frequent customer. Small combo for 1, medium for 2 or large if you’re starving. Sauces: half and half every time. Sides: 2 words . . . kimchee coleslaw. You can also jaunt over from Herald Square a block and zigzag your way from 35th to 31st (btwn 5th and 6th) poking your head into just about any storefront there and find yourself some delicious Korean BBQ.
Broadway: Try your hand at a lottery (that link or Google ‘playbill student rush’) OR if they offer a “rush” option in the morning, show up 2.5-3 hours before that ticket window opens with a cushion and a good book. You’ll be first in line to get, typically, a front-row ticket.
Don’t miss: the grilled corn-on-the-cob at Num Pang Sandwich Shop
Experiences: sauna/steam/spa at the Russian-Turkish Bath House in the East Village. Walk The Mall in Central Park and finish at Bethesda Fountain/Terrace. Top of the Rock. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Take the Staten Island Ferry (once it lands in Staten Island, don’t get off … just get right back on and go back to Manhattan. Ain’t nothing to see in Staten Island). The Highline. World Trade Center plaza, 9/11 Memorial. Take the N/Q or F/D to Coney Island. If you go when it’s warm, take the LIRR from Penn Station to Long Beach.
As you can see it’s ludicrously easy to entertain yourself in The City of New York.
In part, that’s why I left.
But while you’re there . . . have fun 🙂