New York City Favorites Last Updated: May 9, 2013
I am often asked for favorite restaurants and things to do in New York. Those who know me know I take these questions very seriously. For every one on this list, there are probably 5-7 others that I didn't like as much for whatever reason. I'm a voracious reader of the local papers and blogs and love knowing the gritty details of everything happening in the city. I’m also a licensed New York City tour guide, so I know an insane amount of history about the city.
A few constant favorites:
The High Line—A beautiful urban park built on an old elevated train track that completed the transformation of the far West side/Meatpacking district.
Top of the Rock—I love the view so much that I bought a membership. It has paid for itself with the number of family & friends I’ve brought up.
Gramercy Park--This gorgeous park takes you back to New York in the early 1900s. Eat at Pete’s Tavern or Pure Food & Wine nearby. Or go to lunch at one of New York's best (and expensive) places, Gramercy Tavern.
New York Public Library--I have spent hours in the Main Reading Room devouring books and often check out books from my branch, Jefferson Market. Don’t miss the original Winnie-the-Pooh dolls, owned by Christopher Milne, on display (ask where they are - they have been moved around).
Museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters always; MoMA once in awhile; The Morgan Library and The Frick Collection for a taste of how old New York lived; Neue Galerie to take me back to Austria; Lower East Side Tenement Museum for a great tour; American Museum of Natural History for fossils, rocks, and stalking Ross Gellar (though the museum feels like it needs a major cleaning and some exhibits feel circa 1960); Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace for a short, informative tour.
- 21 Club: Truly classic New York. Ask them to show you the wine cellar. I recently went back with my dad and had such a great night.
- 508: You'll wonder where you are when you walk here. Is it SoHo? Is it TriBeCa? A nomadic land that is neither? Whatever it is, I love it and have been several times. Cozy, totally off-the-tourist path, and a great, reasonably priced menu.
- ABC Kitchen (by Jean-Georges): One of my favorite three-hour lunches of the last year. Just totally divine in every way but not pretentious. You have to check out the $125 coffee mugs and $85 wooden spoons after lunch at ABC Carpet & Home, adjacent to ABC Kitchen.
- Abe & Arthur’s: If you want that Meatpacking vibe without an attitude, go to this steakhouse. I absolutely love it and usually order the sides and no entree. (Closing in early 2013)
- Artisanal Bistro: For incredible fondue, and where I once spent Christmas Eve. Gougeres as an appetizer is a must.
- Ballato’s: I always recommend Ballato's to people - it's close to Little Italy but in a slightly odd spot on Houston Street. There’s also potential for major celebrity spotting (Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Neil Patrick Harris, Tom Hanks, and Kelly Ripa all love Ballato's). It’s the perfect date spot and there’s never a wait, but always a crowd. Recently, this is where the Italian side of my family has done an annual December dinner.
- Baked by Melissa: The best cupcakes in the city and they’re the size of a quarter. I’m partial to the cinnamon and red velvet ones. It’s the best part of the cupcake (Bite Number One).
- Balthazar: I could live at Balthazar, I really could. It takes you to Paris as soon as you walk in the door and there is always a lively crowd.
- Bubby's: The key to this TriBeCa spot on the weekends is to arrive around 9 a.m. I love everything about this place: the ambiance, the crowd, and the best wild blueberry pancakes. The DUMBO location is now closed.
- Café Cluny: Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner but I really love having breakfast here. The West Village location is ideal. I do a lot of business breakfasts here and go to my gym nearby beforehand.
- Caffe Storico: My new favorite lunch spot on the Upper West Side, right on Central Park West in the New-York Historical Society. Gorgeous, light-filled space with long shelves of chic white tableware. The small plates, or cicchetti, took me back to the Venetian cicchetti bars.
- Catch: The best meal I've had in New York in the past several months, even though we waited until 8:45 for our 8 p.m. reservation. It didn't matter. Do not miss the sushi or crispy shrimp! Update: I recently returned and AGAIN had to wait until 8:45 for an 8 p.m. reservation. But the shrimp is still addicting, as is the Cantonese lobster & truffle fries.
- The Dutch: Andrew Carmellini's (from Locanda Verde) fabulous SoHo spot
- Eleven Madison Park: My blog on dinner here. The ultimate, perfect, special occasion place. Expensive & worth it.
- Esca: One of Mario Batali's places & perfect for pre or post-theater dining. Love the pomegranate bellini!
- Indochine: You couldn't get in in the 80's - it was THE hotspot in NYC. Today, it's still hopping and sort of a time warp (you feel like you could see Billy Joel & Christie Brinkley on one of their first dates). The food is fantastic, especially the Chilean sea bass, sticky rice, and Asian crab cakes.
- Il Cantinori: On my favorite street in Greenwich Village, 10th Street, & great old-school Italian.
- ilili Restaurant: I could eat only the brussels sprouts here but every one of these Lebanese small dishes is great. Best hummus, mouhamara, black iron shrimp. Close to Madison Square Park.
- Joe’s Pizza: Best slice in the city. Walk it off on Bleecker Street (and please skip Magnolia Bakery).
- Joe's Shanghai: Come here for the soup dumplings & be prepared to share large round tables with other guests. A great Chinatown experience.
- Kelley & Ping’s: There's never a wait here for fantastic Asian food and I love the cobblestone SoHo street it’s on.
- Kin Shop: In my neighborhood & seriously amazing Thai food. Oh, and the fried broccoli is addicting.
- The Little Owl: It’s at the base of the “Friends” building and it’s just perfect in every way, for brunch, lunch or dinner. Meatball slider a must.
- Lifethyme Natural Market: My favorite local organic/natural market. Their juice bar is great & I love the green champagne juice (kale, celery, spinach, cucumbers, ginger, lemon, apple!).
- Locanda Verde: The most perfect TriBeCa brunch or dinner, in The Greenwich Hotel. Make a reservation.
- Lure Fishbar: It’s on everyone’s must-eat list in SoHo and for good reason. Great fish, sushi, and calamari.
- Motorino: Rachael Ray told me about this place at a taping of her show. It's our favorite whole pie in the city (and they recently announced an expansion to Hong Kong).
- Otto: This is the best place for an inexpensive, group meal but you should reserve far in advance. Perfect spaghetti carbonara and olive oil gelato.
- Rubirosa: You have to get the vodka pizza. On a super cute NoLita street.
- Sarabeth's TriBeCa: A huge new outpost of Sarabeth's and perfect for Sunday brunch. They take reservations, so even better! I like the other Sarabeth's too but this is my favorite.
- Spring Street Natural: Great spot in SoHo for an inexpensive dinner, no wait, and great ambiance. I always get the taco salad.
- The Stanton Social: Cool spot for a Lower East Side night. Small plates, good for groups too.
- Square Diner: Old New York diner in TriBeca. Cheap and great place to read the Sunday Times because you don't have people breathing down your neck for a table.
- Tertulia: Spanish tapas in the Village - lives up to the hype - great date night spot
- Union Square Cafe: My favorite for when it's a rainy day & I want to meet someone for a long lunch.
- Vesuvio Bakery: Vesuvio was a SoHo institution for years and is now under the Birdbath brand umbrella of green, eco-friendly bakery. The chocolate chip cookies are enormous and to-die-for and can also be found at The City Bakery in Chelsea.
- Westville Diner: Heaping plates of vegetables and Southern cooking in a tiny hole-in-the-wall on West 10th Street (there are other locations now too).
- Willow Road: A new-ish spot right across from Chelsea Market on 10th Ave. Every bite, from the hunk of aged cheddar and charred bean salad, to the best fried chicken I've ever had and a new spin on mac 'n cheese, was delicious.
Other Wonderful Manhattan Places:
Varsano's Chocolates: Simply the best dark chocolate sea salt caramels ever.
The Corner Bookstore: The neighborhood bookshop on the Upper East Side that inspired Nora Ephron for You've Got Mail.
Brooklyn makes me smile. I love it so much. I’ll often hop the subway for a stroll through Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, or my favorite, Brooklyn Heights. I walk the Brooklyn Bridge as often as I can.
- Prospect - Incredible vibe and food from Chef Kyle McLelland on Fulton Street in Fort Greene - sit at the chef's table/bar in the back
- I love my hair salon in Boerum Hill
- The River Cafe might be my all-time favorite restaurant in New York. The views are incredible.
- Moutarde for a Friday lunch—They filmed the scene from “Julie & Julia” here where Julia Child experiences her first meal in France, dover sole smothered in butter.
- One Girl Cookies for tiny two-bite cookies
- Du Jour Bakery for the perfect meeting spot in Park Slope
- Bar Tabac for live music and appetizers
- Lucali's for amazing pizza and ambiance
- Black Mountain for wine & that cozy Brooklyn feel, the perfect wine bar
- Jolie for brunch
- Applewood for farm-to-table fabulous food
- Paper Source for browsing and gifts
- Dog Beach at Prospect Park to sit, watch, and wish I had a dog
- Heights Café on Montague after walking the bridge & Brooklyn Promenade
- Almondine Bakery for croissants
- Roberta's in Bushwick for hipster cool in a changing neighborhood, and PIZZA! My post here
- Torst is a super cool new beer bar in Greenpoint with hard-to-find beers on the menu