New York City

Here a guide to some of the best of New York City:

Things to do

  • US Open at Flushing Meadow: The facilities at Flushing Meadow are really impressive — nicely landscaped, expansive grounds (with free wifi — total bonus), and all the staff very friendly and welcoming. A great tennis experience.
  • Fashion Week: You may not be able to land an invite to any of the runway shows, but the city really embraces Fashion Week and there’s generally free events and in-store activity that you can easily throw yourself into.
  • Hang out in Washington Square Park (where they have a replica of the Arc de Triomph) for great people watching.
  • The Avenue of Americas has s a cool market on Sundays.
  • Go jogging along the Hudson River
  • Explore the High Line park. Really clever use of space — beautiful plantings of grasses and shrubs along an old elevated subway line.
  • Grand Central Station is a beautiful train station — there’s also a surprisingly good oyster bar there that is worth checking out.

Gay Bars

  • Stonewall on Christopher Street — an iconic landmark
  • Duplex, West Village — a cabaret bar with a mixed crowd
  • Boots & Saddle bar, West Village — we hit karaoke night for an older crowd
  • Bar-tini Ultra Lounge on 10th Avenue — a slightly younger crowd
  • The Ritz on West 46th Street — This place was busy but it was odd mixed crowd and the music wasn’t really working.
  • Industry — 52nd Street. Great night out.
  • Boiler Room — Lower East Side
  • Eastern Bloc — Lower East Side

Restaurants

  • Lanksy’s — on Columbus Avenue (upper west side) is an iconic Jewish restaurant established in 1902. We started with buffalo wings and then moved on to burgers. The burgers were okay but the kitchen was clearly having an off day as everyone was complaining about how long their food was taking, and our chicken wings were underdone. Best avoided.

Logistics

  • If you’re going to be in town for any length of time, a 7-day metro card takes some of the hassle out of travelling on the subway. It costs about USD$30.

Live like a local in New York City’s Lower East Side

If you’re only there in New York a weekend, then there are plenty of stylish hotels happy to take your money. However if you’ve got a bit of extra time, why not rent a short-term apartment and try living like a local?

After a bit of research on Airbnb, we decided on a compact one bedroom place on Madison Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Our landlord was Randall who was quick to answer our queries as we were finalising our plans, and had helpfully left the keys and a map of local points of interest ready for our collection in the laundromat downstairs.

As always when you’re stepping into the unknown, we were a bit apprehensive to see what the apartment would be like — thankfully it was exactly as it had been described on the website and turned out far better than we had expected.

The Lower East Side wasn’t really an area that I was familiar with, so it was great to quickly get to know our way around, working out what was where and how the streets connected together, trying to avoid pulling out our tourist map as much as possible.

Here’s some of the highlights that we found:

Groceries
 Utilize your kitchen and save on restaurant bills.

  • Stock up on supplies from Whole Foods — truly a great supermarket if you’re into that kind of thing;
  • Grab specialty items from the Essex Street Food Market;
  • The Hester Street Fair (Saturdays) is a very cool little market, highlight was some macaroons that we tried — Honey & Cognac; and Candied Bacon & Maple — both totally amazing.

Coffee, cakes and cafes
 Clinton, East 7th, Ludlow and Orchard streets are all worth exploring, with plenty of great cafes to try.

  • Butter Lane for some superior cupcakes (East 7th);
  • Clinton Street Bakery Company — popular with tourists so get there early to get a table;
  • 88 Orchard Street — great coffee and food, free wifi;
  • Roasting Plant — they take their coffee very seriously (Orchard Street);
  • Lost Weekend NYC — selling good coffee and clothes (Orchard Street);
  • Cathcart & Reddy — amazing desserts (Clinton Street).

Sweet treats

  • 16 Handles — takes frozen yoghurt to a whole new level (Spring Street);
  • Rice to Riches — it’s rice pudding, but not as we know it (Spring Street);
  • Van Leeuwen Ice Cream — the best in NYC (East 7th);
  • Donut Plant — serious donuts. The peanut butter and jelly has to be tasted to be believed (Grand Street);
  • Pop Karma — hand crafted popcorn (Orchard Street);
  • Melt — ice cream sandwiches. AKA a lump of ice cream served between two cookies (Orchard Street);
  • Milk Bar — desserts to get excited about (East 13th).

Shopping
New York City has always been a bit of landmark shopping destination, but the Lower East Side has some great independent and boutique stores that ensure you’ll be able to impress even your most fashion-forward friends.

  • Cube — cool and edgy (East 7th);
  • Any Old Iron — new and emerging designers (Orchard Street);
  • Reed Space — high end street wear (Orchard Street);
  • John Varvatos — dark and sexy (Bowery Street);
  • American Apparel — t-shirts with a political edge (Orchard Street).

Restaurants
Manhattan’s Chinatown is a ‘proper’ Chinatown if there is such a thing. Sprawling, smelly and busy — there’s plenty of cafes and restaurants selling all of the standard Chinese fare as well as some really stand out operations. Don’t be fooled though — the Lower East Side has more going on than just Chinese food.

  • Vanessa’s Dumplings — top quality and really inexpensive (Eldridge St);
  • Il Buco — innovative Italian, the breakfast is particularly good (Great Jones St);
  • Mission Chinese Food — perhaps the best food we had all trip, a taste sensation. If the wait for a table is too long then get take-away (Orchard St). It was a Saturday night in New York City and we needed a quick bite to eat before meeting up with some friends on the Lower East Side.
    We walked across to Orchard Street — it was raining pretty heavily but we only had to walk a couple of blocks to get to Mission Chinese Food. 
    We’d been planning to sit down for some decent chinese, but this was only a small place and it was rammed — a 90 minute wait for a table. So we opted for some take-away instead — while you’re waiting you can help yourself to beer from a keg by the counter. Ming ordered stir fried pork jowl and radishes, I went for thrice cooked bacon, and we shared a salt cod fried rice. We found a bench under a tree and tucked into our take-away while sheltering from the rain. This is seriously good food — a taste sensation.
  • Yunnan Kitchen — Japanese classics with a twist (Clinton St),
  • Momofuku — try the pork buns. I say no more (1st Avenue).
  • Ming’s Cafe — After watching a fashion show (a lot of skinny boys and girls walking up and down a runway), we’d walked home to the Lower East Side and were feeling a bit peckish. We stopped at the corner of Canal and Essex for snacks at Ming’s Cafe (just because it has the same name as my gaysian sidekick). We had dumplings, taro cake, and scallion pancake (which was probably the pick of the selection but it was all pretty good). Good local option.

Bars
 While a lot of Manhattan’s bars and clubs are way over West, there’s a couple on Lower East Side worth investigating.

  • The Boiler Room — friendly local gay bar with free wifi (East 4th St);
  • Eastern Bloc — cool gay club. 80s porn and go-go boys? Check (East 6th St);
  • 169 Bar — a young straight crowd, great cocktails (East Broadway).

Late night cheap eats
 If you’re making the most of your time in New York City, then you’re bound to be pulling a few late nights. Avoid fast food chains or dodgy pizza-by-the-slice joints, there’s quality late night food options on the Lower East Side.

  • Asia Dog — New York hotdogs with Asian toppings. Surprisingly tasty (Kenmare);
  • La Esquina — super-cool Mexican takeaway. Really good tacos (Lafayette);
  • Pommes Frites — Belgian-style fries with a huge range of flavored mayo (2nd Ave);
  • Katz’s Deli — pastrami sandwich and pickle please (East Houston);
  • Mac Bar — an American carb-loading classic (Prince St)

New York City has so much to explore, discover and enjoy. Living like a local helps you to connect with the neighbourhood around you — the Lower East Side is a pretty good place to start.

Read more from Gareth Johnson