Now that it’s officially fall and with sweater weather upon us, I figured it was time to do a quick round-up of 10 of my favorite New York City spots from my crazy summer.
I worked at a bond rating agency this summer in Midtown East and lived in Murray Hill on Park Avenue between 36th and 37th. While I did spend a majority of my time in that part of the city, I also made sure I ventured far and wide — and by that I mean to the West side, to Brooklyn and to Queens – and picked up a lot of favorites all over the city.
In no particular order and with no disrespect to all the wonderful places I stumbled upon this summer that did not make the cut, here is my NYC Top 10:
1. Pommes Frites East Village, Manhattan
Fries, all day, every day, until the wee hours of the night. Upon arriving at Pommes Frites, you might ask yourself, “is this heaven?” Located in Manhattan’s East Village, one of my favorite neighborhoods, Pommes Frites was often a pit stop on our way home from the bars. Wrapped in a paper cone or tossed in a bag to go, this place is a little slice of Belgium with some serious New York flair. The wall boasts the dozens of differently flavored mayo sides you can pair with your fries (with truffle mayo, rosemary garlic mayo and basil pesto mayo being just some of the highlights). You can also get poutine if you’re feeling zany, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re planning on ever eating again (it is delicious but I was full for about three days). While Pommes Frites isn’t technically heaven, I recommend still making it a holy experience by grabbing your frites to go and eating them across the street on the steps of the neighborhood’s church.
2. Murray’s Cheese Bar West Village, Manhattan
A new complement to the tried-and-true Murray’s Cheese, this West Village eatery is simply beautiful. The counter is marble and the rest of the place has a light, airy feel to it despite its dim lighting. The chairs are fire-engine red, giving it a fashionable, playful look. The menu is amazing: the flights are enough to make any cheese fanatic weep with joy, and the wines are enough to sate any sommelier. I had the burrata one night and just about fainted: it was creamy and delicious and one of the best I’ve ever had. In addition to the gorgeous space and the fantastic menu, Murray’s Cheese Bar is fun without being cutesy and sophisticated without seeming pretentious. You could chat with the bartenders for hours and if that’s not your thing, why not pass the time with some tic-tac-toe on their marble playing board? This place is sure to live a long life as an NYC classic.
3. The Market NYC Greenwich Village, Manhattan
The Market, located downtown, is a dream-come-true for people with limited time and a limited budget. Whether you’re in the market (no pun intended) for a new dress for a party Friday night, some new necklaces, new apartment decorations or just in the mood to shop, this is the place for you. Budding designers and artists converge at The Market to put their goods on display on a rotating basis. Some stay for months and months but some just pass through for a quick stint, so be careful when hemming and hawing over something you really like. I got a one-of-a-kind dress at The Market that I’ve received more compliments on than anything else I’ve ever owned and I wear two pieces of jewelery I bought there every single day. The goods range from simple, printed cotton t-shirts to rings made from vintage typewriter keys (my personal favorite accessory ever). Artists charge reasonable prices and are helpful and friendly to customers. What more could you need?
4. 124 Old Rabbit Club Greenwich Village, Manhattan
As I am a huge sucker for a good gimmick, The Old Rabbit Club on MacDougal Street is one of my favorite bars in New York City. To give you a sense of how much I like the place, I went here on the stroke of midnight on my 21st birthday. Even when you factor in its funky decor, its out-of-this-world beer and wine list and its knowledgeable staff, this bar’s main draw is still its exclusivity — you wouldn’t even know it was there if you were just walking down the street. Located behind a plain black door marked simply with “124” across the very top, you have to know what you’re doing to get in. It’s amazing and I’d recommend it to any craft beer lover or anyone who, like me, loves the idea of a speakeasy.
5. Excellent Dumpling House Chinatown, Manhattan
My roommate Emilie is a self-proclaimed Asian food expert and this is her all-time favorite, located just off the Canal Street subway stop in New York City’s famous Chinatown. The dumplings, as the name suggests, are definitely the highlight. I’ve never had better dumplings in my life and don’t expect to — they come out piping hot and, when paired with EDH’s house sauce mixed and a touch of Sriracha, could probably solve all the world’s problems. Their entrees are delicious too and the service is quick (if not slightly down and dirty). Check out the Excellent Dumpling House to really get a feel for how New York City does Chinese food.
6. A Salt & Battery West Village, Manhattan
Suffering from severe London withdrawal after a semester abroad in Britain, I rooted around NYC to find the Big Apple’s best fish and chips. A Salt & Battery, tucked away on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village, did not disappoint. This bare-bones, no fuss eatery served up exactly what I was craving after a sad farewell to all of London’s pubs. The fish was expertly fried (they don’t serve cod, though, due to the owner’s concerns about overfishing) and came paired with delicious, authentic chips. I usually forwent the chips and just got fried haddock that I promptly slathered with malt vinegar and dipped in A Salt & Battery’s homemade tartar sauce. A Salt & Battery is also located next to a British market that was simply adorable and chock-full of English goodies.
7. La Palapa East Village, Manhattan
This place has the frozen margaritas in the city, hands down. In addition to these fantastic, frosty libations, La Palapa — located in the East Village — whips up amazing spicy steak enchiladas and some great queso dishes. I have spent many nights there with friends sitting outside or near their big, open front facade, which is perfect for warm summer nights when all you want is an icy cocktail. It’s an underrated, simple hidden gem in an area teeming with specialty restaurants and bars of all shapes and sizes. Oh, and did I mention the margaritas…?
8. McSorley’s Old Ale House East Village, Manhattan
Also located in the East Village, McSorley’s Old Ale House is a New York City staple. It’s the oldest bar in Manhattan — it opened its doors in 1854. While I am by no means original in my adoration of the place, I still unabashedly think it’s one of the best bars of all time. The floor is covered in sawdust and the walls are covered in old photographs and presidential memorabilia — what’s not to love? The bartenders, quick and efficient, serve only two things: the light and the dark versions of McSorley’s own beer. I’ve tried both and like the dark better (although they’re both very good). This joint isn’t for the faint of heart, though, so be warned — you’ll be pushed, shoved and drunkenly serenaded, but it’s all part of the charm (and when it’s four beers for $11, who really cares?).
9. BZ Grill Astoria, Queens
Hidden in plain sight in Astoria, Queens, this Greek restaurant reminds me of a lot of the restaurants I visited traveling around Greece this summer. The souvlaki was authentic and delicious and came in big portions. The staff was friendly and it was all very cheap. If BZ Grill wasn’t a trek (by New York standards, at least) from my apartment, I know we would have stopped by a lot more. Astoria is known as the Greek capital of America and it lives up to the stereotype in the best way. I’d heard BZ Grill was good, and it totally lived up to the hype. We sat down outside and took in the surrounding neighborhood as we chowed down on some chicken and some unbelievably good felafel.
10. Sheep Meadow, Central Park Upper West Side, Manhattan
No NYC Top 10 post would be complete without some mention of Central Park. I have spent many mornings laying in the shade in Sheep Meadow, relaxing or reading (or even napping) and thus simply had to include it here. It’s a 15-acre grassy meadow on the West side of the park that lays between 66th and 69th streets. It also boasts nice views of nearby skyscrapers and endless (and I mean ENDLESS) people-watching. Bored of your book? No problem. Look to your left and there’s a pack of elderly men practicing taekwon-do for you to watch. Nodding off during that novel? Easy fix. Listen to that up-and-coming artist strum away on his guitar under a nearby tree. The possibilities are infinite in Central Park and well, hey, isn’t that kind of what New York is all about?