I have just came back from NYC, the city I once called home. I used to know all its cozy nooks and crannies, indulge in its ever-evolving restaurant scene and rich cultural diversions. Now every time I come back, I always feel dazzled by how much the city has changed. You can leave NYC but don’t expect it to wait for you! It’s the city that never sleeps and never stops working at getting bolder, louder and more intoxicating.
WHERE TO STAY
My home away from home in NYC is The Surrey Hotel. I used to be a downtown girl through and through, living in Union Square and preferring Soho or Greenwich for my extended visits once I moved away. In the past two years, however, I became a convert and am now fully sold on Upper East Side. There is something about its elegant townhouses, manicured lawns and slower pace. UES is also a treat for shopaholics and art lovers with boutiques and galleries for any whim and fancy. I discovered the Surrey Hotel by chance through a “mystery hotel” deal on the Jetsetter. I took a chance since the name was not revealed to me until I made a reservation. Now the Surrey is my hotel of choice. I love that it is a boutique hotel that foregoes the grandeur and inherent noise of the larger institutions for the allure of an exceptional and discreet service. I love its style – crisp luxury with a flair for contemporary art and just a tad of Art Deco. The location is superb as well, only half-a-block from Central Park and amidst the creme de la creme of Manhattan foodie scene. On a warm summer night, hotel’s rooftop bar is a place to hide away and admire the cityscape.
THE SURREY HOTEL: 20 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021; (212) 288-3700; WEBSITE
WHERE TO EAT
For panini & best cappuccino in town…
… head straight to Via Quadronno. Neatly tucked away on a sidewalk of 73rd Street, it is criminally easy to miss. A traditional Milanese panini bar, this tiny spot is abuzz with lively conversation, coffee sipping and the most delicious sandwiches you’ve ever tried… outside of Italy, at least! Try to avoid prime lunch time crowd by arriving 15 minutes earlier to snatch one of the tiny tables by the window!
VIA QUADRONNO: 25 East 73rd Street, New York, NY 10021; (212) 650-9880; WEBSITE
… snatch a table at Pylos. I cannot get enough of the flavorful food and cozy atmosphere of this East Village gem. The grilled octopus and fried zucchini & eggplant with tzatziki sauce are my go-tos for appetizers while baby lamb chops never disappoint as an entree. By the time, I am done I can’t think of dessert but heard that galaktobourekakia (try to pronounce it fast and guess what it means!) is to die for!
PYLOS: 128 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009; (212) 473-0220; WEBSITE
…don’t miss La Grenouille. By far my favorite restaurant in town, La Grenouille is a New York institution serving its loyal clientele for over fifty years. Known for its beautiful cascading flower arrangements, impeccable service and heavenly classic French cuisine, La Grenouille stays consistent in its quality and charm. The people who work there are so old school that they jot down your phone number when you make a reservation and the next time you call remember you by the name! What kind of sorcery is that?! : ) Here is a curious article about La Grenouille in New York Post. The review is from 2013 but I find it highly relevant in reference to the New Yorkers’ obsession with Brooklyn and downtown restaurant scene…Upper East Side is where it’s at!
LA GRENOUILLE: 3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022; (212) 752-1495; WEBSITE
… score a reservation at a highly thought-after restaurant, The Polo Bar. The new joint by Ralph Lauren is New York’s first, succeeding culinary ventures in Chicago and Paris. The menu hits close to home with classic American fare like crab cakes, corned beef sandwich and roasted chicken. The food is simple yet solid with flavors unveiling in every detail. The restaurant was designed to feel like a cozy, alas quite leather-clad, home with family gathering around the dinner table. Ralph Lauren makes a frequent appearance and was there when I was dining with my mom and friends. My favorite part of the experience, however, was the upstairs bar lounge arranged around the fireplace. Facing the busy bar at the entrance, it was the best spot to people watch while sipping on Moscow Mules and enjoying a lively conversation.
THE POLO BAR: 1 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022; (212) 207-8562; WEBSITE
… you won’t go wrong with Ippudo. Boy do I love Ippudo! It used to be my neighborhood fave, given I lived only four blocks away on the same avenue. How I did not gain “Ippudo 15” I am still not sure?! Order pork buns (or pancakes as they call them), classic ramen and wash it down with plum wine. Mmmm… I’d kill for this right now…
IPPUDO: 65 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003; (212) 388-0088; WEBSITE
… head to the Plaza Hotel Food Hall. At its 32,000 square-foot space you will find a myriad of multicultural cuisine, ranging from sushi to lobster rolls and pasta. You can definitely sample a cross-section of the city’s best all under the famous roof before crossing the street to the neighboring Bergdorf Goodman.
THE PLAZA FOOD HALL: 1 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019; (212) 986-9260; WEBSITE
WHAT TO DO
Day 1: UPTOWN
I am a fan of modern art so my usual go-tos are MoMa, Guggenheim and Gagosian Gallery. I only visit museums with a clear plan in mind and making sure that what is on display interests me. If the collection inspires me, I can wonder room to room for hours taking it all in! If not, I am exhausted within minutes, feeling claustrophobic from all the tourist crowd. A day at the museum is best followed by a quick bite at Le Pain Quotidien with its incredible pastries and hot chocolate. Then a stroll in Central Park, perhaps?!
If you still have energy after your dinner plans and find yourself not in a mood for a loud and proud NYC partying, I urge you to visit The Paris Theater, a charming one screen cinema across from the Plaza Hotel. Whoever is running this tiny place, has never disappointed me with the top-notch selection of international and domestic films. Superb!
Day 2: DOWNTOWN
I am fascinated with the High Line Promenade, an urban greenway planted atop of elevated section of an abandoned New York Central Railroad. Starting at 34th Street and 11th Avenue and running down to Gansevoort Street in Meatpacking District, the High Line is the best way to travel downtown and enjoy some rays. As you walk down, you can admire the cityscape as well as creative graffiti made by the local artists.
When I exit the High Line in Meatpacking District, I make sure to stop at Jeffrey, a multi-brand boutique with exquisite selection of top designers, cutting edge shoes and gorgeous accessories. Here is Jeffrey’s collection of Chanel on display in colors so bold they make you want to have summer weather already:
As you explore Meatpacking, please walk into the Chelsea Market just for a minute. It is such a treat of delicatessen at every corner. I truly wish I went there more often when I lived in NYC. They have fresh pasta of every shape and form imaginable and sushi-grade fish. I could have been a far greater cook in college! 🙂
And please save some time for shopping! Where to begin… NYC is so versatile when it comes to fashion, you can shop till you drop encompassing every neighborhood, price range and taste. I will not wax poetic and simply list my favorites:
Stubbs & Wootton
Why? Bespoke handmade slippers that are so preppy, posh and Upper East Side…
Address: 987 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10075; (212) 249-5200; WEBSITE
Why? You just have to check it out. There are books written about this place. Iconic Shopping Mecca. Sneak up to the 5th floor to scope up new young designer names before they hit big and become astronomical in $$$$
Address: 745 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019; (212) 753-7300; WEBSITE
Why? With a wonderful selection of cutting-edge contemporary design for both genders, OAK feels eccentric, dark, monochromatic and urban. Think Rick Owens, Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester.
Address: 28 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012; (212) 677-1293; WEBSITE
Why? Curated collections of runway-hot fashion from up-and-coming and established designers in a downtown-cool atmosphere.
Address: 449 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014; (212) 206-1272; WEBSITE
Why? I can’t speak for all Century 21 stores since it is a national chain but the 22 Cortland Street location begs a visit. It boasts great designer discounts on high fashion items and has recently been remodeled and, thus, became much more organized. Although each visit is an experiment in patience (tourist crowd finally caught up to its treasure trove potential) I did have lucky hunts, bringing home Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors and MSGM.
Address: 22 Cortlandt Street, New York, NY 10007; (212) 227-9092; WEBSITE
There is so much to see and do it NYC that I barely scratched the surface here. Stay tuned for more tips and please ask if you want to know more! I never tire of talking about my beloved NYC! 🙂