Joe Minihane eats and drinks his way across the city that never sleeps, checking out some of its greatest sights en route.
0700-0900. Rouse yourself early and take a leisurely stroll around Tompkins Square Park. This East Village institution is one of Manhattan’s finest people-watching spots, with a sweeping row of benches for staring out over the lawns and onto the brownstone-lined streets on its perimeter. There are even chess tables if your pre-caffeine brain is up to the task. If you need a coffee hit first, grab a cup from Ninth Street Espresso. There are two branches nearby. One on the north side of the park (341 East 10th Street, 212 777 3508) and another cosy spot a block south (700 East Ninth Street, 212 358 9225). The latter has a small outside space overlooking one of the East Village’s lovingly kept community gardens.
0900-1100. If you’re in need of sustenance after all that caffeine, then wander down Avenue A, along East Houston Street and drop into über-trendy breakfast hangout Cafe Gitane (242 Mott Street, 212 334 9552). Nestled down a Nolita side street, it serves up sensational avocado on toast, delicious baked eggs and restorative cucumber juice. With SoHo so close, you’re perfectly placed to beat the crowds and indulge in some early morning shopping at the city’s very best boutiques. As well as classic high-end brand stores along Prince and Spring Streets, be sure to check out Saturdays Surf NYC (31 Crosby Street, 212 966 7875). It might seem incongruous to have a surf shop in the heart of Gotham, but its clothes are superb and not your usual baggy beach bum fodder. They even have a coffee bar and a yard if you need to rest your feet after all that retail therapy.
1100-1300. Head over to the Bowery, once New York’s skid row, filled with flophouses and brothels, and now transformed with smart restaurants, luxury hotels and swish condos. The New Museum (235 Bowery Street, 212 219 1222) is a must-see. Styling itself as an anti-mainstream museum specialising in new and undiscovered artists, the seven-storey building designed by Tokyo-based firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA and the New York firm Gensler, is, depending on your attitude, an architectural wonder or a wonky stack of silvery white boxes. It houses three main gallery levels, a theatre, a café and roof terraces.
1300-1500. The West Village is teeming with places to get a bite. Snack (105 Thompson Street, 212 925 1040) serves up stunning Greek food; its vegetarian souvlaki and lamb sandwiches are a must-eat. Space is limited, so you can either queue for a table or grab takeaway and have an impromptu picnic in Washington Square Park. For an altogether more swanky experience, try The Mercer Kitchen (99 Prince Street, 212 966 5454), a New York institution. Tucked away in the basement of The Mercer Hotel, its dark corners are perfect for celebs and famous types to eat away from prying eyes. The food is the work of renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten; the pan-roasted hake is a particular favourite.
1500-1700. The Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street, 212 982 8420) is possibly the best museum in New York at putting the city’s history into context. It tells the stories of immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on the Lower East Side. New York has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to world-class art galleries. The Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Avenue, 212 570 3600), which has arguably the best collection of work by US artists on the planet, is a great alternative if you’re not too keen on history. Its airy space offers a chance to see classic works by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper and Lee Krasner, with an ever-changing roster of critically acclaimed exhibitions. The crowds don’t flock here like they do to MoMA, so there’s a chance to have a proper look at the paintings and sculptures on show.
1700-1900. Walk one block west from the Whitney and wander through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue, 212 535 7710). The Met is more than just an art gallery. It’s a vast museum stuffed with classic paintings by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh, ancient Egyptian treasures and even a Chinese Garden Court. Its vast size means you’ll need at least a day to see everything, so it’s best to pick a particular collection or choose one of the Met’s superb suggested itineraries. If you’re feeling footsore after traipsing the halls, then decamp to the Met’s rooftop bar, open from May until late autumn. Snag yourself a cocktail and take in the sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and the Upper West Side. It’s one of the best in the city.
1900-2100. Leave Manhattan behind and take the subway over to Brooklyn for dinner. The hippest borough in the world is not short of amazing restaurants. If you want a life-changing steak, without breaking your budget, then St Anselm (355 Metropolitan Avenue, 718 384 5054) is where it’s at. It’s not just about the meat though; the pan-fried mash and market greens, plus its huge wine list, make it a real winner. The wait can be long, so get there early, stick your name on the list and have a swift craft beer in Spuyten Duyvil (359 Metropolitan Avenue, 718 963 4140), the ace bar next door. If you’re not so keen on feasting on slabs of steak, Sweetwater (105 North Sixth Street, 718 963 0608) is a fantastic alternative. The focus at dinner is largely Italian, but if you feel like something healthy, the red beet salad with shredded kale is sumptuous. The house cocktails list is lengthy, and the perfect way to ease yourself into an evening of Brooklyn-based booziness.
After 2100. There’s no shortage of bars to hop around in Williamsburg and nearby Greenpoint. If you want something swish to start with, then duck into Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Avenue, 347 335 0446) for a glass of fizz or an absinthe cocktail. It’d be rude not to, seeing as it boasts the largest collection of absinthes in New York. For something altogether more raucous, head across Bedford Avenue to Lucky Dog (303 Bedford Avenue, no phone). As well as being chock full of hipsters and their mutts, this bar has a great selection of local brews, as well as heaps of happy hour deals on beers and shots. Equally hip is No Name Bar (597 Manhattan Avenue, no phone). Unassuming out front, the narrow bar opens out onto a massive patio, which is unlit at night. This makes for an achingly cool vibe, if somewhat awkward when it comes to finding the toilets. A hole in the wall serves delicious Korean food if you get the urge for a late-night snack. If you’re still standing, then Union Pool (484 Union Avenue, 718 609 0484), just under the rumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is the perfect place to see out the evening, with loud tunes and booths for disco napping.
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Written by World Travel Guide.