Eating and drinking in NYC
From conversations on twitter with Gareth Watkins it became clear that he knew his way around the restaurants and bars of New York City. So, we asked him to share his favourites with all of us.
We all know that New York is the city that never sleeps. Many of us even know that it’s the concrete jungle where dreams are made. I know that it’s an amazing city in which to spend a long weekend shopping, watching musicals, never sleeping but still dreaming. In order to do all of these things one must be fuelled. New York allegedly has an eatery for every meal, for every day, for the rest of your life. Here are my favourite places to fuel your long weekend in New York City.
One of the greatest things New York has to offer is the modern deli. These amazing hybrids of grocers and cafes may have found their way onto European shores in the last couple of decades but New York still does them better than anywhere. Probably the most famous, thanks to Sally’s performance for Harry, is Katz Deli. If you want to “have what she’s having,” you’ll need to join the line and wait your turn.
On 7th Avenue and 55th street, opposite one of America’s greatest concert venues, is Carnegie’s Deli. Here you must try a Woody Allen - an open sandwich of such phenomenal proportions that those who order it usually take a photograph to prove to their friends they conquered it. Carnegie’s is my favourite restaurant in New York - possibly in the world. A day started here is always a good day.
If it’s a lengthier, more relaxed, Sunday brunch you’re after, you should get yourself to 7A Cafe. On a street corner in a comparatively quiet residential area of Manhattan, 7A is an inconspicuous cafe, predominantly frequented by locals and always filled with regulars. 7A is one of the few places in New York that feels like it’s in a low gear, and during a long weekend in New York that can be exactly the feeling you need on a Sunday afternoon.
Every Manhattan resident has their favourite pizza place which does “the world’s best pie.” The frequent winner in debates that attempt to conclude these arguments is Lombardi’s. As a result, you can always be guaranteed a long line of tourists queuing up to say, “I’ve had better.” And who am I to disagree with so many doubters? I’ve had better.
For my money (though not much of it at the low prices they charge) the best pizza in New York is served at Ben’s Pizza, a little further down Spring Street from Lombardi’s. A single slice is more than enough for lunch and the service is pure New York.
Like pizza, steak is a big thing in new York and there are few places better to enjoy the perfect New York steak than The Striphouse. The Striphouse decor is simple and stylish and the food is simply impeccable. A restaurant which welcomes you to your table with a shot of the soup of the day is putting its money where your mouth is - and that can only be a good thing.
If pure class is what you expect from a night out in New York, an evening at the Henry Hudson Hotel should be recommended. One of New York’s most overtly stylish hotels, located right next to Central Park, the Hudson has dining and drinking and looking good while doing it down to an art form. Its kitchens produce uncomplicated, unpretentious and unbelievably good food, its bars can make you feel like you’re part of a magazine shoot (you may be, Sex And The City has filmed here) and its “library” is stylised grandeur from an era I’m not totally sure has ever existed.
New York is not just a place for eating, of course. There is a celebrated bar scene in Manhattan that covers everything from the traditional pub to the trendy wine bar to the inspiration of Coyote Ugly.
My favourite sits at the more traditional end of the scale. In an area of Soho that looks like the New York of your mind, opposite hotel to the stars, The Mercer, one of the oldest drinking establishments in the city opens its doors daily to rooms decorated with pictures of great boxers. Fanelli’s is no longer run by the family whose name it bears, but you can feel the tradition and history in every strip of wood panelling and polished brass. An escape from the chaos of Soho’s main shopping street, Fanelli’s is as easy to have a quick pint in as it is to lose a whole evening.
If you’re looking for something with greater feeling of adventure, mystery and exclusivity and if you can find it, maybe you can enjoy a cocktail or two in Please Don’t Tell. As I travelled around the USA this year I discovered a number of speakeasies in different cities. Ranging from little more than ill-marked doors to venues with security levels only previously witnessed in spy novels, there’s something undeniably exciting about a secret venue. Please Don't Tell is the stuff of pure fiction. By appointment or judgement only, you are permitted entrance through a phonebooth in a hotdog joint. Inside the bar is plushly decorated and impossibly exciting to be a part of. I’d recommend making a reservation. Under a pseudonym, of course.
You should always leave New York with treats for you or your friends and family. There is no better place for treats in the city than big kid’s sweet shop, Dylan’s Candy Bar. If you remember reading about Willy Wonker’s factory and thinking, “I wish,” please consider your wish granted. Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph, has produced the sweet shop the ten year old you wished was real. But this is not a place for pocket money, this is the sort of sweet shopping that only nostalgia permits you to afford. You will stun yourself when you realise just how much money you are capable of spending on sweets.
Should you visit one, some, or all of my recommendations, I promise you will leave with a story. They are all places that you will, as I have here, recommend in the future. A perfect long weekend in New York is not made of shopping, eating and seeing - that can be done anywhere. A perfect long weekend in New York is made up of experiences unique to the city, that make you want to return and of which you will tell your friends about for a long time afterwards.
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