“I also had a dim idea that if I walked the streets of New York by myself all night something of the city’s mystery and magnificence might rub off on me at last.” -Sylvia Plath.
I spent the majority of my childhood just an hour outside of New York, heading in a couple times a year for Broadway shows or special exhibitions at The Met. But in truth, the city and I were practically strangers – polite acquaintances, at best – before I graduated from college and began my career there in the summer of 2015. I can’t say New York is my favorite city, but it’s a special one, and we got to know each other pretty well in our year and a half living together. Here are some of the loveliest spots I stumbled upon, in both Manhattan and Brooklyn…
Bergen Bagels: I’m partial to this one, as it’s just around the corner from my old apartment (and was a staple of my Saturday morning routine). But biases aside, I truly think they’ve got some of the best bagels in Brooklyn – and their feta pesto cream cheese is divine. 949 Fulton St, Brooklyn.+
Absolute Bagels: Great bagels and Thai iced tea on the Upper West Side. It’s a surprisingly satisfying combination. 2788 Broadway, Manhattan.
Bagels on the Square: Speedy delivery and amazing, doughy bagels (the pumperknickel is my favorite) – order online here. You can stop by their West Village location for takeout, too. 7 Carmine St, Manhattan.
La Bagel Delight: Hand rolled bagels (some say the best in NYC), sandwiches, subs and more – La Bagel Delight is, well, delightful. They’ve got four locations across Brooklyn, the most popular of which is just beneath the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO. 104 Front St, Brooklyn.+
Boqueria: If you’re a fan of tapas, churros and bottomless sangria (or mimosas – your call), you should absolutely splurge on Boqueria’s Boozy Brunch feast. It’s not exactly inexpensive ($39 per person), but the amount of food, booze, and happiness you’ll receive makes it completely worthwhile (plus, you can take leftovers home!). Peruse the menu and make a reservation at one of their many locations here. 171 Spring Street, Manhattan.+
Fair Warning: You may find yourself napping in Washington Square Park or investing in some metallic spandex items at Forever 21 after this brunch. Or is that just me?
French Louie: My favorite brunch spot in Brooklyn, French Louie offers everything from crème brûlée French toast to avocado tartine to duck fat potatoes, all at pretty reasonable prices. They’ve also got a little garden terrace where you can dine on sunny mornings. Reservations made here. 320 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn.
Miss Lily’s: Also on the reasonably priced end of the spectrum, Miss Lily’s has delicious and colorful Jamaican cuisine, plus bottomless coffee and brunch cocktails. I’m a fan of the coconut pancakes, but check out the full brunch menu here (and head to Open Table for reservations). 132 W Houston St, Manhattan.+
Sadelle’s: Brunch at Sadelle’s is gorgeous, decadent, and a testament to the notion that bagel toppings are best served on tiered platters (with a side of mimosas or Bloody Marys); click here to reserve a spot. If you’re not able to snag a table, grab a bagel sandwich to-go at the bar to the right of the entrance (be sure to try the Everything 2.0). 463 W Broadway, Manhattan.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza: The best pizza I have ever had. Really, ever. Their signature artichoke pizza is essentially slathered in creamy artichoke dip and topped with cheese – it’s a masterpiece. Slices are $5 a pop, but they’re about the size of your face, and so freaking tasty I’d probably be willing to spend more. 111 Macdougal St, Manhattan.+
Pizza Loves Emily: A little spot in Clinton Hill (and now the West Village), serving delicious wood-fired pizza, pasta and – supposedly – some of the best burgers in New York. I’d recommend making a reservation beforehand, as Emily’s fills up fast. 919 Fulton St, Brooklyn.
Rubirosa Ristorante: A friend of mine asked for Rubirosa pizza in lieu of a birthday cake one year because it is just that good. Definitely try the tie-dye pizza, topped with dollops of vodka sauce, pesto and fresh mozzarella – it’s like a little Italian party in your mouth. 235 Mulberry St, Manhattan.
Joe’s Pizza: There’s a Joe’s Pizza on practically every corner of the city – it’s the place to go if you’re looking for a traditional (and very cheap) New York slice. I should also note that Joe’s is a favorite of both Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Bacon, whose opinions I trust implicitly. 7 Carmine St, Manhattan.+
Molly’s Cupcakes: School-house decor, swings, board games, and a sprinkles bar – Molly’s Cupcakes in the West Village is delightful and delicious (and de-lovely). Oh, and it’s named for the founder & creator’s third grade teacher: Miss Molly – how adorable is that? 228 Bleecker St, Manhattan.+
Magnolia Bakery: Speaking of cupcakes, Magnolia Bakery‘s Red Velvet cupcakes are some of the best in New York (though their magic cookie bars are my personal favorite). 401 Bleecker St, Manhattan.+
Ample Hills Creamery: Ample Hills is known for their fun flavor combinations and pop culture references (they’re the team behind the Gilmore Girls and Star Wars ice cream flavors that have been all over your news feed). Stop by the original Prospect Heights location and give ’em a taste. 623 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn.+
Butter & Scotch: The self-proclaimed “bar and bakery of your dreams,” Butter & Scotch has a little something for everyone… including hard milkshakes and a Hotline Bling cake (covered in edible gold). 818 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn.
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake: If you’re looking for traditional New York cheesecake, Eileen’s is the place to get it. It really is special. 17 Cleveland Pl, Manhattan.
Caffe Reggio: The first place in the United States to serve cappuccino, this rickety little cafe in Greenwich Village offers coffee (of course), Italian treats and a bit of a journey back in time – they’ve even got a bench that once belonged to the Medici family. 119 Macdougal St, Manhattan.
Morganstern’s Finest Ice Cream: Think old-fashioned ice cream parlor with a sleek, modern twist. Morganstern’s flavors range from rose vanilla to blueberry milk chocolate, and they’re all completely wonderful. 2 Rivington St, Manhattan.
Fun Fact: The first time I ever had Morganstern’s was after an intrusive medical exam… I was still pretty heavily drugged, ordered the Salted Caramel Pretzel sundae and apparently ate the whole thing. In case you were wondering.
Domonique Ansel: The OG creator of cronuts, cookie shots and frozen s’mores. It’s a small space in high demand, so try going mid-morning if you want to dodge the line. 189 Spring St, Manhattan.
Katz’s Delicatessen: Everyone’s favorite Kosher-style deli, and home to that “I’ll have what she’s having” moment in When Harry Met Sally. Katz’s is known for their massive deli sandwiches and egg creams, plus the best latkes around. Go a bit later in the evening to avoid crazy crowds (they’re open until 10:30pm). 205 East Houston St, Manhattan.
Paesano’s of Mulberry Street: My favorite Italian spot in the city (shortly followed by Bar Pitti). Paesano’s definitely isn’t the fanciest restaurant, but they’ve got delicious pasta and a solid wine list, both of which are very reasonably priced. 136 Mulberry St, Manhattan.
Sweet Chick: Comfort food, Manhattan-style – from chicken and waffles to mac & cheese. If you’re a fan of grape soda and gin, be sure to try their Purple Drank, too. 178 Ludlow St, Manhattan.+
PS: If you’re into swanky Southern cuisine, also try Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side.
Bottega Falai: So, I have this weird thing with egg salad… in large part thanks to Bottega Falai. I swear to you, their egg salad is life-changing (I literally had a dream about it the other night), and I hear their prosciutto cotto’s pretty tasty, too. Stop by this little Italian deli and see for yourself. 267 Lafayette St, Manhattan.
Drinks & Dancing.
Mr. Purple: Forget Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building – head to Mr. Purple at Hotel Indigo for a great view of the New York skyline (there’s no entry charge, and they’ve got alcohol). 180 Orchard St, Manhattan.
Le Bain: Another spot for admiring the skyline, Le Bain sits at the top of The Standard hotel in Meatpacking – with a disco, crepes and a seasonal pool. Music and marketing agency Giant Step hosts events here fairly regularly, as well, which are always a good time (click here for news + updates). 848 Washington St, Manhattan.
Le Boudoir: A Marie Antoinette-themed speakeasy in Brooklyn Heights, with one of my favorite cocktails in the borough (the French 75). Le Boudoir is fancy and fun, and you might just stumble upon a group of guests donning powdered wigs. They’ve even got live music on Monday nights! 135 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn.
Lucky Strike: A simple bar and brasserie in Soho, with a great happy hour and very relaxed atmosphere. 59 Grand St, Manhattan.
The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club: Shuffleboard, food trucks, board games and a photo booth, all in a Miami Vice-style setting (in the middle-of-nowhere Brooklyn). Royal Palms is a pretty hopping spot on Fridays and Saturdays, if you’re looking to socialize. If you’d rather have the place to yourself, try going on a Sunday night. 514 Union St, Brooklyn.
Vin et Fleurs: Vin et Fleurs was my go-to spot for midweek wine and cheese nights (as it’s conveniently located around the corner from my old office). It’s cozy and romantic, and the wait staff might just speak to you in French. C’est très charmant. 69 Thompson St, Manhattan.
Union Hall: If you enjoy cheep beer and early 2000’s music, head to Union Hall in Park Slope. Laid-back library vibe upstairs, dance party downstairs (plus live music and comedy performances from time to time). 702 Union St, Brooklyn.
Museums & Galleries.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Admittedly, I visited very few museums while living in the city. Partially because the majority of New York’s museums charge a (not insubstantial) entry fee… but not The Met, my friends. The Met accepts donations of any amount, so you can see everything from Washington Crossing the Delaware to the Temple of Dendur for as little as $1. Spend an afternoon (or the whole day) getting lost among the artwork and ancient Egyptian jewelry. 1000 5th Ave, Manhattan.
The Met Cloisters: Located at the tip-top of Manhattan, The Cloisters celebrate medieval European art and architecture, all set in gorgeous, sprawling gardens. If you’re in New York during the spring or summer, make the trek up and explore the 2,000+ works of art featured here. 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan.
The Museum of Natural History: In case you want to check out some dinosaurs and pretend you’re Ross Geller. Central Park West & 79th St, Manhattan.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum: This is a heavy one, but visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum is an incredibly powerful experience – it tells so many stories of both loss and resilience. Set aside at least two hours to explore this space in full, and purchase your tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line ($24 for adults, $15 for youths). 180 Greenwich St, New York.
Other noteworthy museums include The Whitney, MOMA, MOMA PS1, The Guggenheim, the New Museum, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian, The Morgan Library and the Brooklyn Museum.
Stroll through Central Park, along the High Line and across the Brooklyn Bridge… See a Broadway show (grab discounted, day-of tickets at TKTS)… Eat everything at Smorgasburg… See some improv at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade… Check out Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel.