Whether you have been there or not, New York is everywhere.
Its culture is presented to us from a young age and is littered throughout film, music and art. As a result of its invasion on the mainstream visitors to the Big Apple draw up a relatively predictable itinerary featuring heavyweights such as Central Park, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. This makes perfect sense as these are among some of the highest rated tourist attractions on the planet but what happens on a traveller’s second, third and fourth visit to city that never sleeps?
This guide will list some of the best hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and areas of New York which likely would not have been on your list the first time around. The guide will span numerous boroughs and is for those who want to brave the subway and delve deeper into the lives of the New Yorkers who live there.
There is one thing that New Yorkers do better than most and that is brunch and I confidently believe I have found the best in the city. If you are staying in Manhattan hop on the subway to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and head to 164 Bedford Ave to Sweet Chick. As the go-to neighbourhood hotspot, Sweet Chick has been building a sense of community through chicken and waffles for years.
Enter its doors and expect a twist-on-classic dishes, guzzle-worthy cocktails and desserts that make you feel like a kid again. And, with deep roots set in music and hip-hop culture, those that eat can look forward to the occasional live music break out.
Given its popularity amongst the residents of Brooklyn the queue often spills outside so be prepared to wait a short period to be seated. The brunch menu offers something for everyone including Shrimp & Grits, Buttermilk Pancakes and House Made Granola but if it is your first time try the incredible Chicken and Waffles. The dish is served with 2 pieces of the East Coat’s best fried chicken served with a classic Belgian waffle; maple syrup is on each table and the perfect accompaniment. The staff at Sweet Chick are incredible, despite the constant busy nature of the restaurant they are always extremely friendly and never appear rushed.
Whilst experiencing one of the best brunches of your life at Sweet Chick be sure to check out the rest of the increasingly popular and trendy Williamsburg. The pace is slower and more relaxed than Manhattan but that means no shortage of things to see and do. Music fans can check out Rough Trade to dig through some vinyl whilst streetwear connoisseurs can check out the new Supreme store on Grand St.
For those looking to dine in mid-town Manhattan like the locals (which means avoiding TGI Friday’s and Bubba Gump Shrimp) Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is a must-try. Sommelier Aldo Sohm is a legend in New York and he opened his eponymous wine bar over a decade ago. Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is a casual and convivial place where guests are welcome at the bar as they would be in Sohm’s living room, seating themselves in the central bar area and surrounding high-top tables or in the comfortable lounge before exploring the ever-changing wine list. With Le Bernardin co-owners Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, Sohm has created a go-to neighbourhood bar.
Aldo Sohms Wine Bar is perfect for tourists who are curious and want to meet local New Yorkers without seeming weird. The stylish and comfortable seating area really feels like you are entering your friend’s house as opposed to a bar and the lack of any visible tills or money exchange point emphasises this. During the evening the expert sommelier explores the room with a bottle of wine in his hand, conversing with the guests at each table be it about wine or simply how the guests day is going.
Not content on providing excellent wine the standard of food is also very high . Continuing with the communal theme the dishes are made for sharing. Some personal favourites include the delicious spicy lamb merguez, the rich grilled foie grass lollipop and the hearty truffle pasta. The relaxed, non-pretentious community feel coupled with food and wine served to share make Aldo’s the perfect spot to drink and eat with the locals.
Being in the country that founded fast-food you will more than likely want to save some time by grabbing some lunch in one of NY’s numerous time convenient restaurants. For something different be sure to skip McDonalds and try one of the local favourites – Chick-fil-A.
Unlike McDonalds, Five Guys or Shake Shack this chain is completely unavailable in the UK making a trip to NY the perfect opportunity to try it out. As the wives tale goes: in 1995, a renegade cow, paintbrush in mouth, painted the three words “EAT MOR CHIKIN” on a Texas billboard. From that day forward, the burger-eating landscape was forever changed. These fearless cows, acting in enlightened self-interest, realized that when people eat chicken, they don’t eat beef. Today, the cows’ herds have increased and their message reaches millions – through television, radio, online, and on the occasional water tower. Needless to say, I fully endorse and appreciate the monumental efforts made by our most beloved bovine friends.
The food is simple but the taste is surprising and unlike anything back home. If a burger is your thing then the Chick-fil-A sandwich should be your port of call. Otherwise try the Chick-fil-A nuggets; they have an amazing amount of flavour compared to other fast food joints and the taste is more similar to eating chicken off the bone. Instead of chips Chick-fil-A serve their famous crispy Waffle Potato Fries which you can pair with their addictive Chick-fil-A sauce. With no fewer than 8 locations around the city you are never too far away from chicken greatness.
One of New York’s coolest spots that you might not be aware of is the McKittrick Hotel in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. The hotel is probably most famous for ‘Sleep No More’ an award winning theatrical experience that tells Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy through a film noir lens. The hotel also hosts the annual Inferno Halloween party, the biggest Halloween party in the city which sees the building transformed for three nights of deviant witchcraft.
The McKittrick is also popular with New Yorkers for its roof-top bar and restaurant Gallow Green. In the autumn and winter months, Gallow Green is transformed into The Lodge at Gallow Green. A cosy hideaway where guests discover a mountaintop ski cabin nestled in a secluded forest of real pine trees. Inspired by Scottish bothies, the cabin’s charming, lived-in vibe comes complete with cosy fireside seating, warm plaid blankets, hiking boots, sleeping bunks and a library. Private seating areas, a bar, mysterious train tracks and an outdoor fire pit are also available for guests to explore. Once inside, you can relax and enjoy a selection of potent cocktails and large format punches, as well as seasonal dinner fare. The bar welcomes revellers nightly for wintry drinks, including hot cocktails like the signature Sleep No More As far as recommendations go the pizzas are a must-try, particularly the prosciutto and argulua which is perfect washed down with the Flight of the Illusionist cocktail.
Choosing a beef-burger joint in New York is no easy feat and New Yorkers will passionately debate their favourite for hours. With various variations and techniques used across the city there is no doubt a burger for everyone but a slightly mysterious option that comes up in many of those conversations is the hidden burger joint at Le Parker Meridien.
Burger joint is becoming less secretive as times go by as word has spread around the city but tourists are still left in the dark. Once in the hotel follow the neon burger sign behind the secret red curtain and you have arrived. The ethos at burger joint is to keep it simple with no complication or confusion. The only choice to make is rare, medium or well-done and your choice of topping such as bacon, mustard and pickle and the chefs do the rest. The restaurant serves over 1000 burgers a day, executive chef Emile Castillo had become tired of burgers being covered in sauces and seasonings hiding whether you was eating a good burger or not. His idea was to use the best beef and ensure the quality of meet can speak for itself without the need for a whole load of seasoning and sauces.
For those wanting something special whilst in New York look no further than Bevy. Bevy is the type of restaurant’s that New York’s celebrities would visit; hidden away in the Park Hyatt hotel in a fashionable, chic setting the restaurant feels secluded, private and boasts some of the best food you will find across the city.
The restaurant opened in Spring 2017 with an incredible rustic, new American menu executed by Chef de Cuisine, Chad Brauze. Locally sourced ingredients are used to execute a menu of rotating seasonal mains, vegetable-centric sides, wood-fired preparations, and dishes “For Two.” Chef Scott Cioe spearheads Bevy’s pastry program and crafts French-inspired pastries by hand daily, most notably his famed éclairs. Premier and vintage Champagne and wines curated by Tristan Prat-Vincent and contemporary classic cocktails round out the offerings.
Visually the space features one of the most incredible bars around with a custom light art installation from London-based design studio. A custom painting executed by Moss and Lam Art Studio surrounds the room and a curved dark walnut-stained bar is under lit with a soft glow. Two dining rooms feature wood-panelled walls, tonal ombre rugs underfoot, and custom bronze light fixtures by Brooklyn-based Lindsey Adelman and mirrored sconces that cast ambient light throughout. A 1,200-bottle wine library with a custom ladder is found in the north side of the room.
Begin your meal with what is perhaps one of the best food creations of all tine; Crispy Candied Bacon; found within the bar bite section of the menu this is a cup full of crispy bacon sweetened and finished with cayenne and cinnamon. The starter menu offers a mouth-watering selection of lobster, salads, oysters and squid but my absolute favourite is the Seared Foie Gras Terrine with peach preserves and crispy pulled brioche. For your main course it’s a tossup between the incredible one and a half pound maine lobster or the ribeye cap; both of which will leave you speechless. To end the meal try the sharing sized blueberry pie with cookie crust, bourbon and lemon thyme ice cream.
The thing that really blows me away about the Bevy is the staff. Unlike London where a restaurant serving food as good in an incredible setting the staff are warm and unpretentious which is incredibly refreshing. The staff look after their guests incredibly well and will also go the extra mile for a special occasion. If you want to have a memorable meal whilst visiting New York Bevy is simply sensational.
Restaurants serving good steak are placed throughout every borough in New York but to avoid being the cliché traveller skip TGI Friday’s and pay a visit to the uber-trendy STK Downtown. The restaurant artfully blends the modern steakhouse and chic lounge into one, offering a dynamic, fine dining experience with the superior quality of a traditional steakhouse. As one of the iconic locations of the Meatpacking District, STK Downtown distinguishes itself with a vibrant mix of stylish dining and lounge spaces paired with signature menus and phenomenal service.
I would describe the vibe in STK as more akin to that of a cool New York cocktail bar as opposed to a typical steak restaurant. STK has a DJ to create an infectious, high-energy atmosphere and the sleek environment is designed to encourage guests to interact and mingle making it perfect for any social occasion. The menu is full of meat based wonders including starters such as beef tartare, mini beef burgers and Nueske’s Smoked Bacon. The main course is where STK comes into its own with 10 different steaks to choose from including tomahawk, porterhouse and filet. Once you have chosen your steak you can then completely customise it by adding toppings such as lobster, truffle butter and peppercorn and finishing it off with a choice of sauce. To complete the perfect steak STK offer some incredible sides but the stand-outs are the incredible Mac & Cheese and Parmesan Truffle Fries.
The stand-out food, trendy interior and excellent staff all help create STK’s unique vibe. This is the steak house that the locals use so go and see why.
If you are looking for a more lively evening then head straight to the VNYL for something different. Located downtown the hip bar is a lifestyle space which has been designed to showcase a grouping of influences from 1970’s interior design, fashion, art, music and attitude.
The VINYL has created a food and beverage menu which showcases innovation and creativity. The cuisine takes inspiration from Californian styles and the seafood is purchased locally such as the Togarashi Yellowfin Tuna & Octopus A La Plancha. The mouth-watering cocktail menu includes the 50/50 (Absolute Elyx, Doing Blanc & Lemon Citrus) and the delicious Hogarths Depiction (Portobello Road Gin, Fernet Branca, Mint Cane Syrup, Cucumber Juice & Lemon Saline Solution).
With a big emphasis on music the VNYL manages to create a fun environment to hang out. Across the vinyls in the record store, to the music played in the venue, the music director, Adrian Grenier, has selected all tracks to create an experience, which is aligned to keep party-goers moving.
Whilst most tourists head to Grand Central Station to get a photo of the terminal real New Yorkers know of a secret lurking in one of its corners in the form of The Campbell Bar; one of New York’s most lavish and opulent drinking spots.
Considered an iconic New York institution the up-market drinking spot has recently been restored to its original grandeur by Gerber Group. The restoration, directed by internationally renowned design firm Ingrao Inc. maintain the integrity of the property’s historic architecture while introducing contemporary design elements which help create a refined atmosphere. Paying homage to the legacy of John W. Campbell a Jazz age financier who converted the space to his private office and reception hall in 1923, the Campbell showcases many of the thirteenth century Florentine-inspired design intricacies that upheld its legendary allure, including soaring 25 foot hand painted ceilings, a grand stone fireplace, Campbell’s personal steel safe, a century-old leaded glass window and original millwork.
If a tipple in one of the world’s most iconic buildings sounds appealing then the selection of classic and modern cocktails are created to highlight fresh ingredients with some of my favourites being the GG Manhattan and a classic Moscow Mule.
When planning an alternate trip to New York it is even possible to opt for something slightly different when choosing where to sleep. The Moxy is a new hotel near Times Square that differs greatly from other traditional New York Hotel. Stylistically it reminds me of the Ace Hotel or similar East London hipster hotels but The Moxy will certainly not break your budget.
A lot of attention has been paid to the hotels trendy design and Yabu Pushelberg has done an incredible job. The open plan lobby has abandoned the check-in desk concept and instead young friendly members of staff will greet you with a tablet to check you in in a more informal format. The rooms are slightly small but are designed to be a base as oppose to somewhere you will spend all of your time. The vibrant hotels bars and communal areas ensure that your room is the last place you want to be including the largest all-season hotel rooftop bar in New York City.
The 10,000-square-foot rooftop bar and lounge is open every night and features an “urban amusement park” theme complete with a DJ, carousel seating, oversized topiary garden, a miniature putt-putt golf course as well as epic views of the Empire State Building. The lobby space, the social heart of the hotel, is flooded with natural light during the day (thanks to the dramatic triple-height atrium skylight) and includes flexible seating areas. As the sun goes down, the entire area transforms seamlessly into a buzzing lounge with the low seats and tables designed for versatility.
With double rooms starting from just £139 The Moxy has instantly placed itself as one of New York’s premier choices for a lively trip.
If it is authentic New York that you seek then look no further than The Bernic. The Bernic is a modern boutique hotel located in the heart of Midtown East. The stylish and modern hotel is more spacious than most with an emphasis on great service and giving guests an environment which encourages interactions with locals and other guests.
Many of the rooms have balconies which is quite unusual for New York and there is no better way to wake up in NY than 35 stories up with a coffee watching the city below you. Other interesting features include floor-to-ceiling windows, a premier penthouse, and an inspired rooftop bar and lounge which immerse you into a picture-perfect view of Midtown Manhattan’s iconic skyline. If you crave authentic New York, look no further. Historic Turtle Bay houses the United Nations Headquarters, bringing together passionate luminaries from all across the globe. Neighbouring Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Centre, and the Chrysler Building provide an awe-inspiring architectural backdrop. You are also minutes from a subway station meaning you can visit all boroughs with ease.
The Bernic has it all and is an excellent option when visiting New York – spacious rooms, great location, friendly staff and numerous quirks that make it stand out from the rest
When the time comes to leave and head back to the airport do not make the same mistake that many tourists make by trying to hail a cab on the side of the road – during busier hours you may struggle to flag one down leaving you worried you may not make your flight. I always pre-book a taxi before using a car hire company such as Blacklane. I enjoy peace of mind knowing that I will not encounter any stress in finding a cab. In fact I received a text from my driver saying he had arrived and was waiting for me. As always with Blacklane and similar companies the drivers are smartly dressed, the vehicles are high quality and they already know where you are going meaning you end the trip in the smoothest way possible!
Words and images by Jack David
Words by Jack David