So you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple… the City of Dreams, the Concrete Jungle… and, in my opinion- the greatest city in the World.
If it’s your first time, you’ve got some serious ground to cover! There are some staples that you simply have to do at least once in NYC, (even if they are tourist traps ;) ) but there are so many hidden gems that the city has to offer and I believe they deserve some shine too! If you haven’t visited yet, I hope that this blog posts makes you want to book a ticket right away… and if you’ve already been, I hope reading this makes you want to come again with a completely new itinerary.
I’ll be honest, the things I love to do more than anything in NYC is eat and walk, so most of what your about to read consists of where to eat. Though I’m not a ‘food blogger’, rest assured I know how to eat, and I do it well! So without further ado, let’s jump right into my favorite thing to do in NYC!
This one gets the top spot on my list because not only do they have phenomenal food, but the environment in this place makes you feel like you’ve been dropped down the rabbit hole straight into high tea with Alice in Wonderland. This is my go-to brunch spot that I like to bring my friends to because just being there makes me happy. They have a covered garden courtyard in the center of the restaurant that is a lovely oasis in the winter and opens up in the warmer months. Filled weekly with fresh cut flowers, this place is well worth the reservation. Added bonus- it’s my favorite neighborhood in Manhattan-the West Village so I recommend taking the subway and walking through the neighborhood.
Since I’ve already taken you to the West Village for brunch, let’s continue on down Bleeker Street and head to Murray’s Cheese Bar shall we? Murray's started out first as a cheese shop in 1940 (just a few doors down from the bar) but has expanded to the bar (restaurant) and also a mac and cheese bar on the corner now as well! If you love cheese, you will LOVE Murray’s. This is one of my favorite places to eat alone and just vibe out with a glass of Malbec and a spread of the best meats and cheeses I’ve ever had. They have Happy Hour Mon-Thurs from 4-6 and Fri 12-6 which doesn’t happy often in the city!
Now that I’ve stuffed you with brunch and a plate full of cheese, it’s time for a lovely stroll over to Hudson Street in the West Village to visit Sweet Corner Bakeshop. This place holds a special place in my heart. Many people don’t know that I was an aspiring baker for about a decade after college. I’ve baked cookies, pies, cakes, pretty much anything my sweet tooth could think of since I was a kid and had a real knack for it. After college I started making cakes on the side and had business cards and all! (I called it the “Sweet Tooth Cakery”) But alas, that dream began to fade as it made way for others and now I just bake for my nephews and God children mostly. My point in getting into all this is that if I had continued down that baking path, I would have wanted my shop to be just like Sweet Corner. It’s an adorable little shop that has a few tables and chairs outside and some bar seating inside. They goodies they create are just so special, like their Nutella hearts that are “made to be broken” and the seasonal creations like this year’s Unicorn Easter chocolate eggs. Should you need a very special cake, for a very special person (or treat yo self?), the owner Rodolfo makes amazing cake designs that have won him the Winner Cake All Championship on the Food network!
What brings me coming back to this wonderful, unpretentious bakeshop time and time again is their cookies. They’re known for their cheesecake-stuffed chocolate chip, Nutella-stuffed red velvet, sea salt chocolate chip and, my personal favorite, the blackout brookie. Pro tip- when you order ask them to heat your cookie and enjoy the gooey, chocolatey goodness right away.
Moving North about 10 blocks, you’ll hit Chelsea Market. Home to some seriously good eats and definitely worth a stroll or two through to take it (smell it) all in. If you exit Chelsea Market on 9th street and hang a left, you’ll immediately run into the massive from door of Buddakan NYC. Described as “asian fusion”, they have an absolutely mouth-watering menu and the decor inside is a feast for the eyes as well. I’ve sat in every room in Buddakan and am completely convinced there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The service is as impeccable as the food (I have a shellfish allergy and they always are incredibly accommodating to make sure I don’t go into anaphylactic shock which is always appreciated haha). My menu must-haves are their oxtail dumplings, the vegetable fried rice and the Broken Chili Chicken. Although, if you’re going with a party of 6-14, I recommend getting the Chef’s tasting! It’s a TON of food and you get a taste of almost everything. Make sure you make reservations in advance for this place!
If you’re looking for really great food with a lighter price tag, my friends Justin and Tommy introduced me to an amazing Thai restaurant in the East Village called Klong. They have an incredible Happy Hour and even better Pad Thai! I recommend calling ahead to make sure you get a table, the wait is usually 30-60 mins. If you do end up having to wait though, head across the street to Barcade. It’s part bar, part arcade and has all of the nostalgic games from my childhood. Ms.Pacman, Galaga, Tetris, Street Fighter… so go ahead and choose Chun Li and kick some ass while you wait ;)
If eating with a view is more your thing, Eataly downtown has a dining room with incredible views of the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower and Memorial Pools. And then there is the Eataly location in the Flatiron that boasts a gorgeous rooftop that is decorated seasonally called Serra. The rooftop is often crowded so make sure you book your table in advance. (There is also a bar on the roof that is first come, first serve) I love Eataly for larger groups that maybe can’t decide on one place because there are several restaurants inside each location so everyone can grab a plate of what they want and you can reconvene afterwards.
Perfect for date nights and more intimate evenings, I’d argue that this restaurant has the best view of the NYC skyline, but you’ll have to travel to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to get it. At the top of the Westlight Hotel is their rooftop bar and restaurant. The walls are all floor-to-ceiling windows so you really cannot go wrong with any seat in the house. Reservations are a must, and if you have a reservation you won’t have to wait in line downstairs to get it. Simply walk up to the person manning the elevator and let them know you have a reservation (Thanks to my friend Emily for introducing me to this place and that skip-the-line tip).
Now that we’ve covered some of my favorite restaurants throughout the city, let’s move on to quick-eats. Everything in NYC moves fast, sometimes you only have a few minutes to grab a bite in between the chaos, so why not make it a really good bite?
I've only had dessert and coffee at Palette, but it's always such an immersive, happy experience! Located on the Beauty level of Bergdorf Goodman, is this cafe tucked away from the crowds of 5th Ave. The entire cafe was curated by one of my favorite artists, Ashley Longshore and it is sure to put you in a good mood just stepping foot inside.
I was a picky eater as a kid and a teenager which turned me into somewhat of a chicken tender connoisseur. That being said, Sticky’s has the best chicken tenders and nuggets I’ve ever had in my life, without even a close second other than homemade. There are several shops sprinkled around Manhattan so just search for Sticky’s on the GPS and it’ll take you there. This chicken is good enough to eat plain, but if you want to spice up your life, go for the buffalo balsamic blue or the vampire killer flavors!
If chicken isn’t your thing, or even if it is, make sure to grab a burger at Shake Shack so that you can participate in the age old In N’ Out versus Shake Shack competition! I was introduced to Shake Shack years ago at a Mets game and instantly fell in love. Personally, I feel like their crinkle cut fries give them the winning edge. They’re also all over the city so there’s bound to be one close to wherever you are.
At least you know one thing for sure in NYC- you won’t go hungry. I’ve got just a few more food recommendations and then we’re on to the sight seeing!
No trip to NYC is complete without a Bagel. I have two favorite spots for bagels- one is Pick A Bagel in Midtown Manhattan and the other is Have A Bagel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’m a huge blueberry bagel fan and if you get there early enough some of the bagels are still hot! For more of a hearty breakfast, the bacon, egg and cheese on an egg bagel never lets me down!
I can’t let you leave NYC without a pizza recommendation either! If you are anywhere close to Bushwick, Brooklyn you’ve got to head to Roberta’s for their ‘Bee Sting’ pizza. It’s a little sweet, a little spicy and a lot of delicious. If you’re looking for pizza in Manhattan, Made in New York pizza is great (upper west side) as well as Prince Street Pizza in Nolita. Then there is the hidden gem pizzeria inside Penn Station- their slice of plain cheese is SO. FREAKING. GOOD.
And if you feel completely overwhelmed with my suggestions and don’t know where to go, just head to Smorgasburg. I like to describe it as a food festival that just keeps going. They have incredible food vendors with every kind of cuisine you can possibly imagine and now have locatio