City Guide: Welcome to New York, 2017
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I spent my entire childhood dreaming of living in New York. Just across the river was the place I still consider to be the most incredible city in the world and the place where, if I could make it, the world would somehow come together.
When it came time to go to college (at my alma mater The New School), I packed up the small bit of belongings I could fit into an 8'x8' room in Harlem and left my parents' home to try to make it on my own.
After that, New York raised me. I moved to Brooklyn one year in and fell deeper in the love with city. Until I met my partner Gustav in a cliche little pub in London (more on that in another story), my relationship with New York was the most significant romantic one I'd ever had.
We decided to venture back to New York to welcome 2017 and Gustav's 30th birthday (also on December 31st).
Where to Stay
Normally, I prefer to stay in Airbnbs when in most big cities, especially in New York. There's a great selection at a wide variety of price points and it's a great way to get a feel for the neighborhood you're staying in.
This time though, we stayed at the William Vale, Brooklyn's newest hotel. Located on N 12th St between Berry & Wythe, it's about an 8 minute walk from the L train going into Manhattan or further into Brooklyn.
Our room on the 16th floor had a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and Williamsburg Bridge, along with a few construction sites (a given with the development happening in this neighborhood), which we enjoyed on New Year's Eve on the balcony (every room has one). The room itself felt like a perfectly appointed futuristic pod and, as nerdy technologists, we appreciated it.
The hotel's restaurant, Leuca, offers family style Italian. I recommend sharing the sheep's milk ricotta dip, bone marrow, and lamb. With panoramic views of New York, the William Vale's rooftop bar Westfield is a gem.
Eats & Drinks
New York is also one of my favorite places to eat.
If you're only in New York once and you want some cheap but incredible eats, make your way to MacDougal Street and go to Mamoun's for a falafel sandwich or Artichoke for a slice. Caffe Reggio, which introduced Italian cappuccino to the States, is also nearby.
A few blocks north is my favorite bagel spot in New York, Murray's Bagels (and my old stomping grounds, the New School). They don't toast their bagels, so don't ask - when they're fresh like this, you don't need to. Go with a classic combo: I prefer scallion cream cheese and tomato on a scooped whole wheat everything, or one of their signature sandwiches.
Aurora in Soho offers one of the best brunches in New York. Try the Crab Benedict or the Mushroom & Bacon, with a thick cut of applewood smoked bacon that Gustav, ever the pork connoisseur, praises to no end.
Back in Brooklyn, Pates et Traditions is basically a perfect place. Simple Gallic eating in a warm and welcoming space, the menu's highlights are the crepes. Try savory for dinner and a sweet one to share for dessert.
Hop on the L train and go to the Morgan stop. Go to Roberta's. Order anything. If it's lunchtime, I recommend trying the burger.
New York has some great and legendary bars, including Employees Only and Death & Company. Also try the Cellar, underneath Beecher's Handmade Cheese in Flatiron. In Brooklyn, August Laura in Carroll Gardens was opened by industry vets (including from Death & Co.) and they create truly magical cocktails in a cozy, welcome spot.
Head to St. Mazie in South Williamsburg for cocktails and live music or Noorman's Kil for a wide selection of whiskey and artisan grilled cheese. Featherweight is a speakeasy adjoining Sweet Science eatery on Graham Ave.
As for coffee, my favorite place is my (old) neighborhood spot: Variety, also on Graham Ave. No frills, simple pastries, and ample (though hidden on top of the benches) outlets for working through the day.
My favorite karaoke place in the world is in New York: Planet Rose. And it's a sight to see, with zerba print seating and a room full of folks coming together to sing Shania classics.
But for real: go to the Met. The Met is one of my favorite places in the entire world and everytime I spend a day there, I'm newly inspired. Spend the entire day there.
The MoMA, Guggenheim, New Museum, Whitney, and the Brooklyn Museum are other favorites. A highlight at the last one is the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, featuring Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party.
Take a walk through Central Park to clear your mind and focus your energies. Or, like me, try and miserably fail to make your way up a hill in heels while balance too-hot hot chocolate.
Here's the thing about shopping in New York: you have too many options.
Williamsburg is packed with mall favorites like Madewell and even a J.Crew, in addition to vintage and consignment shops like Beacon's Closet in Greenpoint.
Looking for the more elevated options? There's always Bergdorf Goodman, a New York institution, but then you might have to venture near Trump Tower. I recently bought my mother a New Year's tree ornament as a gift (the New Year's fir tree is a tradition in Russia, originating in Soviet times, where/when my parents grew up).
ABC Carpet & Home is a wonderland for home goods, especially their carpets.
And, as always, make a stop at Strand to explore their thirteen miles of books. Strand was my go-to in college for last minute syllabus needs.
Why does anyone ever leave...
When I left New York, I was exhausted but inspired and ready to embark on an adventure on the left coast with my favorite human.
Truth is though, since I've left New York, all I want to do is move back. There's no place quite like home and when you've made home in a place so unlike any other, it's hard to say goodbye.
So, I'm not. One of my resolutions for 2017: move back to Brooklyn.
See you again soon, New York.