Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New York - Amber and Fernando

I've had some really fantastic advice over the last few weeks about our trip to New York, (not least the inimitable Amber's .... Any apartment anywhere will be fucking amazing because you are in new York fucking city and it is the coolest city in the world. You've gotta love Amber.)

But I really had to share this email that Ellie, aka Miss Domm sent me, because I love love love it. It is her friend Fernando's top list of Things To Do In New York and I thought you might love it too....

Best Bowl of Eel
St Mark's is one of my favorite streets in Manhattan. It's where midtown starts to turn into downtown, midway between NYU and Tompkins Square Park. There's all kinds of quirky shops there: karaoke bars, head shops, comic book stores. The best reason to go is Kenka, which is a Japanese restaurant that serves great traditional cuisine (no sushi, though) and the cheapest pitcher of beer in town. Kenka's sign isn't in English, though, so to find the restaurant you have to look for the statue of the bear/raccoon god with the red eyes next to the candy floss machine. I'm serious. Once you're drunk and full of boiled eel, take your candy floss and go down to the West end of the street to have some shots at The Continental, the best bar in the neighborhood. They will probably be projecting a Dennis Hopper movie onto the back wall.

Best Middle Eastern Food
For me this is a tie between two places: Yaffa Cafe and Moustache's. Yaffa is on St Mark's near Kenka and has a lot of seating including an outdoor patio (but if they're going in the winter that doesn't help much). Moustache's is on the West side in the Village and has the best pita bread on the planet. Moustache's is really tiny so if you want a seat on a weekend night it pays to get there early.

Best Famous Museum in a City Full of Famous Museums
There's tons of famous museums in New York but you honestly can't do justice to all of them - if you can only pick one I recommend the Met. They just renovated their Greek & Roman sculpture galleries and their Islamic art wing was being renovated when I left - I think it might be done now. You can combine it easily with a walk through Central Park and a visit to other neighboring museums like The Guggenheim.

Best Not-Famous Museum in a City Full of Famous Museums
PS1 in Long Island City is a contemporary art museum that is housed in the former Queens Public School 1. It's a great space and the exhibits change regularly - it's always really challenging art and a great time.

Best Not-Famous Museum in a City Full of Famous Museums (if you don't like contemporary art)
The Neue Gallerie (on the Upper East Side over by the Gug) is run by The Ronald Lauder Foundation. It is full of Klimts. Like dozens and dozens. If you like Klimt, you have to go there. It's also quite small and you can do the whole gallery in an hour or two.

Best Sushi (in the world)
Ginger on 1st Ave and 10th Street is the best sushi place on the planet Earth and everyone should go there once. There is no more inventive sushi menu anywhere. I don't often get homesick for New York but when I do it's Ginger that I'm thinking about usually.

Best Neighborhood to Avoid
The Meatpacking District. It's full of far too many pretentious-likes and you'll pay $20 for a warm glass of Schlitz. It my humble opinion, this is not worth your time.

Best Bar
The Back Room on the Lower East Side has no sign outside, you just need to walk on the West side of Norfolk Street until you see a huge black guy standing by himself outside of an abandoned-looking building. That's the bouncer - ask him if you can go into The Back Room. The Back Room is set up like a speakeasy and they serve cocktails in teacups. It is totally great. Dress nice.

Best Plants or What-have-you
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is really lovely and if you go out during the day you can spend the evening going to cool Brooklyn bars like Matchless and Pete's Candy Store and hobnob with the hipsters.

Best Reason to go to Staten Island
This is a trick. There is no reason to go to Staten Island.

. image by Jen_Mo


  1. Since the Neue Galerie was mentioned, I have to put in my two cents. Its one of my favorite galleries in the city (love Klimt) and has the added bonus (in my mind) of having one of the best german/austrian restaurants - the Sbarski Cafe. And I'm not just talking weiner and spatzle. They have outstanding sandwiches, amazing german pastries, and (oh yeah) BEER!

    Also, if you are willing to make the trek to the far upper east side (and the weather is nice) I highly recommend The Cloisters Gardens. A branch of the Met specializing in medieval European art and architecture.

    Have fun, can't wait to see all the amazing photos you will take.

  2. more reasons I need to go to NYC

  3. I am SO using your NYC posts as a guide when I (eventually) go to New York.

  4. You keep teasing me with all your interesting posts about New York! I was just there and so I thought I'd be satisfied for at least a few days...I guess that's just how New York is. <3

  5. Oh I just love laughing out loud in the morning when my tea is almost finished.

  6. this should be called "the BEST list that ever lived".

  7. Ah, but there is a reason to go to Staten Island (albeit very briefly!). Ride the Staten Island ferry for free and get great views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty. Then ride it right on back... They even serve beer on board! When I lived in NYC I often took guests on a quick there-and-back SI ferry jaunt. No one was ever disappointed.

  8. Ah! Sorry. Olive Garden in Brooklyn is better than Moustache. Same menue, better food, hands down. And MUCH nicer people. But those are indeed the two best middle eastern places in Manhatten.

  9. I die, I'm dying, I am dead.

    Peonies, you are the fucking best. Now I have to do a blog post on NY. Fuck.

  10. Love the list!!! But I'd have to disagree with the Yaffa recommendation (cool decor, food - not so great). I would rather go down the street to Hummus Place - really cheap, awesome falafel and great drinks.

  11. yeah, i love yaffa for the ambience, but it's hit or miss. i've had some great breakfasts there though. for awesome falafels on the cheap, go to Eva's on 8th Street. So yummy!
    this list is great.

  12. this is great, i will definitely use this on my next nyc visit!

  13. I don't normally do this- but am I guess feeling fond of my city and wanted to add to the "Best of NYC" list...
    Graffiti (224 E.10th) amazing food- great vibe, only four tables and the kindest chef in the world serves the food- a must not miss I think- check out their menu online- or just go and order EVERYTHING wild combinations and an amazing eating experience. Or for a kick ass spicy meal try Momofuku (207 2nd Ave) for great Korean/Southern food (ooooh the pork buns and fried brussels sprouts)and have desert at Milk Bar the chef's pastry shop next door! Also as a splurge have a drink and the sweetbreads at Prune (54 E. 1st) although it might be hard to leave after that- but it's completely worth splurging on!
    As far as museums go The Tenement Museum (108 Orchard st) is my favorite and means that you can grab lunch at Katz's on (205 East Houston) if you are looking for a traditional NY lunch- or if feeling more adventurous try Kampuchea (78 Rivington) for some Cambodian street food. The tamarind baby back ribs are amazing! For cheap yummies- hit the Snack Dragon Taco Shack (199 E 3rd) for fantastic 3$ tacos. Go on a nice day, cause there is no indoor seating. It all comes back to food for me... hope you have an amazing trip!

  14. p.s. ok just getting carried away now- BUT also let me highly recommend ... catching live jazz at Smalls (183 W10th) it's only a 10$ cover charge for the late night jam and it's always great. Or go to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for a spoken word slam, or live Latin music- fantastic night always always. ok I'll leave it at that... stopping now.

  15. Excuse me, MEATPACKING HATER, but you need to go to The High Line. You just do. It is free, and it is gorg. (Plus the people watching - also free - is hilarious.)

  16. -The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is free on weekends before noon.

    -When on St. Marks, look out for hipster douchebags picking fights.

    -Continental has a drink special: 5 shots for $5, or something scary like that.

    -Never heard of Ginger. Beware of pompous New Yorkers claiming to have "the best ___ in the world." It's true sometimes. But in the case of sushi, I doubt it.

  17. Hi P&P

    Just wanted to say Happy Christmas - i really like your blog - next best thing to a vacation in NYC and its like so informational I love that :)

    I redid my blog layout so have been putting my blogroll back on there. Love your photographs today I want silver boots :)

    After new years will love reading your posts about NY...when Im not having to double as Chief Officer of Chrismats Decor know what I mean?

    Yay for NY :)

    michele aka craftycameleon

  18. Dearest lovely Peonies,

    I live across the street from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, so I have some BBG specific tips -

    They are closed on Monday. Don't go.

    Open and free on Tuesdays! Go!

    Spend some quiet time at the beautiful Japanese garden and be sure to make friends with the hundreds of koi and turtles residing there.

    Bring a picnic to have on the Cherry Esplanade.

    Other NYC tips -

    I love all the museums mentioned, as well as the Rubin Museum (Himalayan Art), the Brooklyn Museum (bunnies live on the lawn!) and the Natural History Museum. Please take to heart that the museum "fees" are really just suggested donations. You can give whatever you wish. My brother-in-law actually had a very nice man refuse to take the suggested donation because it was too much. He made him pay less.

    Do you still have a student ID? They can be helpful for discounts at some stores, restaurants, and theatres, especially in student-heavy areas like Columbia and NYU.

    The Empire State Building is more fun at night. The crowds are not as maddening and you get to see the city lights before you.

    Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, Prospect Park, the Promenade, and/or the High Line. is very helpful for figuring out subway routes and which way to turn when you get out of the station if, like me, you find cardinal directions confusing when you are sans compass.

    I hope some of this helps! If you need a Brooklyn tour guide or find yourself in need of good vegetarian recommendations, let me know! Have a wonderful trip!

  19. this was one of the best roundups of NY i've seen. best super-touristy non-waste of time or money? take a double decker bus tour. it'll cost you a couple hours and probably around $40, and it's cheesy but if you get the right guide, it's cheesy in that really fun way. as a native new yorker who did that for the first time at 22.. may i please just say go for it?

  20. I second the Neue Galerie - I hart Klimt and me and Jesse had one of our first dates there so it holds a special place in my heart.

    Re the Brooklyn Botanic Garden - you should definitely go because it will be cherry blossom season while you are here! I forget if I already mentioned that to you.

    But the Botanic Garden is nowhere near hipster bars (those would be in Williamsburg, totally different neighborhood), so ignore that advice. The Botanic Garden is right next to Prospect Park though, which is also nice for a stroll. It's next to the Brooklyn Museum as well. I like to go to the Bk Museum for their First Saturdays - the first saturday of every month the museum is open for free from 5-11pm and you can get a glass of wine and walk around the exhibits with lots of other young people and feel posh and there is also a fun dance party (don't know if that last bit is your thing but the rest of it might be).


play nice.