One can hardly hope to experience all of New York in a full year, let alone a weekend, and yet you don't have to scratch too far below the surface to find the true soul of the city. Beyond the lights of Broadway and the lines at the Statue of Liberty lies a land of 24-hour stimulation (literally, if that's what you're looking for), a Shangri-La of appetites whetted. Of course, if you want to get a taste of the real New York, you need to ask a real local, which is why Thrillist has created Mr Ed, a collection of tips and pointers on getting the most out of the city from the greatest experts we know: our editors.
1) EAT WELL
Atera seats only thirteen guests at the counter surrounding its open kitchen.
While the rest of the country may have caught up, or even surpassed, elements of New York's dining scene, there are few cities in the world that offer a similarly diverse array of experiences. And while many locals get burned out on throwing on a jacket for dinner, if you're in town for just a few nights, getting one of the best meals in the city is worth the splurge. For haute cuisine, Le Bernardin (155 W 51st St) gets my vote for the best in Manhattan, with ethereal seafood preparations that avoid the tongue fatigue that can set in after hours of reduction sauces at the few towering bastions of French cooking that breathe the same lofty culinary air. If you're in for the long haul and think ahead to get a reservation, Atera (77 Worth St) may not knock off Alinea as the most avant garde culinary experience in the country, but at least three or four of the twenty-or-so courses placed in front of you will challenge your notion of what it means to go out to dinner. Their sommelier also told me to call him if I had any questions about expanding my personal wine collection, so I assume he knows a lot about second mortgages. You can also take the pretense down a notch at Mas (Farmhouse) (39 Downing St), whose French-influenced farm-to-table plates are like the vintage Burgundy they nearly demand accompany them: refined, but not so structured as to distract.
2) EAT WELL, PT. 2
These four flavors of Pac Man Dumplings are just some of the incredible creations at RedFarm. Photo: Evan Sung
With more restaurants owned by Chopped judges than you can shake an over-exposed stick at, Manhattan has an inordinate number of edible tourist traps, but some of them are actually worth it. David Chang may have already reached a cultural saturation point as the puckish boy-king of cooking, and yet I still ritualistically head to Noodle Bar (171 First Ave) for a bowl of ramen that I'll go on record as saying is still the best in town. And while I'm not particularly high on Babbo or Del Posto, Mario Batali's Esca (402 W 43rd St) (cheffed by David Pasternack) produces the best Italian seafood this side of the Amalfi Coast. Be sure to share a bowl of crabmeat and sea urchin pasta in between apps and entrees. Meanwhile, you may have not heard of Joe Ng, the Hong Kong master chef who originally was at the helm of Chinatown Brasserie, but if he keeps on plating food like he does at RedFarm (529 Hudson St), you soon will. My favorite restaurant in the city right now.
3) GET LOST IN ALPHABET CITY
The Wayland's Garden Variety Margarita w/ smoked sea salt and kale juice is anything but.
A former red light district and hotbed of violence & drug dealing, Alphabet City is now home to the most terrifying element of all: young white people. Which of course means lots of experimental cocktails and porcine edibles. You won't find a wider variety of adventurous food & drink anywhere in Manhattan. Here's my map: start out at Pouring Ribbons (225 Ave B) and head up the barely marked stairwell to sample a concoction from 2012 American Bartender of the Year Joaquín Simó. Head one block east and walk down the Ave C gauntlet, dropping by Evelyn Drinkery (171 Ave C) (where they hit flavored syrups with phosphoric acid to make house mixers), and The Wayland (700 E 9th), who cap off a blend of apple pie moonshine & house apple bitters with a bowl of applewood smoke. Duck into Kafana (116 Ave C) for a pile of Serbian meats before going next door to Edi & the Wolf (102 Ave C) to try their Austrian wines, and maybe a heaping mound of spaetzle w/ Austrian mountain cheese. Before you leave Ave C, pay homage to Alphabet City's old "Little Germany" moniker with a not-so-little stein at Zum Schneider (107 Ave C), then head back to Ave A, where you'll find Death & Co (433 E 6th St). Drop your name in the queue, then see if there's room to wait at Amor Y Amargo (443 E 6th St), a bitters temple w/ tap vermouth. Two blocks north lies Proletariat (102 St Marks Pl) and their trove of ultra-rare beers, while a mere two more blocks north lies Brindle Room (277 E 10th St) for the least heralded burger in the city. Finish it off with a nearby nightcap at The Beagle (162 Ave A). Congratulations, you're fat and drunk!
4) CHINATOWN DIM SUM
One of the many floors at classic dim sum joint Golden Unicorn.
OK, so Manhattan doesn't even have New York's best Chinatown (that's Flushing), but if you're getting sucked into brunch, redirect that train towards Hong Kong-style pushcart dim sum. If you want to get lost in an enormous banquette hall, Golden Unicorn (18 E Broadway) and Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth St) are good bets, but the quality always seems to be a step above at Oriental Garden (14 Elizabeth St).
5) THE NEUE GALERIE
The Neue Galerie's 20th-century Austrian/German art isn't exactly uplifting stuff, but at least you'll get a sick Linzer Torte with your culture.
One of the city's premier art collections hides in plain site on the Upper East Side's Museum Mile. The Neue Galerie's (1048 5th Ave) two floors of Austrian and German art include works by Klee, Schiele, Kandinsky, and Klimt, whose Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was purchased for $135 million. And the art isn't the only easily digestible thing on hand, as the museum also houses Kurt Gutenbrunner's Cafe Sabarsky, which makes the best Viennese pastries and coffee in the city. If the line for main dining room is too long, skip it and head downstairs to the underutilized overflow room.
6) CATCH A LATE SHOW
You aren't likely to find a better meal at 3am than the one being served at Blue Ribbon.
There's something about rolling out into the streets at 2am from a jazz club that really makes you feel like you're in the Big Apple. In the West Village, The Blue Note (131 W 3rd St) hosts Friday and Saturday sets starting at 1230am, while around the proverbial corner Smalls Jazz Club (183 W 10th St) usually has something brewing from 1am 'til close. Afterward, head to Blue Ribbon (97 Sullivan St) for a late night meal, because there's something about eating bone marrow and seafood towers at 4am that really makes you feel like you're in the Big Apple.
7) THE CLOISTERS
This garden will get totally medieval on your ass.
About as far north as you can go without leaving the island of Manhattan, the Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Dr) are the MET's unsung gems. The manageable collection of medieval works on display are impressive (especially the tapestries), but it's the museum itself -- built in the 1930s using structural elements salvaged from toppled cathedrals across Europe -- that's the real reason for going. The cloisters themselves are planted with popular medieval herbs and plants, and the view of the palisades is unparalleled. Feel free to hike around Fort Tryon park if you don't mind mixing your cultural enlightenment with used condoms.
8) DRINK ALL DAY
This view will become increasingly blurry as the day goes on.
Maybe it's because of a lack of outdoor options, but wasting an entire day at a bar is a New York tradition, and there's nowhere that's better to do just that than at Blind Tiger (281 Bleecker St ). Their beer list is one of the best in the city, with thirty taps constantly rotating a selection of craft ales, and a fridge that's pregnant with large-format options. If owner Ian Campbell is around, ask him what he's hiding in the cellar and he just may dig up something special for you. The food is surprisingly good as well, and you'll need it stand up to all of those Imperial Stouts.
Published: February 11, 2013 at 6:13pm EST
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