East or west, uptown or downtown, Yankees or Mets -- New York City is full of dichotomies that define locals based on their loyalties. And while no side of Manhattan is necessarily better than the other, if you’ve only seen the east side, you’re seriously missing out. The best cookies, the best cocktails, the best burgers: they all live by the Hudson River. Bring your appetite, desire for exploration, and ambition to taste the best of Manhattan’s West Side.
Nearly always bustling with New Yorkers (and a fair share of tourists), Zabar’s is a west side institution for fresh bagels made to order with your pick of cream cheese and hand-sliced lox. Local tip: order a bagel to go, and carry that heavy smoked fish sandwich to a bench on Broadway or nearby Riverside Park.
Founded with the goal of baking the best cookie in New York, Levain exceeds expectations with its hefty chocolate chunk and walnut half-pounder. A crisp exterior opens up into a gooey, melty mountain of cookie excellence, well worth the $4 and the short wait it takes to procure what is, indeed, the city’s -- if not the world’s -- best cookie.
This is the west-side outpost of a Chinatown dim sum mainstay. Just like at the restaurant’s massive flagship location, Jing Fong serves up signature hand-crafted dim sum, like steamed peanut, pork, and shrimp dumplings that offer a perfect combination of crunchy, soft, warm savoriness. Beyond the steam baskets offering these easy-to-eat treasures, don’t leave without an order of delightfully slurpable and chewy rice noodles, served with roast pork, shrimp, or sprinkled with fresh cilantro (for the vegetarians).
Go inside both of New York's vastly different neighborhoods in the new Amazon Prime Original series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. From the creator of Gilmore Girls, the series is about a fearless woman in 1950s Manhattan who goes from perfect housewife to stand-up comic after her life takes a sudden turn. Stream it starting November 29 on Prime Video.
Parts of New York may be total deserts when it comes to authentic Mexican food, but Hell’s Kitchen’s Tehuitzingo is its saving grace. Walk past the shelves stocked with canned Goya beans and imported Mexican chips to the back of this grocery-deli hybrid, where you can choose from fourteen types of tacos (go for the carne enchilada) served on soft, warm corn tortillas.
A new homage to Shorty Tang, the guy who blessed New York City with cold sesame noodles, this spot above Greenwich Village serves up thick, sesame paste and peanut butter coated noodles using the OG 1968 recipe perfected by Tang himself. While we’ll always support trying something new, this is the time to get the classic: $8 for Tang’s original cold noodles with sesame sauce.
Most recently reincarnated by Chef John Delucie, this historic Art Deco diner has clogged New Yorkers’ arteries since 1978 -- in the best way possible, of course. If you’re into something on the lighter side, go for the Cacio e Pepe-style soft scrambled eggs -- think cheese, butter, and pepper -- or a pastrami-topped avocado toast, ideally enjoyed near the street-facing windows for optimal people-watching. You are, however, at a diner; trying to go for the healthy options here misses the point of visiting -- and deprives you of a killer order of mac ‘n’ cheese.
Need to relax for a bit? Grab a steamy matcha latte at this small cafe dedicated to the powdered Japanese green tea. Find a seat and cozy up with an adult coloring book and a set of colored pencils (provided by baristas) to zone out before you hit the town.
9. Start the party with Disco Fries and soju at Mokbar
Chef Esther Choi’s ode to contemporary Korean food is nestled deep in Chelsea Market. In-the-know New Yorkers head right to this semi-hidden spot to line up for Korean-style ramen and dance-worthy Disco Fries, topped with ramen-broth gravy, melted mozzarella, kimchi, scallion, and nori. Chase it all down with soju or a cold Korean beer.
This epicenter of Greenwich Village bohemia ushers in a stream of creatives, academics, and the eclectic class of Manhattanites who don’t work during traditional business hours. Join the regulars to huddle over books, laptops, steamy organic coffee, and tea-based lattes ranging from the dessert-worthy chocolate and coconut flavored German chocolate cake latte to the less saccharine black tea rose latte.
This is a well-known celebrity haunt (Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran, as well as all of their selfie-starved fans have paid visits) run by celebrity chefs April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman. To cut down on the wait for a table, head straight to the bar. Pull up an upholstered stool and order a Brooklyn gin Negroni or the Cucumber Collins mixed with locally made Greenhook Gin. Snack on small bar bites like deviled eggs, chicken liver toast, and shoestring fries should you need some solids to pair with the strong stuff.
Helmed by Thrillist 2016 chef of the year Angie Mar, this old-school subterranean steakhouse is a carnivorous cocktail-lover’s dream. Slide into a banquette while placing your order for your first round of musky and rye-forward cherrywood-smoked Manhattans to warm your palate up for all the beefy delights to follow. If you, or your wallet, isn’t up for a whole steak, go for the 45-day dry-aged burger, topped with red wine caramelized onions, creamy d'Affoinois, and served in a brioche bun.
No matter how satiated you may be, stomachs have a way of always finding room for wine and cheese. Request a seat at the bar so you can chat up a cheesemonger for the best five-cheese spread (don’t be shy about asking for samples before you order) and the perfect bottle or glass of wine to match whatever she lays out on your cheese slate.
A beloved relic from New York’s cocktail renaissance, Pegu Club is still worth all the hype it received in the summer of 2005, when mixologist Audrey Saunders opened a bar that would permanently shift the city’s drinking culture for the better. Get a taste of what boosted cocktails to the splurge-worthy drinks you know them as today with the bar’s signature Pisco Punch, a flower-topped, fruity concoction of pineapple-infused pisco and citrus syrups.
You don’t actually have to work at Employees Only to order a drink at this hub of contemporary cocktail culture, but you may have to wait a while before getting into the cult-status bar. Once inside, opt for an EO classic, like the Billionaire Cocktail (only $16), shaken with Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon, fresh lemon juice, house grenadine, and absinthe bitters.
Melissa is a writer based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.