One morning, two nights, and a day and a half in New York. That’s the time I had to take in as much as I possibly could of the city that never sleeps. A daunting task, to say the least, considering you could live in New York City your whole life and never eat at the same restaurant twice.
Turning a work trip into an extended weekend with my best girlfriend/travel buddy, I was determined to figure out – What is it about New York that makes the city one of the best in the world?
My laid-back Californian sensibility told me not to put too much pressure on myself to fit everything in, i.e. Empire State Building, 30 Rock, Statue of Liberty, Guggenheim, Natural History Museum, Museum of Modern Art, etc. In fact, seeing all of the tourist sites wasn’t the most appealing way for me to spend my time. I wanted to revel in the magic of the city, explore different neighborhoods, and experience a 3-hour brunch like a true New Yorker. So I opted to follow my heart, and by heart I mean stomach, to some truly unforgettable restaurants, to adventure through Central Park and savor true works of art at The Met.
And so, my friends, that is exactly how I spent my first visit to New York. If you ever find yourself on a quick weekend trip to NYC like me, you could certainly opt to cram in as many sights, restaurants, and museums as humanly possible. I’d love to hear how it goes! However, in my travels around the globe, I’ve found that I like to balance the scale between tourist and local. When I’m tight on time I will only see the sites I’m most drawn too, choose restaurants based on recommendations from locals or how much my mouth waters while perusing the menu, and, most importantly, I’ll take the time to be present and cherish every moment.
Without further ado, here’s where I went in NYC. If you’re strapped for time like I was or if you’re simply overwhelmed with the amount of options popping up on good old Google, I can promise you won’t be disappointed with any of the following. Happy exploring!
If you go to New York City and don’t grub on a bagel, you are a fool. Or so I’ve been told. So embrace the carbs and for the full experience make sure to head out during the morning commute.
As a former Los Angeles commuter, I thought I knew traffic all too well. But stepping out to grab breakfast, I was thrilled to find an all new type of rush hour in New York – people spilling over the curbs from the overcrowded sidewalks, boldly crossing the street greeted by the honking horns of oncoming traffic, emerging from subway stops like ants from an anthill. It was insane! In the best kind of way, of course. Plus dodging the French speaking smoker, the Wall Street suit, and the hipster with a mustache along the way will truly help you work up an appetite.
While there are more than likely hundreds of bagel shops to choose from, I highly recommend Best Bagel & Coffee on 35th between 7th and 8th. If you happen to be staying near Time Square, this is your stop for sure. Normally I’m a bit skeptical whenever “Best” is included in the name of a restaurant…Really? Are you really the best? In this case I’m leaning towards yes. In all honesty, I’ve had a sum total of one New York bagel, though I feel that a consistent line out the door is an indicating factor of being at least one of the best.
When it comes to bagels, I’m a creature of habit. Everything bagel toasted with plain cream cheese, please! Holy moly my mouth is watering writing this now. Pillowy, fluffy dough greeted me good morning as I bit into my bagel with just the right amount of crunch from the toaster. The seasoning and seed combination on an everything bagel is key and this one had the perfect synergy of flavors and even covered much of the bottom half. These bagel geniuses did not skimp on the cream cheese either. We’re talking half an inch, baby! Oh, and you can skip your stop at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts on the way because their coffee is also on point.
Longing for Paris? No need to hop on a flight across the pond. A slice of Parisian heaven awaits you at Le Bateau Ivre in Manhattan’s East Side. This charming French wine bar came to me on a recommendation from my best friend, who has been frequenting Le Bateau Ivre with her long-term boyfriend for the past five years. I’ve heard stories of the French onion soup, the mussels, the roast duck for years!
Needless to say, I knew this was one stop I had to make on my first trip to New York. You’ll never have to twist my arm when it comes to French food and wine. The French are simply masters of both.
I made reservations for my friend, her two New Yorker siblings, and me on our Friday night in the city. My friend and I arrived early to enjoy a glass of wine and I was immediately struck by the authenticity of Le Bateau Ivre. The woven bistro chairs, quaint, candlelit dining room, walls lined with shelves full of wine, and friendly waitresses in adorable aprons immediately set the Parisian tone. I was especially impressed with the wine list to menu ratio, an impressive 4:1. As a total wino, this was definitely my spot!
I will admit that when it comes to French wines, I still have so much to learn. I relied heavily on our incredible server, Rada, to help with my wine selection and I suggest you do the same! The staff knows this list inside and out. Rada made recommendations that were spot on with my palette and insisted that I taste a few wines before making my selection.
I landed on the 2013 Vacqueray, Cuvee des Templiers, D. Le Clos des Cazaux, a blend of Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, and Cinsault that was unbelievably smooth and velvety. Later in the meal when it came time to order my second glass, I was planning to switch it up and try something new from Le Bateau Ivre’s impressive wine list. But upon a couple other tastings, I couldn’t part ways with the Vacqueray and ordered another glass, it was that good.
To start, I ordered the House Pate which was luscious and flavorful, yet not gamey in the least. Served with toasted country bread, whole grain mustard, pickled onions, cornichons, and marinated olives. This was a promising start to a gastronomic experience. The pate was served as a terrine that I would recommend as a starter to be shared. The creaminess of the pate was highlighted by the tang of the pickled onions and mustard, complemented perfectly by the Vacqueray.
Next came the Endive Salad with Roquefort, Leeks, Walnuts, red wine vinaigrette, and drizzled with honey. A salad that you’ve probably seen before, executed so perfectly at Le Bateau Ivre. The crunch of the endive let you know the vegetables were freshly delivered earlier today and the bite of the Roquefort sang with the honey’s sweetness and the tart vinaigrette. Quality ingredients are essential when preparing the simplest dishes, a concept this French wine bar has embraced fully.
The Moules, a.k.a. mussels, were the highlight of my meal at Le Bateau Ivre. Cooked to perfection, they still tasted of the sea. I too wanted to be drenched in the sauce they were swimming in. White wine, shallots, garlic, parsley, and cream, I couldn’t get enough. I savored the sauce by the spoonful, bathed my fries in it, and would have drank the rest straight from the bowl if I wasn’t in public. This dish was superb, the best mussels I’ve ever had.
Rada even surprised us with a complimentary glass of champagne to celebrate my first visit to NYC!
I suggest planning a long, leisurely meal at Le Bateau Ivre to enjoy every inch of this dining experience. Go with a lover or go with friends. The later the better – we left at midnight. When in Paris..er, New York, right?
Legendary. Iconic. Awe-inspiring. Just a few words I would use to describe the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There are tons of museums in the city and if you’re having a hard time narrowing down your options like I was, then rest assured The Met has all you need. With four expansive wings, this museum is massive. We spent a good 4 hours and only checked out two of the wings. I saw Monet, Manet, Picasso, O’Keefe, Pollock, an enthralling exhibit of photographer Irving Penn’s work, and more!
If you find yourself thirsty, hungry, or simply needing a break while traversing the museum, I highly recommend The Met’s café. We revived ourselves with perfectly prepared cappuccinos and a tasty sweet pea guacamole I’m hoping to recreate in the spring.
If you visit NYC, you’d be remiss not to check out Central Park. Plus, if you’ve been in the city a few days, you might be missing the sight of the sky. I know I was! I lucked out with the weather on my visit to NYC. On that Saturday in April it was 75 degrees and sunny! Perfect weather for a stroll through Central Park, along with the rest of the city. Central Park had the coolest vibe! Street performers, people sunbathing in their bathing suits, families having picnics, artists painting landscapes. The energy was incredible. We walked from The Met through the southern half of the park planning to have a cocktail at The Loeb Boathouse and rent paddleboats like real tourists. The Loeb Boathouse was so packed we couldn’t find even one open seat and all of the paddleboats were already on the water with a line wrapped around the gate of people waiting their turn. So instead we wandered south through the park and worked up an appetite, which wasn’t a bad deal because Central Park is gorgeous!
Rue 57 was the perfect stop following an adventure through lower Central Park. Located on W 57th St and 6th Ave, this French brasserie and sushi bar is conveniently steps from the park and offered a much-needed break from the humidity of the higher temps in the city. After all the art and site seeing, we had definitely worked up an appetite. With mostly French fare, Rue 57 has an extensive menu that definitely offers something for everyone. Whether dining indoors or al fresco, you will definitely feel as though you’re at a brasserie in Paris.We ordered the Niçoise salad with lemon caper dressing, haricotverts, anchovies, and seared ahi tuna. Completely delicious! We also split the bleu ribbon burger with crispy bacon, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, sweet onions, and blue cheese on a soft onion bun. The burger was cooked to perfection and basically melted in my mouth. Best burger I’ve ever had, hands down! Served with a side of truffle parmesan fries that looked so enticing, the New Yorker woman at the table next to ours who had just finished her own Niçoise salad had to comment. I insisted she try a French fry and after some coaxing she agreed. I’m sure she was happy she did because those fries were so flavorful!! Can’t go wrong with truffles in my book. I washed everything down with a light, crisp Rosé because Rosé always tastes best on a hot, sunny day.
One of the Bromberg Bros many Blue Ribbon establishments, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill has super fresh seafood, a variety of grilled meats, a tempura fried chicken, and more. I ordered the enoki & yellowtail himachi, the Negi Hama which is yellowtail and scallions, and the Karai Kaibashira which is spicy scallop and smelt roe. The sushi was incredibly fresh and melted in my mouth and the menu was very unique with a lot of tantalizing options. The restaurant décor had an authentic Japanese vibe with a small bamboo wood bar in the foyer then a narrow hallway that leads to the sushi bar and rest of the restaurant in the back. Loved it!
If you find yourself waking up in West Village on a weekend and in need of a brunch spot, then look no further! I had heard New Yorkers take brunch very seriously, but I had no idea the extent until I was actually in New York. This is an all-day event people! Luckily, I was crashing with some locals who knew the neighborhood well and without reservations, though after a bit of a wait, we had brunch at Jeffrey’s Grocery. This restaurant and oyster bar serves tasty craft cocktails, tons of fresh seafood, and had a killer Sancerre. The staff was friendly and having fun, plus Jeffrey’s was bumping groovy tunes which I think should be a necessity for brunch. They also had an enticing giant platter of lox perfect for a group of friends if everyone’s feeling the same thing. Go here!
The famed Momofuku Noodle Bar from celebrity chef David Chang was high on my dining list for my trip to NYC. I love that this ramen bar doesn’t take reservations and seats guests on a first-come first-serve basis. We hung out having cocktails at a bar across the street while we waited to get in, which is always a great way to pass the time. I ordered the Momofuku Ramen. I hate to say it, but while the ramen was good, I’ve definitely had better. What I absolutely couldn’t get enough of were the bao buns. Holy shit! These were all beyond tasty. We ordered the shrimp bao buns with spicy mayo, pickled red onion, and iceberg lettuce, the shiitake mushroom bao buns with hoisin, scallion, and cucumber, and the chicken meatball bao buns with jalapeño, iceberg lettuce, and paprika mayo. They were all mouthwateringly delicious! Gotta get dem’ buns!