I lived in New York for just over a year back in 2005 and 2006… it truly is the city that never sleeps. I felt like I was always running, running, running, which was definitely fun but ended up being the main reason I moved back to San Francisco – I wanted a slightly calmer pace of life with a few more trees nearby! New York will always hold a very special place in my heart though, and I never want too much time to go by before I plan my next trip out there.
A three day excursion will give you plenty of time to explore and enjoy New York… here’s an itinerary to guide you, complete with my favorite shops & restaurants to stop at along the way! This tour is definitely ‘foodie-heavy’ so bring your appetite! It’s a good thing I have you walking all over Manhattan! Oh, and it’s probably best if you stay in mid-town, as the name indicates it’s the most central area of Manhattan and there are a lot of options for all budgets.
Start your morning with a traditional NY bagel. Ess-a-Bagel & Murray’s are two great options, but look for anywhere with a line and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry, it will go fast – they don’t toast their bagels in NY!
Head over to the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th. Spend a couple of hours on the top floor – they have the most incredible display (worlds largest!) of dinosaur vertebrate fossils, and over 85% of them are real!
Then take a walk through Central Park and explore a little – some of my favorite spots include the Alice in Wonderland Statue (East side at 75th), Sheep Meadow (West Side from 66th to 69th Streets) for picnicking, the Hans Christian Anderson statue (74th Street near Fifth Avenue west of Conservatory Water), and Strawberry Field (West Side between 71st and 74th Streets).
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head south to Le Parker Meridien Hotel and nestled behind a brown curtain in the lobby you’ll find the Burger Joint. I’d go for the cheeseburger & fries. I’ve never actually had a milkshake there, but they look really good.
The rest of your afternoon can be spent enjoying some amazing views from the Top of the Rock – you should buy your tickets ahead of time online because the lines can get a little crazy. And then, if you have time, stop by St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s beautiful. Now head back to your hotel and relax a little before dinner.
For dinner that night, plan ahead and call Babbo one calendar month in advance and fingers crossed you might get a reservation. Call a day later and it will be booked, so make a note to call the month before! Just keep in mind if you’re coming from the West Coast a 9pm reservation isn’t that bad because it’s only 6pm our time, plus it gives you more time to try all the other fun spots during the day! It’s a really special spot, so I hope you do get a ressie. But if not, don’t worry! Call Lupa, Mario Batali’s other spot… it’s also on my favorites list and has a great, relaxed atmosphere, wonderful staff, and delicious food. Enjoy dinner!
You ready for day two? Let’s hope so, it’s as action packed as the first! Make sure you wear comfy shoes because you’ll be out all day long!
Grey Dog was my favorite breakfast spot in the city, there was one right by my apartment, but today you will be going to the one at 90 University Place for your morning meal. The Grey Dog’s Breakfast and Homemade Granola are always good choices, and make sure you try their coffee – they’re famous for it so it also makes a good trip gift for any of your friends at home!
Walk over to Union Square Farmers Market – it’s open all day and if you’re lucky you may catch a local NY chef browsing for the freshest ingredients. The problem is that since you don’t live there you can’t bring all the fabulous pickings home with you (or maybe you can, depending on what you like to fly with?!), but it’s still nice to check out all the different fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers.
I hope you’re not fed up with anything foodie because I’m forewarning you now you are about to be overwhelmed! Take a short ten-minute walk north to Mario Batali’s new Italian specialty grocery store, Eataly, on 5th & 23rd. Try and restrain yourself and not eat too many samples (you have lunch plans!) but have fun exploring all the various food and wine selections this haven has to offer.
Now it’s the real lunchtime – if you were able to restrain yourself at Eataly, walk south to the Village via 6th Avenue and get in line at John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker. Hands down, it’s the best pizza in the city, but that’s just my opinion! I think it’s their tomato sauce that makes it so good, and the way the brick oven crisps up the crust… delicious! And, if you ended up caving at Eataly, don’t worry – just make sure you try John’s on a future trip!
Ready to walk some more? You’re already in the mecca of small, specialty food shops so spend your afternoon wandering… Murray’s Cheese Shop, Faicco’s Italian Specialties, and Amy’s Bread are a few to get you started. If you feel like something sweet you could head west and take your chances with the line at Magnolia Bakery (Bleecker @ West 11th) for one of their famous cupcakes. If not, head east and pick up some fresh pasta and other Italian goodies at Raffetto’s on W. Houston (@ MacDougal) to bring back with you. Walk around the Village some more… just zig-zag up and down the streets and if you go up MacDougal between Bleecker and West 3rd you’ll walk right past my old apartment!
Hopefully by now you’ll have worked up your appetite again… it’s time to grab dinner and I’m so jealous I’m not with you because you are going to my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world, Bar Pitti. I first heard about Bar Pitti in Food & Wine magazine, before I had ever even stepped food in NY – read this article, you’ll see why I wanted to try it, and like the title I’ve had many happy returns. The rigatoni pitti would be my last meal on earth, but you’ll not be disappointed if you order any of the pastas off their chalkboard of nightly specials. Save some room for dessert though, but not at Bar Pitti – you have a short walk to go now. Walk north through Washington Square Park, to Otto on 8th Street & 6th Avenue and try try try to grab a treasured spot at the bar. You are about to have what sounds like an awful thing, but it will surprise you in such a wonderful way – olive oil gelato! Don’t be nervous, I promise you will love it. And I can say that because everyone I have made try it thinks it’s incredible… it’s creamy and flavorful, but then there’s a bit of a salty bite, somehow the combination is perfection. Enjoy with a nightcap, then get yourself to bed!
I’m going to give you a bit of a break today… have a sleep in, then head over to the Meatpacking District for brunch at Pastis. They do take reservations, so it definitely pays to plan ahead as this hotspot can be hectic! Celebrity spottings are common, but really this is just a fun spot to catch up with friends, enjoy good food, and spend some lazy hours on the final day of your weekend.
Next stop is the Chelsea Market – an urban food court to the highest degree, filled with loads of stores and restaurants. Eleni’s & the Fat Witch Bakery are two standouts, but there are many others so just take your time and have fun taking it all in.
Your final stop on this trip will be Soho so hail a cab and head south-east. Soho (an acronoym for South of Houston) is one of Manhattan’s trendiest areas and is fantastic spot to visit, as each cobblestoned street is packed with boutique shops, bars, cafes & restaurants, as well as a diverse selection of local art on display. I love just walking up and down the streets, but some favorite spots are Kate Spade & Maribelle’s Chocolate on Broome, and the Dean & Deluca on Broadway. I know you’re probably thinking what’s so special about Kate Spade, but the interior of this one is really funky and cool and I always like to stop by to see what they’ve done with it since I last was there. Maribelle has the most incredible designer chocolates in flavors you couldn’t believe, and Dean & Deluca is always a great spot to browse for all the kitchen items you didn’t even know you needed. The last time I was there I ended up buying teeny tiny spoons — they were super cute, but not really practical because they were so teensy but low and behold I found a function for them the other week – pot de crème spoons!! Amazing. Oh, sorry, I’ve gone of on a tangent haven’t I? Back to your New York tour…
Well, you’ve definitely earned a drink at this point so walk over to Balthazar (just past Broadway on Spring) and try and find a spot at the bar. The bartenders are fabulous here, and the atmosphere is always hopping. You could always put your name in for a table, or book ahead, but really my favorite spot is up in the bar area so if you do end up with a great seat up there, don’t move! Relax, talk to the locals, get to know your bartender and eat dinner there – the full menu is served at the bar, and it will be a nice break from all the Italian I’ve made you eat! The onion soup & steak frites are a couple of my favs.
So, that’s it! Your tour is over and I hope you enjoyed your trip. Just a couple final words…
If you’re lucky enough to be in New York during the holiday season be sure to take a walk along 5th Avenue up in the 50′s… the storefronts are amazing. And then you can pop over to Rockefeller Center and watch the ice-skaters underneath the huge Christmas tree.
And, here are some more of many more places I love that you will have to fit into your next trip out there!:Café Habana Billy’s Cupcakes Oak Room Bar Shake Shack Mamoun’s Falafel Lupa Freemans Union Square Café Café Boulud Bar Boulud Corner Bistro Locanda Verde And some more that I am so excited to try out next time I’m in NY: Barrio Chino