New York has been my home for almost two years now. I love when my friends come to visit me and I love sharing some of the things I love about New York with them. With the amount of times I've played tour guide, I thought it was about time to create a guide on New York.
Note that this is a basic guide for people who are relatively new to NYC. I'll be making a more comprehensive guide by neighborhood, so be on the lookout for that!
JOE It lives up to its name. There are 10 locations around the city, so chances are you'll pass by one on your trek around the city.
SARABETH'S With 5 restaurant locations, Sarabeth's serves good quality food in a very classic Manhattan brunch setting.
CAFE ORLIN This cafe in the East Village is a cute and trendy brunch spot in the city. Omelettes, pancakes, poached eggs, salmon, and salads, all accompanied by an espresso bar. The following will be common warning for most of the popular New York things: be careful of the long waits. There are a lot of other brunch options in the area, so you can always opt for another place if the wait is too long.
MARHARLIKA I love this cute spot that has American brunch inspired by Filipino comfort food. A lot of times most brunch places in New York can be formulaic, but I love how Marharlika serves dishes with a cool Filipino twist.
GREGORY'S Instead of grabbing your usual Starbucks that you can find in any other U.S. city, pop into 1 of 10 Gregory's around the city for your caffeine fix.
LA COLOMBE The flagship location in Noho with its well-designed interiors is one of the most spacious local coffee shops you can find in Manhattan. This is a place to grab classic dark roasts and meticulous preparation methods (especially the iced coffee!)
DUDLEY'S Great brunch spot with a cozy and cute feel. The food is always fresh a slightly Australian twist. Try and snag an outdoor seat if it’s nice out!
JING FONG This dim sum restaurant located in Chinatown is a great alternative to the classic American breakfast/brunch. It's also a lot cheaper than most brunch places. It can get crowded on weekend mornings, but there are alternative good dim sum places nearby. For instance, I really like ORIENTIAL GARDEN RESTAURANT, another dim sum spot that is just next door to Jing Fong.
BOX KITE I love this cute coffee shop sophisticated interiors and great plating. Order the 1+1 (espresso and macchiato combo). It even has a decent food and wine menu for lunch and dinner.
EGG This cute Williamsburg brunch spot is a great reason to leave the confines of Manhattan and explore Brooklyn. Enjoy eggs with chorizo, hash browns, pancakes, and grits in a very modern and minimalist interior design setting.
BROOKLYN ROASTING COMPANY Unlike other New York City coffee shops, this place has an excellent, spacious interior. It's located in DUMBO, a very picturesque neighborhood in Brooklyn and definitely worth a morning (or afternoon) trip.
BUTTERMILK CHANNEL Brooklyn is a great place for brunch, and the Buttermilk Channel doesn’t disappoint with its American comfort foods (chicken and waffles and cornbread, anyone?)
QUEENS COMFORT I can’t leave out some of my favorite places in Astoria, Queens, my current neighborhood. This place is great because not only do they have delicious Southern comfort food, but you can BYOB!
New York City restaurants are a mixed bag of whether or not they'll take reservations. Do your research and call to make reservations if you can, because it will save a lot of time at the popular places. In New York it's normal to wait ~1 hour during busy times to be seated at the most popular restaurants.
IPPUDO One of the best ramen places in the city. The original location is in East Village, but I've found the Hell's Kitchen location just as excellent. Be prepared for long waits unless you go at an odd hour.
CAFÉ CHINA This is definitely one of my favorite places in NYC. It has an amazing interior (retro China, reminiscent of the 30’s) European occupation in Shanghai or Hong Kong, and amazing Sichuan food.
THE HALAL GUYS This food truck's chicken and rice is one of the few things that both true New Yorkers and tourists enjoy. It's great for lunch, dinner, and for after-hours drunk food. I always crave this every few weeks, there's something in the taste that makes it so incredibly delicious. It's also one of the few New York things that is cheap! The original truck is on the Southeast corner of 6th Ave and 53rd St.
EMPANADA MAMA Hands down the best empanada I've had in my life. That's probably because I haven't tried too many, but their Viagra empanada (filled with shrimp, scallops, and crabmeat) is inarguably amazing.
PIO PIO I love the atmosphere of this Peruvian place. It is great for groups and for sharing entrees with your friends.
ABC KITCHEN This modern fusion French-American restaurant is a popular place--even the Obamas have dined here! It has a unique and delicious menu and a great ambiance.
OOTOYA This is my favorite Japanese restaurant in the city (not including specialty ramen or sushi places). I think their original Chelsea location is the best.
MOMOFUKU SSAM BAR I normally do not like Asian fusion places, but Momofuku is unlike any other. Their pork buns are the best I've ever tasted, and every other dish there is an excellent choice. There's also a MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR just a couple blocks away.
SHAKE SHACK Because you can't go to New York and say that you haven't tried Shake Shack. I like the original Flatiron location because it's outside and right next to the iconic Flatiron building. If the weather outside is bad, then I would suggest going to the other locations. And yes, their milkshakes are very, very good.
ARTICHOKE BASILLE'S PIZZA I love this cheesy pizza. Artichoke pizza is one of those things that you have to try, it's pretty amazing and New York does it so well.
EATALY This place has everything: dessert, a couple restaurants, a wine and cheese bar, and a rooftop. The rooftop is awesome, but try to avoid the weekend nights as it can get very crowded. My friend also swears that it has the best steak sandwiches ever.
BLUE RIBBON SUSHI This place is small, but the sushi is extremely delicious and fresh and not too crazily expensive, compared to other New York sushi places.
KATZ'S DELICATESSEN This is obviously from the famous movie When Harry Met Sally scene. Their pastrami sandwiches do not disappoint. Bonus points if you read up on its history--Katz's has been around since the late 1800's and grown in New York.
THE MEAT BALL SHOP Fantastic meatballs and sauces, nothing much else to say.
HAKATA TONTON This is also one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I might say that a lot, but there are just so many good places! It was my first time trying Japanese style hot pot. Get the Hakata Tonton hot pot and pay $5 more to make it into a brothy fried rice dish when you finish your noodles and veggies at the end.
THE SPOTTED PIG A classic West Village restaurant with all the charm and taste that lives up to its outstanding reputation.
GRIMALDI'S This is the classic New York pizza joint in Brooklyn that you must try. However, I prefer JULIANA'S, a sister shop that was opened by Grimaldi himself after he sold Grimaldi's to one of his customers several years ago. Grimaldi recently passed away, but his wife continues to work at Juliana's.
PLEASE DON'T TELL I know it's ironic to market a speakeasy, but I wouldn't let my friends leave New York without seeing and experiencing this cute place with excellent drinks. Since the waits are usually very long, I would put my name down and then go eat dinner while I wait. PDT is in East Village, which has plenty of good choices within walking distance. Even CRIF DOGS, the hot dog restaurant that PDT is hidden in, has delicious hot dogs. (You might even want to try for ANGEL’S SHARE, another speakeasy that is nearby, if the wait is unbearably long.)
230 FIFTH New York undoubtedly has one of the best rooftop bar cultures in the world. This is the quintessential rooftop bar with a great view of the Empire State Building and chill atmosphere that make it top choice for both tourists and native New Yorkers. You can also go on days with bad weather because it also has an inside portion.
RUSSIAN TEA ROOM If you have a lot of money to spend, you can take it to this fancy restaurant and bar which has the classic, wealthy New Yorker vibe. This place is perfect for special occasions.
CAMPBELL APARTMENT I absolutely adore this beautiful and ornate bar tucked away in Grand Central Station.
ACE HOTEL BAR This is a well-designed hotel that has a fun bar downstairs. It's a good place to lounge around and hang out with your friends. There's even a photobooth you can play around with. Free souvenir!
LE BAIN This is an extremely popular and trendy rooftop bar in the Meatpacking District. It was very pretty, and located on top of Standard Hotel. Entrance can be difficult on the weekend nights or random nights when they host private parties. You'll have a better chance getting in around 9-10 PM if you do choose a weekend night. I really like going in the early afternoon as well, when it's less crowded and staying to watch the sun set. The STANDARD BIERGARTEN (a fun beer garden with excellent beer choices) and PLUNGE AT GANSEVOORT MEATPACKING (another rooftop bar nearby) can be good backups if you don't get in.
FRYING PAN This is a really fun and cool bar that happens to be on a boat on the Hudson River. It's great for summer, and be sure to get a bucket of Corona or white wine sangria.
FAT CAT A really fun dive bar with live jazz. It has all the bar games--shuffleboard, ping pong, billards, and foosball. I always have so much fun whenever I go.
DEAD RABBIT The financial district isn't known for being lively at night, but Dead Rabbit is an award-winning classic cocktail bar with historic atmosphere. The second floor is a parlor that at times features excellent live music.
STUDIO SQUARE Astoria, Queens (my current home) has the best beer gardens in the city. This is a very spacious outdoor place with the largest screens. It's a very chill place to hang out and watch sports.
SERENDIPITY 3 A tourist classic dessert bar with its famous hot chocolate. CITY BAKERY is a good modern alternative for not only hot chocolate but breads, rolls, and other pastries.
VAN LEEUWEN This is my favorite ice cream parlor out of all of the great ones in New York. They started as a food truck but now have locations in East Village and Brooklyn. Their earl grey tea rishi black tea with bergamot citrus is one of my favorite out of their many unique flavors.
MAGNOLIA BAKERY Cupcakes, and a Sex and the City classic. It definitely lives up to its reputation.
MOMOFUKU MILK BAR I know I mentioned Momofuku already in the EAT section, but this milk bar is way too good to leave off the list. It's one of the best all-around dessert places in the city, with high quality ingredients and great cookies, ice cream, pies and cakes.
DOUGHNUT PLANT Best donuts ever, shout out goes to tres leches!
RICE TO RICHES This spot is a bit touristy, but they have the best rice pudding around. It's a quite fun place to go with all of its funny quotes and sayings all over the walls.
DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY The original birthplace of the famous cronut. This place also features milk shots in a shot glass made out of a chocolate chip cookie. Note that the line can be hours long and might not be worth it unless you really want it. Get up early and go on a weekday.
BIG GAY ICE CREAM SHOP Excessive toppings, flavors, and combinations, this place is anything but boring and understated. It is a mature and elevated version of your childhood sundaes.
WAFELS AND DINGES This food truck rivals Belgian waffles I've had in Belgium. (Well, of course not quite as good, but it comes pretty damn close.)
CENTRAL PARK The park is best explored by wandering around. You might want to enter either at the Southwest side (Columbus circle entrance) or the Southeast side (5th Ave entrance). Here are a couple spots that you should try to find: BETHESDA TERRACE, BELVEDERE CASTLE, GAPSTOW BRIDGE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, ICE SKATING RINK (in the winter only), CAROUSEL, SHEEP’S MEADOW, CENTRAL PARK ZOO, SHAKESPEARE GARDEN, BOW BRIDGE, CENTRAL PARK RESERVOIR. It's also a lot of fun to bike around the entire park on the bike road!
TIMES SQUARE It’s somewhere you must visit when you come to New York, then start avoiding later. There are a lot of touristy shops, street performers, and people trying to sell you tickets to shows or city tours. My one suggestion would be to avoid restaurants in this area as they tend to be mediocre and overpriced.
TOP OF THE ROCK I would suggest going to the observation deck at the Rockefeller Center over the one at the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING just because if you go on top of the Rockefeller Center, you get the view of New York with the Empire State Building. The base of the Rockefeller Center is also more interesting than the base of the Empire. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can also get a great view of the New York skyline from various rooftop bars around the city (which is covered later in this list).
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL This is one of the prettiest central train stations I’ve been in. Though now it has been a bit commercialized (Apple stores, chain restaurants, etc.), you can still see the history of the place. Grand Central also holds a lot of secrets, see if you can find them all!
BRYANT PARK This is just behind the NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. I think it is a great place to relax, have happy hour, or watch movies outside in the summer. It’s great to come when the sun is setting in the summer because you’ll see it dipping below the avenue’s horizon between the buildings. During the winter there are cute Christmas pop up shops and a free ice skating rink (you have to pay for the skates + locker, but cheaper than the Central Park rink or Rockefeller rink which you will have to pay for shoes + locker + entry fee), though it can get very crowded. The library itself is worth a visit for its history and its beautiful architecture.
FLAT IRON BUILDING This landmark building might be underwhelming after seeing it glamorized in movies and TV shows, but it’s really beautiful if you are an architecture enthusiast. There’s also a small park next to it where you can people watch and/or eat SHAKE SHACK.
CHINATOWN / LITTLE ITALY Chinatown has officially taken over Little Italy. Come here to feel like you’re transported to the actual country, where markets, bargaining, and Chinese food are abundant. Chinese food here is decent (you have to know where to go though), but I usually wouldn’t eat Italian food in Little Italy. There is better Italian food in other neighborhoods of NYC.
WEST VILLAGE This neighborhood is charming, clean, and has beautiful apartments. It’s a great place to explore—There are a lot of unique shops, cute little corners, great restaurants and cafes. Sex and the City fans will be excited to note that this is where Mr. Big’s apartment was.
9/11 MEMORIAL There is a beautiful memorial to commemorate 9/11, where the twin towers used to be. You can also visit the ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER, which will open up its observation deck in on floors 100-102 in 2015.
STATUE OF LIBERTY You can see her from various spots in New York. If you want to see her closer, you can take a ferry from BATTERY PARK. There will be ferries/tours that take you on the island and ones that circle the island and then take you back to Manhattan.
BROADWAY SHOWS If you like musicals and have the budget for one, there are many good Broadway shows to choose from. If you have trouble deciding, I thought Wicked and The Lion King would be good shows for any audience.
There are many ways you can get tickets: BROADWAY WEBSITE, TICKETMASTER, STUBHUB, etc. You can also try your luck to get discounted TKTS tickets, there are THREE LOCATIONS in New York: Times Square, Financial District, Brooklyn. TKTS booths sell same-day discount tickets and next-day discount tickets to matinee performances (availability depending on which booth you go to). It’s a first-come-first-serve basis, so there’s no guarantee of tickets, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the show you want. There will rarely be discounted tickets to popular shows like Wicked, Lion King, and Book of Mormon. Lines can take up to 45 minutes long during really busy times.
There are also a plenty of great OFF BROADWAY SHOWS and COMEDY CLUBS if those are more your thing. New York is home to many great artists, performers, and comedians—be sure to enjoy the creative culture!
LINCOLN CENTER The Lincoln Center has operas, symphonies, ballets, jazz performances, and fashion shows. Even if you don’t attend any of the events, it’s a beautiful building that is worth checking out.
ROWBOATS AT CENTRAL PARK What better way is there to enjoy the great weather outside? It’s pretty romantic too.
THE MET The Met is an amazing museum. Note that you don’t have to donate the full suggested amount to enter, but it definitely needs your support and is worth the value. It’s gorgeous, and don’t forget to check out the MET ROOFTOP GARDEN when the weather is nicer. Besides the Met, some of my other favorite art museums are THE WHITNEY, MOMA, GUIGGENHEIM, MOMA PS1. All of these museums feature free or discount days, so be sure to do your research if you would like to save some money. Note that they will be very crowded on those days.
AMERICAN NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM My favorite part of this museum is the basement, where there is an enormous blue whale hanging from the ceiling. This is also a great place to rest or take a nap if you get tired from exploring the city as a tourist.
ROOSEVELT ISLAND TRAMWAY Roosevelt Island is one of my favorite places to run in the city. The tramway between Manhattan & Roosevelt Island can be found on 59th st and 2nd Ave. It gives a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline and the Queensboro Bridge. It’s only the cost of one subway ride ($2.50). If you have time, you can explore around Roosevelt Island, such as the LIGHTHOUSE on the far North side or the FDR FOUR FREEDOMS PARK on the South side, but other than that Roosevelt Island is basically just a residential neighborhood.
INTREPID SEA, AIR, AND SPACE MUSEUM This museum is located on a boat on the Hudson River. It’s pretty interesting, but I think nerds or old people (adults) or little people (elementary kids) will enjoy it the most. :)
CHELSEA MARKET This indoor market is found in the MEATPACKING DISTRICT and features a lot of local desserts, restaurants, and shops. It’s definitely worth visiting. The Meatpacking District also worth taking a look around (it has an interesting history—it used to be where, you guessed it, factories packed meats, but now is a upscale place with fancy bars, restaurants, and brand name shops).
HIGH LINE This is an elevated park that was built on an old railroad track that was no longer used. It’s a beautifully created space with all types of plants, benches, and great views of the Hudson River and skyline of the Chelsea/Meatpacking neighborhood.
5TH AVE The shopping area on this street runs from around 59th St to 45th St. The notable luxury stores are BENDEL'S, BERGDORF'S, BARNEY'S, APPLE STORE, FAO SCHWARTZ, TIFFANY'S, CARTIER, SAKS FIFTH AVENUE, etc. However, there are still more affordable stores like UNIQLO, ZARA, H&M, BANANA REPUBLIC, etc. Note that this place has more chain/brand name stores than unique New York boutiques.
SOHO / EAST VILLAGE / NOLITA: Besides the obvious chain stores like ZARA, JCREW, MADEWELL, H&M, TOP SHOP, UNIQLO, MANGO, FOREVER21, CAMPER, BLOOMINGDALE'S (the list goes on forever) and the trendy stores like APC, ACNE, OPENING CEREMONY, here are some of my favorite stores that are a little more unique to New York: BIG DROP NYC, TOKIO 7, ARITZIA, MCNALLY JACKSON BOOKS, STRAND BOOKSTORE (okay, that's more in UNION SQUARE), and you'll find a lot more just wandering around the cute cobblestone streets.
FLEA MARKETS Flea markets are a great place to find unique styles or one-of-a-kind souvenirs from New York. Here are some of my suggestions: BROOKLYN FLEA MARKET, ARTISTS & FLEAS, WILLIAMSBURG FLEA MARKET