Starting this Friday, I’ll be taking a twelve-day vacation from my job. I need to rejuvenate and relax; take a step back from my city and my every-day life. Part of my vacation will be spent in Boston, a city I have never had the pleasure of exploring as an adult.
I’ve been asking friends who have lived there to give me some of their favorite go-to places. I considered looking up the best spots to visit online, but I’m not interested in being a tourist. Today I was reflecting on how much better it would be to share in places that are memorable to the natives of a city than their traditional “landmarks.” I then realized, even after living here for over three years, I haven’t been to many of the landmarks that are often deemed crucial to a true New York City experience. Instead, I have my landmarks that make this city so special to me; places I would recommend any day over your typical “must-sees” in Manhattan.
So I’ve decided to share ten of them with you.
1. Bryant Park | W 40th & 6th Avenue
I fell in love with Bryant Park when I was in high school and my mom took me to see Broadway in Bryant Park one summer weekday in 2008. It was small, yet beautiful, and could accommodate an entire stage full of Broadway stars and their fans to watch from the lawn. They have a gorgeous carousel in the midst of it all; not to mention the beautiful giant fountain as you enter from Sixth Avenue.
Since moving here, I have spent many days sitting at one of their tables on a Spring day, drinking an iced tea from Pax across the street, and reading a book. Over the holidays, they transform the lawn into an ice-skating rink, and set up small, private shops around the perimeter to avoid letting this beautiful park sit idle during the holidays.
2. Stumptown Coffee Roasters | W 8th & Washington Square West
I’ve already written an entire post about my love for Hamilton Heights’ The Chipped Cup, (which, if you missed it, can be read here). So, rather than bore you with those details again, I’d rather talk about another favorite Manhattan coffeeshop of mine. Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the West Village is a cozy and simple, with a delicious latte to match. It’s tucked away in the midst of West 8th street, right past Sixth Avenue.
I have spent many an afternoon there, mostly after my barre classes which are steps away at barre3 West Village. It also kept me alive during the run of a show I worked on at the Minetta Lane Theatre last Spring. Bless you, Stumptown. Your nitro cold brew and bearded baristas will always keep us coming back.
3. Harlem Public | W 149th & Broadway
Oh, H.P., where do I even start with you? Harlem Public was the very first restaurant I dined at in Hamilton Heights. It was the summer before I made the big move to Manhattan, and some friends who lived close by took me here for lunch. The cocktails, the sandwiches, the outdoor seating – it is all fabulous. This was the beginning of every Hamilton Heights resident’s dream come true.
On Broadway between 148th and 149th, H.P. now sits along what has become a strip of amazing eateries including (my favorite) The Chipped Cup, At The Wallace, The Handpulled Noodle, and their newest addition, The Honeywell.
4. DOUGH | W 19th & 5th Avenue
My first roommate in Manhattan was doughnut-obsessed. At the time, I enjoyed a good doughnut but, truthfully, my knowledge was pretty limited to that of Dunkin Donuts and Entimmens. In case you missed the train like I did, you do not know real doughnuts until you’ve hit a place like Dough.
After you’ve experience a true doughnut, you will never touch one from Dunkin again (okay, never say never, but they don’t stand a chance against one of these babies^). The Chelsea shop is perfectly located to pick up your doughnut and enjoy a beautiful day sitting in Union Square. It will rock your world.
5. Jacob’s Pickles | W 84th & Amsterdam Avenue
Let’s play two truths and a lie – Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side has some of the best cocktails in Manhattan, only serves variations of pickles as food, and caught fire about a month ago closing it down until further notice.
Unfortunately for the Upper West Siders, the beloved southern-style restaurant known for, not only its pickles, but its biscuits, brunch and cocktails is closed until further notice after the building next-door caught fire earlier this month, damaging the restaurant. But that won’t take it off my landmark list. Jacob’s Pickles was introduced to me shortly after my move to Manhattan as a must-eat, must-drink, must-experience restaurant. Their brunch, in particular, is to die for. Luckily, to curb our cravings in their absence, is Jacob’s new sister store Maison Pickle. I cannot speak for this new establishment, but I hope in due time I can pay them a visit and savor a little bit of Jacob until he’s back in action.
6. Washington Square Park
I love this place – plain and simple. It’s small enough to enjoy every inch, but big enough to find your quiet space. Over the summer, there will always be live music or vendors, but the vibe is never dull.
I was lucky enough to take in Washington Square Park for the first time last Spring to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak (I bet if you look real hard in this photo, you can see my little blonde head). It was amazing to return there the next day and see how different the park was. After that experience, I would go out of my way to walk through Washington Square just to take in the day (and to also feel the residual Bern).
7. The Grey Dog | E 12th & University Place
I have an infinite addiction to conversation and the breakfast quesadilla at The Grey Dog on University Place. This is my go-to spot to meet up with one of my closest friends, Danielle, when we just want to lay out our week and eat our feelings.
You can take it to go, or take a seat – the vibes are super chill here. They love U-Mich (University of Michigan), cut pumpkin pie slices the size of your head, and have about eight different kinds of bread to put your sandwich on. Personal recommendations include the Breakfast Quesadilla, the Turkey, Apple and Brie Sando, and The Guacamole & Bacon Grilled Cheese (which has delicious Wisconsin cheese curds on it).
8. Sprinkles Cupcakes | E 60th & Lexington
As a West Side gal, I never found myself on the East Side of Manhattan until I started working on 59th and Park Avenue about a year into my life here. I was rapidly acclimated to the area, and looked forward to Sunday evenings with work buddies when we would grab a burger at Pig n’ Whistle and a cupcake from Sprinkles before heading back to the theater. It became a ritual.
Yes, you are seeing that correctly. That, my friends, is a Cupcake ATM. It actually dispenses cupcakes. You can also get most flavors in vegan and gluten free for anyone with serious allergies or choice dietary restrictions. Oh, and there’s a Sprinkles Ice Cream Shop right next door.
9. Blockheads | W. 49th & 8th Avenue at New World Plaza
My first industry job in Manhattan was working for the Off-Broadway musical Heathers at New Wold Stages in 2014. For the first few months, I didn’t realize what was happening above our heads at New World Plaza where Blockheads and its sister-store Mother Burger live in a promenade, until it became heavily populated as summer approached.
I have made many memories and inhaled many margaritas at this place. There are a few other locations scattered across Manhattan, but what makes New World Plaza’s Blockheads special (besides their $5 margaritas), is the outdoor experience. Be warned, the food isn’t great – I highly recommend their crunchy tacos, and the list ends there.
10. The Jeffrey Craft Beers & Bites | E 60th & 2nd Avenue
This last one’s a little bit of a plug, but roll with me. One of my very best friends has been the morning barista at The Jeffrey for the past three months. Again, I’m a West Side gal, so hiking over to the very edge of Manhattan’s East Side is no picnic for me. But I will gladly make that trek to sit at The Jeffrey. Believe me, it’s mostly for the kindness and warmth of my barista friend, Gerardo, who brings such vibrancy to this place. But The Jeffrey has everything – coffee, food, beer, liquor, heart.
It might be because they let me redo their “Coffee Bar” board. It might be because they have a slammin’ Green Bean Salad. And it very well may be because the artist currently painting a mural on their dining room wall is super attractive. Either way, I love this place. It is so special and encompasses how you can find the most charming places where you least expect them to be.
We should all have our landmarks, no matter how big or small the city, town, or state we live in. We may discover new spaces, new landmarks, from time to time, but the ones that matter will always stick; for they make our home a home.