Sunday, June 22, 2008

The New York List*

It's all about brunch in New York! The popular places can have a wait of an hour or more, but I aim to go and eat early (10-11am) on the weekends. Most places serve bottomless coffee for you caffeine junkies.

Pastis. A New York brunch institution, in the meatpacking district. Lovely old world European style interior, serving up classy French morsels. So-so coffee, but great brioche French toast. A must do.

Mud coffee. Very cool coffee joint in Greenwich Village. Hand-picked by my friend Amy, supreme coffee vixen.

Casimir. Another great (but tiny) brunch place in the hip lower East side, on a friendlier scale and budget than Pastis.

Diner. Supremely cool diner in Williamsburg, populated by local hipsters. Watch out for the spindly outdoor tables, which couldn't contain my giant aussie legs (lots of coffee spillage).

Florent. One of the first all-night diners to open in the meat-packing district before it was trendy: soon to be closed because of the sky-rocketing rent in the area. Shame, the home fries were lip-smacking and the place has got buckets of personality.

Balthazar. Fancy-pants French restaurant on Spring Street, popular with tourists and locals alike (prepare to wait up to an hour for a table). I prefer Pastis slightly, because it is a little less hectic.

Penelope's. My favourite brunch spot so far! Very cute little cafe on 30th and Lex, with delicious home made cupcakes, coffee served in mismatched mugs and yummy, yummy food. Oh my god, the blueberry waffles with orange butter... words cannot do justice.

Clinton Street Bakery. The Best Pancakes Ever. Lovely homestyle food, lower East side.

There is such a plethora of choice when it comes to food over here, it's ridiculous. Your best bet is using a combination of the Zagat Guide (the NY restaurant bible) and a more discriminating guide like the Time Out City Guide, and of course local recommendations.

Supper. Atmospheric little Italian place on the Lower East side with exposed brick walls and pretty chandeliers.

Ali Baba Turkish Cuisine. The most delectable, smoky babaganoush I have ever tasted.

Grimaldi's pizza. You deserve one of these world famous pies after walking all the way over the Brooklyn Bridge. Just be prepared to queue (it's absolutely worth the wait).

Café Sabarsky. The rather posh Neue Gallery restaurant. Get yourself a Viennese coffee and dessert (I had the dark chocolate and apricot cake). Natalie Portman had the apple strudel, in case you were wondering.

Katz's Deli, where Sally proved to Harry what great manipulators women can be. It's a lot grimier than it looks in the film, but the girl behind the counter wouldn't accept payment from a fellow Melbournite, so I can't complain.

Nobu next door. Slightly cheaper and easier to book than Nobu, this is the best meal I have had in the city so far - amazing. Promise me you'll go there and try the fresh yellow tail sashimi with jalapeno, and also the rock shrimp tempura. Still drooling.

Adrienne's pizza bar. It's a pleasure eating outdoors on a warm night at this great upmarket pizza bar. The street is lined with bench-style tables, hidden away on a cobble-dy street near Battery Park.

The Empire diner. I can't believe it didn't occur to me to visit an old fashioned American diner. It took an out-of-towner to suggest it. Proper old-school burger-and-milkshake-at-the-counter territory, served with a smile and a wink.

John's pizzeria. Famous pizza pie joint on Bleecker street. Atmospheric, with years worth of names carved into the small wooden booths, but Grimaldi's pizza is superior in my book (I think it's an Italian vs. American thing.)

Alcoholic beverages and bars are not my strong suit, I have to admit - I am a lightweight and don't like noisy, crowded bars - but here's a list of the few places I have visited. Don't forget your ID!

Ayza chocolate and wine bar (Midtown). Try a "flight" (3 little samplers).

Flat Iron Lounge.
Groovy bar with retro cocktails, near the iconic building.

Under the volcano. Atmospheric (and very dark) tequila bar in midtown. Fierce margaritas.

Divine Bar, right near Times Square. The cinnamon toast with caramel ice-cream was sooo good, but you might feel a little self-conscious ordering the "Stinkin' Dirty Whore-tini". Try the Angel's Tit instead (truly divine).

Darkroom. A photographer friend (appropriately) roped me into coming to this low-ceilinged den and I enjoyed myself dancing inanely to Stevie Wonder and other crowd-pleasers.

8 Mile Creek. Surprisingly tasteful Australian themed bar in NoLIta (north of little italy). You wouldn't really know it was an Australian bar, except that you might be offered a Tim Tam with your drink.

Superfine. A bar in dumbo which is exactly that: super fine. Fantastic G&T with lime, kick-ass music, and rotating local artworks on the walls.

You gotta see some live music if you come to New York, it has been hands-down my favourite thing to do here - there are some great small venues and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to gig listings.

Smalls. Even for jazz-novices like myself, an umissable experience.

NYC Town Hall. I caught Flight of the Conchords here, but they have all sorts of stuff on - classical, poetry, world music. Lovely old-fashioned theatre with good views from most seats, right near Times Square.

The Mercury Lounge. Proper dark and dinghy rock venue on an intimate scale, East Houston. I saw the fragile but heart-breakingly beautiful Joan As Police Woman here, with New York's coolest in attendance (including a Warhol wannabe).

Bowery Ballroom. My favourite NY music space so far. Beautiful mid-sized venue in a stylish 1920's building in the lower East side, showing loads of cool acts. I caught the very lovely Laura Veirs here (supported by Liam Finn).

Southpaw. Laidback (but supportive) local venue in Brooklyn, far enough from the beaten track to make you feel like one of the locals. I saw Hayden here.

Summerstage. A series of free concerts over the summer in Central Park - what could possibly go wrong? Well, it could pour with torrential rain and thunderstorms on the day Vampire Weekend are playing...but aside from that, much fun to be had.

Joe's pub. My (and Fink's) favourite New York venue. If you call ahead and book a table, you can sit right by the stage and enjoy dinner and drinks while you listen in this intimate space.

The Hiro Ballroom. I saw Liz Phair rocking out at this sumptuous kung-fu-style venue, with paper lanterns hanging from the curved dark wood ceiling. Very cool.


Falling Water. More Pittsburgh than New York, but worth the pilgrimage to see the most beautiful example of mid-century American architecture around.

The New York Public Library. Gorgeous building, worth going in for a look. I went to see the Gutenburg bible, but nearly cried when I discovered the actual, real life Pooh, Piglet, Kanga, Tigger and Eyeore, once owned (and obviously well loved) by Christopher Robin Milne.

Avenue Q on Broadway. Cute and funny. I was hysterical at interval: I don't even remember why. Caveat: The Americans will never touch the British when it comes to humour. I think I was just high on life at the time.

Coney Island. I don't think this counts as "cultural", but it's certainly an "experience". Shoot the Freak, ride the Cyclone, ogle the carnies and tuck into a world famous hotdog. Not for the faint of heart. Scheduled for redevelopment, so get there quick if you want to experience the authentic tawdry-run-down-fairground atmosphere.

The Guggenheim. Another cool Frank Lloyd Wright building full of cutting-edge modern art.

Neue Gallery. I tracked this down after spying a Klimt poster on 5th avenue. I adored it: it is a Klimt-groupies dream. And the most gorgeous display of Wiener Werkstätte jewellery imaginable.

Central Park Boathouse. Fortify yourself with an American-style super sweet breakfast at the Express Café before heading out for a row on the lake. If you are feeling energetic (I was), hire yourself a bike from Metro Bicycles (cheaper than the Central Park bike rentals) on 88th and Lexington for an easy cycle round the entire park.

Wicked. The front row seats are allocated via a ballot system - turn up between 5 and 6pm to put your name down and take your chances for the 8 o'clock show.

BAM. The Brooklyn Academy of Music to be precise, but they also put on plays and have a cinema where I saw a bunch of short animated films from around the world, with a Q&A session afterwards.

Whitney Museum of American Art. Great but dissappointingly small collection of modern American art, including Hopper, O'Keefe, Oldenburg, Pollock and De Kooning. Luckily they had one tiny room in the basement dedicated to my all-time favourite sculptor: Alexander Calder; as well as a collection of exquisite Mapplethorpe polaroids.

P.S.1. Contemporary art museum in a converted school building in Queens, affiliated with MoMA. Very cool and definitely worth the trek. I saw a brilliant show around the themes of "flags, weapons and dreams" - a great insight into the underbelly of the American dream.

MoMA. This is the best collection of big-name modern art I have seen in the world - truly awesome. A fantastic space and a definite must-do.

The Met. For some reason, I was expecting the Met to be a bit fusty and boring, but it blew me away. Utterly amazing collection of artworks from throughout the ages, from ancient Egyptian to contemporary American.

New York Botanical Gardens. I spent a very wet and humid Sunday traipsing around this lovely park, seeking out the Henry Moore pieces which are on exhibition at the moment. A serene retreat from the city, up in the Bronx.

*To be updated during my stay.

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