But to make it worth your while you should go first thing on a weekday - it opens at 9.30am. Otherwise you'll spend half a day in the queue and be so cheesed off you won't care what you see by the time you get to the top.
350 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; www.esbnyc.com/
New York is made up five boroughs. But when visitors arrive they mistake Manhattan between Battery Park and 96th street for the entire city. Don't get me wrong. Manhattan from the neck down is great. But try the amateur night at the Apollo in Harlem, Williamsburg or Fort Greene in Brooklyn or the Bronx zoo. Take a bridge or a tunnel. Get out and see the city.
Don't be put off by the queue outside this Chinatown favourite on most weekend evenings. Parties of four or less usually get seated within half and hour and it's worth the wait. Unless you're unlucky you share a large round table with others - a brilliant way to meet strangers who aren't strange. Its soup dumplings are a must. The soup is in the dumplings; getting it out without getting it all over you demands finesse. Cash only.
9 Pell St, Chinatown, subways 6,W, Q to Canal St
A terrific Ukrainian diner in the east village, which is open all night on Fridays and Saturdays. Fantastic broccoli and cheese pirogis and mushroom and barely soups; blintzes sure to ensure that you die happy from heart failure. And the best burgers in the city.
9th street and second avenue: Subway F, V to second avenue, R, W to 8th st, 6 to Astor Place; www.veselka.com/.
Free meter parking in Manhattan is the holy grail for most drivers. On weekends, free meter parking can be found on side streets (not the main avenues) in Chelsea. Aim for south of 21st Street down to about 15th and between 8th and 10th.
A gay bar with an alternative feel, the Metropolitan offers something unique. Rather than being full of Chelsea muscle boys you’re more likely to find a crowd decked out in vintage thrift. They have a great jukebox (New Order, Bjork etc) and if you’re musically inclined they have a queer karaoke night on Tuesday. In the summer they provide a free barbecue on Sundays, which is a bonus with New York being so expensive. Two for one drink specials on Tuesdays.
559 Lorimer St, between Metropolitan and Devoe (take the L train to Graham or Lorimer);
tel: 718 599 4444
Yes, there are excellent beaches not far from the city and I don't mean the Hamptons. July/August is very hot and following the locals is a good idea. Long Beach is a pretty town by the sea with a long boardwalk, good swimming and surfing (non-residents pay $6 entry), and Jones Beach State Park ($8 parks entry fee) has 6 miles of seafront, 2 bathhouses and tons of amenities (but bring your own food).
Both feature white dune sand, blazing sun (remember the sunblock!) and safe swimming with lifeguards during the summer.
Long Beach: Catch the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station to Long Beach, then walk to boardwalk;
Jones Beach: Catch the LIRR (Babylon branch) to Freeport, a special bus service, or drive
You know how women will decide what to eat for their main course based on what desserts are available. That's to make sure that they have the space (& justification) to enjoy dessert.
This place cuts through all of that hassle by only serving dessert. Three lovely courses of it. Small but exquisite platefuls with an unusual and good matched wine (for about $7 extra I think).
I recommend this to everyone I know who is going to New York. It is friendly, you can watch the work going on in the kitchen, and I've not been anywhere else that’s anything like it.
203 East 10th Street (n.b: it's a small place, with a very small entrance;
tel: 212 995 9511;
In winter, the pond in Central Park is turned into an ice skating rink (skate hire is available). Even if you don't want to skate, the viewing platform above the rink is highly recommended - the skyline in the background is familiar from many films.
Central Park, Manhattan
Spectacular Thai-fusion restaurant in Williamsburg. A key destination in the hipster enclave of Brooklyn (think Shoreditch, but less twattish). When you enter the restaurant and are greeted with mirror balls, transparent chairs hanging from the ceiling and leather bean bags to one side and pod-like toilet cubicles shrouded in the centre of the bar area to the other side, you could be forgiven for thinking that you're in the chill out room of an uber-cool techno club. Oh no. Order yourself a fierce mojito or one of their speciality martinis (lychee was particularly tasty, I recall) relax and wait to be seated.
This place is big, mega-busy, but worth waiting for. As you're led through into the restaurant itself, you're met with the centre-piece of the room; a reflective pool of water with a Buddha statue presiding over it. The cosy tables alongside the water feature are quite romantic, while the cool design of the space and the various nooks and crannies also allow for bench style tables that can accommodate large groups of friends.
The place is always buzzing and the food is first rate and reasonably priced. More of a south-east Asian fusion than strictly Thai (hence the SEA name) the usual red/green curries and pad thai noodle dishes are all sublime while the fresh fish and sea-food specialities are awesome too. A very cool restaurant in one of the more interesting neighbourhoods of New York.
114 N 6th St (between Berry and Whythe St), Brooklyn, NY
Take the L train to Bedford Ave station (the first stop in Brooklyn when leaving Manhattan); tel: 718 384 8850
Legend has it, this was once some sort of illicit opium den. Perhaps an exaggeration, however it certainly feels like you're entering a crack den as you're casting one eye over your shoulder at the dealers on the street corner whilst looking out for the unmarked entrance to this once illegal (inevitably now legit) after hours drinking den in Alphabet City.
Tip: look out for the yellow liquor store sign, enter the apartment block next door and go upstairs. Trust me, you wouldn't happen upon this place by accident! Inside is awash with chandeliers, dim red lighting, and comfy sofas (if you're they're early) an ominous looking mannequin behind the bar and a mischievous atmosphere.
Due to the sheer challenge of finding this place, you're invariably going to find great music, cool bar staff, plus a like-minded, fun-loving, up for it, and good-looking crowd. Open very late and when busy (always) it may feel like you’ve unwittingly forced your way into a random person’s loft party just as things are getting messy.
Avenue B, between 13th and 14th
This hotel is in a great location - so close to many attractions, yet also away from all the hustle and bustle on a quiet tree-lined street. A couple of blocks one way and you are in Times Sq and a walk away from Grand Central Terminal, MOMA, the Empire State building and the shops of 5th Avenue and Broadway. A couple of blocks the other way and you are by the Hudson River, taking in the view of New Jersey.
A warm welcome from all the staff in the hotel, a light breakfast served every day and a good sized bedroom with en-suite. All rooms were just getting fitted with brand new flatscreen televisions as we were nearing the end of our stay as well. Hope to go back here the next time we're in NYC. Very good value for money.
This is theatre just for children, but parents will love it, too. Great for those who may be still too young for Broadway manners. This troupe takes stories, written by children, and sets them to words and music. Very talented group, full of imagination and fun.
Shows on Saturday only.
The Drama Bookshop on 40th Street & 8th Ave, near the major shows; shows are on Saturday only; www.storypirates.com
Europeans are rarely going to want to visit American churches - they are, after all, just recreations of ones "back home" but St. Bart's is something special - the Byzantine-style mosaic tile interior is incredible, as are many of the stained glass windows. There are tours available but just wandering is best, maybe followed by tea in the church's courtyard cafe. While enjoying this building remember that all of this section of Park Avenue is built on columns above the double-level trainyard of Grand Central Terminal.
Park Avenue (East Side) between 50th and 51st Streets. Subway - 6 (Lexington Avenue Local) to 50th Street.
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