So, you’ve cruised past the Statue of Liberty (smaller than you thought, right?), admired the view from the Empire State, watched a Broadway musical and braved the catherine wheel of capitalism that is Times Square. In this, the ultimate city, the opportunities for iconic (or dare we say clichéd) moments are endless.
But what if you’ve done all that (or don’t give a damn about the top 10 tourist guide lists)? If you’ve only got a weekend in New York, it’s time to experience its other facets – food, drink, art and literature. There’s also time for a smattering of retail, though rest assured, it will be far from the seething hordes invading the vast chain stores on Midtown’s Fifth Avenue. Welcome to New York.
On weekends, The City That Never Sleeps becomes The City That Lies In. Most people don’t stir till late morning, and plenty of shops and restaurants don’t
bother to open until noon. Luckily, Katz’s (katzsdelicatessen.com) is open all day on Saturday. Established in 1888, this no-nonsense dinerstyle deli in the ever-so-gritty Lower East Side is justifiably renowned for its pastrami beef sandwiches (and for a certain infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally).
But for breakfast? Have the plate-sized choc chip pancakes. Stroll over to Saturdays (saturdaysnyc.com) in Soho next. This is a surf shop like no other: timeless menswear, surfing accessories and baristas serving up a darn fine cappuccino – best enjoyed in the tranquil courtyard out back. Not a coffee person? Next door, Miansai (miansai.com) serves a selection of loose-leaf teas – and also showcases the Miami-based brand’s range of handcrafted accessories.
The cosy McNally Jackson bookstore (mcnallyjackson.com), a short walk away, is next. You could get lost for hours browsing its wide range of magazines. Don’t. It’s time to hop in a cab to the High Line (thehighline.org). Once a derelict railway, it’s been transformed into an aerial park, replete with benches and deckchairs from which you can soak up views of the city and the Hudson River.
Start near the Hudson Railyards and meander southwards. It’s a great way of accessing Chelsea’s commercial galleries – there are dozens but the New York Times judges Montserrat, Gallerie Lelong and Zieher Smith & Horton to be three of the best. Tuck into lunch at the nearby Chelsea Market
(chelseamarket.com). Deciding what to have is hard – will it be oysters from Cull & Pistol or a grilled gruyere and rosemary ham sandwich from Lucy’s Whey? Designed by Renzo Piano, the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new building is at the High Line’s southern tip.
America is Hard to See, the first exhibition in the space, runs until September 27; the 600 works offer a sweeping examination of American art, from 1900 to today. Hop on the L train to Williamsburg for sundowners. One of the best views of Manhattan’s glittering skyline is from across the water at The Ides, the rooftop bar at the Art Deco-inspired Wythe Hotel (wythehotel.com). There’s Mexican – and then there’s home-style Mexican. Stroll down to La Superior (lasuperiornyc.com) for tacos and quesadillas as a good Mexican mama
would’ve made them, before heading to bed.
Indulging in that great New York pastime – queuing – is inevitable at the café recently opened by the Jewish deli Russ & Daughters (russanddaughterscafe.com). You’ll be glad you did. Put your name on the waiting list (there are no reservations) and head to Caffe Vita roastery round the corner for a coffee. When it’s your turn to take your placeat Russ & Daughters’ marble-topped bar, order a Breakfast Martini or Bloody Mary and dig into scrambled eggs with lox on rye, or pastrami-cured salmon on a pretzel.
There is also caviar by the gram if you’re feeling flash. A few blocks away, the cerebral selection at St Marks Bookshop (stmarksbookshop.com) pays homage to the East Village, having once been a hangout for Beat poets and artistic vagabonds. Once you’re done stocking up on reading material, grab a cab to the Frick Collection (fricorg). More palatial house than gallery, this Fifth Avenue building is an astonishing trove of European art collected by the industrialist Henry Clay Frick – and includes works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Turner.
The homemade hot dogs at Criff Dogs, back in the East Village, have a loyal fan base; the hole in the wall is also the unassuming access point of Please Don’t Tell, a tiny, low-ceilinged speakeasy. Dial an old Bakelite telephone and the door will open. If there’s space (it’s best to book), you’ll be let in. Order the Benton’s Old Fashioned: made with bacon-infused bourbon, syrup, bitters and an orange twist, the bar’s legendary signature drink is smoky, sweet ecstasy.
GETTING AROUND You need never be bemused by New York’s subway system again: the Citymapper app (iOS and Android) niftily calculates the best routes to take between two destinations (for a variety of different transport modes) and how long it will take.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY A surprising number of bars and restaurants don’t take cards, so make sure you have enough cash.
GETTING INSIDE Most galleries and museums charge for admission. However, some have time slots when entry is free. Visit the relevant institution’s website to check.