In June, I presented my mom and aunt with a “comprehensive” list of personal recommendations for sipping and eating your way around Burlington, VT. It took me two minutes to write (no Google searching necessary) and I did it on an index card.
That right there pretty much sums up my expertise on living in cities. I knew Burlington pretty well by the end of my summer 2016 living there, and to date, it was the largest city I had ever spent any considerable amount of time (just larger than Bad Homburg, Germany where I lived for half of 2012, if you count the immediate surrounding towns).
I am approaching seven full weeks in New York, not a far cry from the ten weeks I spent in Burlington, but the depth to my local knowledge is not only shallow, it is practically non-existent. So with that disclaimer out of the way, I present my NYC Recommendations.
(Disclaimer number two: I am drawn towards efficiency, value, the outdoors, and good coffee. My recommendations may or may not reflect those tendencies. I have also been living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so I would be the last person to ask about trendy locations in Brooklyn, for example, or anything along those lines.)
Brunch is outrageously popular in New York, but with a busy schedule and a tendency to spend my weekends outdoors, I have yet to partake in the brunch scene. A good bakery is more up my alley if I want something special for my morning. Orwasher’s is traditional, and they do it right. Hearty breads including a quinoa spelt bread that I love, great bagels, and donuts that they fill for you by hand with any sweet concoction imaginable.
Fast-casual dining is definitely a movement right now, and right up my alley is Dig Inn. They feature a simple but flexible build-your-own bowl menu with a variety of grains, veggies, protein, and fun add-ons to choose from. Any combination is good in my book because they keep it healthy and fresh. Locations throughout the city make it a great stop for any occasion.
For a trendy downtown restaurant on the Upper East Side, Quality Eats is hard to beat. Maddie, her parents, and I went there for her birthday dinner, and I was impressed by their creative, carnivore-focused menu and outstanding atmosphere.
No NYC dining list would be complete without dessert, and no dessert is better than Levain’s. They serve up the best cookies in the world. That is a fact, not an opinion. Tucked in a tiny basement off a side-street on the Upper West Side, Levain’s always brings a crowd. Try one of each, but if you have to pick, I recommend the double chocolate and the walnut chocolate chip.
I am not exactly “branching” out with this recommendation, but having tried Birch at multiple locations, I do not see any reason to look past what is one of the ubiquitous establishments in New York’s third-wave coffee scene. The woodworking craftsmanship on display, earthy vibes, and coffee any way you like it make it a standout. They really seem to care about the product from start to finish, and that is why it is a go to for me when I want to treat myself to a really good coffee.
Irving Farm was the first coffee shop I discovered when I started visiting New York to spend time with Maddie’s family, way before I knew I would be working here. Now, I have the option of walking past it every day on my way to work, and it is always tempting to stop. The coffee is great, and I have always enjoyed passing their roastery on Route 22 in Millerton, NY when driving between Pawling and Williamstown. But even cooler is the fact that they have huge spaces, perfect to sit and read or work on a laptop. They also have a hub in Grand Central if you are just passing through.
LIC Beer Project
A hidden gem that will probably explode in popularity in the beer world within the next couple years, the brewery produces fantastic hoppy libations and features some of the coolest can art I have ever seen. They have the industrial charm going on, and they are a quick trip across the east river from Midtown if you want to drink from the source or attend a weekend can release.
Five Boroughs Brewing
I have yet to try any of the Five Boroughs offerings, but a Dudley guy named Kevin O’Donnell is one of the co-founders of the recently-opened brewery in Brooklyn. It is a hike to get down to the tap room from the Upper East Side, so I am keeping my eyes out for drafts and cans in Manhattan.
Central Park’s Great Hill
In the northwest corner of the park, a bit removed from the crowds that flock to the Bridal Path and Reservoir Track, the Great Hill is my favorite place to run. The steep elevation, views of the city, wooded dirt trails, and a serene grassy oval atop the hill where I tend to see dogs chasing after tennis balls make the skyscrapers and crowded blocks seem a little further away. It is ideal for sunrises, too.
Randal’s Island is off the beaten track for most New Yorkers, but from my apartment, the pedestrian bridge on 103rd Street that crosses the East River is easy to access. The island is packed with playing fields and views of the Manhattan skyline, and running there is a breath of fresh air from the crowds that flock to Central Park.
Long Island City
I have barely explore Long Island City, but something about it feels right. It is not stuffy or pretentious like parts of Manhattan, and I appreciate how truly outstanding establishments like the LIC Beer Project can reside right next to warehouses that service broken-down food trucks. I look forward to going back, if only to try as many possible items on the John Brown Smokehouse’s menu as possible, because all of it is barbecue done right.
The High Line and Chelsea Market
For many people, walking the High Line and going to Chelsea Market are chart toppers when it comes to a New York bucket list of fun things to do. And though I am trying not to act too touristy, now that I have lived here for a number of weeks, I still find these activities to be fun and exciting. It is a bit like walking down Church Street in Burlington – I have done it a hundred times, but it never really gets old. Plus, these activities are in fact active, and shopping in Chelsea is a good way to find unique, quality items and foods.