You’ll see old timey shops with egg creams and penny candies, and the shops people stop in without a second thought, guarded by quirky bodega cats. The guy behind the counter will put two sugars into your coffee if you don’t tell him not to, which will make you feel just like you’re back in Vietnam.
For some, New York is a love letter, and these are the people waiting to receive it.
The Japanese Tourist
He’s the guy with the camera.
He will go to Times Square (Broadway to Seventh Ave, 42nd St to 47th St, Midtown). The Japanese tourist goes here because this is where the bus has let him off for two hours, but the only reason for you to go here is to watch a sports game on one of the massive big screens or to see what the street performer Naked Cowboy is up to.
If King Kong did it, so will he. Although it’s not exactly ‘in the know’, the view from the 102-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building (350 Fifth Ave, Midtown) is the best in the city, now that the view isn’t being obstructed by a gigantic ape. Savvier tourists skip the lines and the US$25 admission and head to the Williamsburg waterfront at East River State Park (90 Kent Ave, Brooklyn), where they can watch the Empire State’s themed LED tower lights click off at midnight.
He will take 30 pictures of the Cube of Destiny. The Astor Place Cube (aka Alamo, 57 Astor Place, East Village) sits right off St. Mark’s Place — the legendary birthplace of punk music — and has evolved its own strange legend: whoever spins the cube one full rotation will someday live in New York. Our man spins it twice for good measure.
He’s not shopping in New York’s largest toy store for his kid. FAO Schwarz (767 Fifth Ave, Midtown) isn’t just ‘the original home of Santa Claus’ and the place where Keith Richards scored syringes from hospital play kits, it’s also the home of a Barbie foosball table priced at US$25,000. Be warned.
She’s somewhere between Sex in the City’s Samantha and Wall Street’s one percenters, but she’s not as tough as she looks. Although she says she’s from New York, she was actually raised in New Jersey and used to hang out in the Lower East Side on weekends. However, now she OWNS IT.
She comes into Brooklyn for one reason only — to eat the best steak in New York. Befitting her no-nonsense personality, she sits at the bar with the other button-downs, who eat at Peter Luger Steak House (178 Broadway, Brooklyn) too often to care about reservations.
Her casual meeting spot is the cigar room at Nat Sherman’s (12 E 42nd St, Midtown). The members-only smokers’ lounge is kept at a crisp 17 degrees Celsius, and has newspapers-on-a-stick. It’s also right off of Bryant Park, where she indulges in her secret addiction — challenging the park pros to a game of chess.
To clear her head, she takes a walk on the High Line (Tenth Ave, Gansevoort St, Meatpacking District to 30th St, Midtown). The repurposed 1.6km linear park is the newest addition to the city’s green space scene, built on the raised track of a defunct freight railway line.
Sundays, she lets her hair down. And the Hotel Gansevoort (18 Ninth Avenue, Meatpacking District) is the place to do it. The hot little rooftop scene gets a bit crowded on party nights, but the only claustrophobia she feels on her Sunday stints is from the closeness of Lower Manhattan.
The Culture Vulture
They have a lot to learn. Luckily, New York has a lot to teach.
They get their exercise prowling 18 miles of books. The Strand (828 Broadway, East Village) is where New Yorkers go to spend a quiet moment, discover a new favourite among the 2.5 million books stocked or take part in a boozy book swap with other nerdy but still good-looking types. For the less highbrow, Robert Pattinson played one of those types in the 2010 film Remember Me.
They ride fixies down Museum Mile. The Upper East Side stretch of Fifth Avenue running from 82nd Street (Metropolitan Museum of Art) to 110th Street (Museum for African Art) is home to 10 museums, one of the densest concentrations of culture in the world. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (88th St) is here, as are a number of more niche offerings. But the truly adventurous head to MoMA (11 W 53rd St, Midtown), often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world, or to the edgier MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Queens), which focuses solely on contemporary art.
They are well-rounded. The cooler cultural conquistadors prefer Eleanor Friedberger to Ellen Kent, but they'll go to the Metropolitan Opera (10 Lincoln Center Plaza, Upper West Side) with mom once in a while.
Mondays are fun days. Some of these younger connoisseurs are trust-fund kids, living their passions without the worry of work the next day. Catch them nodding to indie rock at Cake Shop (152 Ludlow St, Lower East Side), swimming up to the bar at Room Mate Grace hotel (125 W 45th St, Midtown), sipping microbrews at Barcade (388 Union Ave, Brooklyn) in between 1980s-era arcade games or making like Don Draper and drinking a daytime Old Fashioned at Raines Law Room (48 W 17th St, Flatiron). Wednesdays are also cool at Home Sweet Home (131 Chrystie St, LES) — taxidermy fills the walls as the freshest synth-pop bands hit the tiny little stage.
The Girl Who Was a Princess in Her Home Country
Somewhere near 800 languages are spoken in New York — making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world, where 37 percent of its 8 million inhabitants were born overseas — and this lady speaks one or more. She might be a fairly assimilated Jew, Latina, Italian or Pole, or she might live in Brooklyn’s Chinatown — Little Fuzhou — fast becoming one of the largest enclaves of ethnic Chinese outside of Asia. Either way, she knows some good restaurants to check out.
She likes company. And she finds it among the 500 people that crowd the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden (29-19 24th Ave, Astoria, Queens) nightly. No Johnny-come-lately to the beer garden scene, this oasis of Central Europeanness has been around since 1910 and supports Czech and Slovak language schools, as well as some of the finest pork schnitzel and Pilsner you’ll find.
Since 1970, she can go to McSorley’s (15 E 7th St, East Village). Prior to 1970, New York’s oldest Irish tavern had as its motto “Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies”. For lovers of historic authenticity, the good ale and raw onions are still around, as well as Houdini’s handcuffs, which hang from the bar.
Sometimes she needs to let loose in weird, pseudo-Bar Mitzvah fashion. Those rhinestone-studded hemlines aren’t just for an inappropriately dressed lunch at the Russian Tea Room (150 W 57th St, Midtown), the 86-year-old high society nexus. The rhinestones are for her next stop, Tatiana (3152 Brighton 6th St), a circus-like vodka-and-supper club in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. As one Yelp reviewer puts it, “Just a typical, totally-not-weird, laser-infused Saturday night.”
The Crotchety Old Man
This guy has been around since before you were born, and he thinks that things were better then.
He has opinions — like his highly controversial, extremely partisan pick for best pizza. Looking like a location double for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Tony’s Pizza (336 Knickerbocker Ave, Brooklyn) in the not-yet-gentrified reaches of Bushwick satisfies his need for a cheap Sicilian slice and authenticity. This five-star Yelp reviewer feels much like our old man: “If you’re looking for Roberta’s [261 Moore St; another fine, yet diametrically opposed, candidate for best slice in Brooklyn], GTFO.”
Although he eats most of his sandwiches from a paper bag, he secretly has money. He doesn’t mind spending US$20 on his single-barrel Manhattan, as long as the man stirring it is wearing a tie. And he doesn’t go in for any of these new-fangled cocktail bars, he keeps the cufflinks on when sitting down at the polished mahogany bar of Peacock Alley (301 Park Ave, Midtown), just off of the grand Art Deco lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, one of the enduring reminders of the great gothic city he used to know.
He’s an old man, okay? A lot of his time is spent eating. Although he probably shouldn’t be indulging so much, every time he thinks of the pastrami sandwich at Mill Basin Kosher Deli (5823 Ave T, Brooklyn) his blood boils. Throw in a half-sour pickle and you’ve made his day.
But he knows things, like where the true Mecca of NYC basketball can be found. And he was there, too, 120 blocks uptown from Madison Square Garden, at a little playground in Harlem called Rucker Park (155th St and Frederick Douglass Blvd), when some of the greatest to ever play the game did it with little fanfare. These days, it’s still a big thing when Kevin Durant comes to town or Jay-Z coaches, but back when Earl the Goat, Wilt the Stilt, Dr. J and Kareem were hooping, the game was changing in front of his eyes.
He can still get freaky. Every New Year’s Day he heads down to the beach at Coney Island (near the Stillwell Ave boardwalk) with the Polar Bear Club and runs into the ice bath that is the Atlantic Ocean at that time of year. To dry off, he takes a spin on the 1927 wooden coaster Cyclone that still stands on the corner of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street.