New York has recently become my unofficial home base, and after spending six months here before taking off to Colombia, I’m in town for a quick five-day layover to see friends and family before my trip to Israel. With only 120 hours in the city, I’ve got a lot of people to see and a lot of places to go.
These are my favorite places to eat, drink, and have a laugh in New York City. You might find me at any one of them.
Where You’ll Find Me Eating
1. Slices at Bleecker Street Pizza, West Village
When I first stumbled upon this place, I was walking around the West Village looking for a cheap and easy bite. I had no idea that I was actually walking into a beloved New York City gem—the pizza here is so good that, instead of eating just the one I ordered, I went back twice more in the same sitting! After spending six months in NYC, Bleecker Street has the best pizza I’ve found.
2. Pho at Saigon Shack, Greenwich Village
It’s hard to find the real deal pho (it’s pronounced “fuh”) anywhere except Vietnam, but Saigon Shack does a fine job, indeed. Their spring rolls tasted just like I remember them, and the noodles, surprisingly, came pretty close as well. Get here early, as there’s bound to be a line.
3. Xiao Long Bao at Nice Green Bo, Chinatown
One word: soup dumplings. Nice Green Bo replicates the Chinese dining experience seamlessly, and their “xiao long bao” might be some of the best in this part of the city. They’re no Din Tai Fung, but they do well.
4. Red Velvet Cannoli at La Bella Ferrara, Little Italy
Tip: Cannoli is actually plural for the singular “cannolo.” La Bella Ferrara is a pastry beacon in Little Italy, and the consumption of one made-from-scratch red velvet cannoli should be a requirement for every border crossing onto the island of Manhattan.
5. Slovakian Food at Milan’s Restaurant, South Slope, Brooklyn
The food is not the only highlight at Milan’s, but it’s Milan himself. This Slovakian transplant, who’s been running the aptly named restaurant for something like 20 years, is a legend among legends. Serving traditional Slovak and Czech cuisine for his whole life, Milan’s eccentric hospitality fosters the type of dining experience you never forget.
6. Dongbei Chinese Food at Fu Run Restaurant, Flushing, Queens
If you’re looking for authentic Chinese food…don’t bother going to Chinatown. I’m not Chinese, but after living there for ten months, I may as well be. Fu Run serves Chinese food from the Dongbei region, where a growing population of Flushing’s Chinese demographic hails from. Try their tender lamb ribs smeared in cumin, sesame seeds, and ground chili.
7. Roasted Chicken and Mofongos at El Malecon, Washington Heights
For a true taste of the Dominican Republic, El Malecon is the only place to be. Serving traditional mofongos, and most notably known for their roasted chicken, El Malecon is a Washington Heights landmark.
8. Brunch at Epstein’s Bar, Lower East Side
A boozy brunch with a group of travel bloggers brought me to Epstein’s Bar, a Lower East Side watering hole with a very unfortunate name. Bottomless brunch is a steal at only $17, which includes a full-sized dish from their limited brunch menu, and all the Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s you can drink. Get amongst it!
9. Bagels at Murray’s, Chelsea
Something of an institution, bagels are a New York delicacy. Murray’s Bagels is so confident in their bagels that they actually refuse to toast them–they don’t need a crispy golden brown to be delicious!
10. Egg Rolls at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Chinatown
One of the more famously known establishments on this list, Nom Wah is an age-old dim sum restaurant located in the heart of Chinatown. Their pork buns are spectacular and the steamed shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings are insanely good, but their house egg rolls are the real standout here—they’re delicious, untraditional, and they will be the first egg roll you’ve ever had that actually has egg!
Where You’ll Find Me Drinking
I’m not a nightclub kind of guy. Put me in a cocktail bar or a dive bar and I’m the happiest boy on the planet. These are my favorite and most unique places to drink in New York.
11. $2 Budweiser at Jimmy’s Corner, Times Square
Times Square is one of the most expensive places in New York and finding a good place to grab a couple of cheap beers is almost impossible. Plastered wall-to-wall with posters of boxing champs, this NYC secret has been voted one of the NYC’s best dive bars. Jimmy’s Corner is exactly the no-frills type of establishment you’d expect to find a $2 bottle of Budweiser.
12. Boilermakers at Boilermaker, East Village
One of New York City’s newest bars, Boilermaker is already making big headlines. This no-pretension cocktail bar has brought back the shot-and-a-beer pairing and has an exhaustive menu of matching spirits and cervezas. Plus their bartenders are some of the best in the city.
13. $4 Bloody Mary’s and Free Bagels at Matt Torrey’s, East Williamsburg
I stumbled upon this beauty after an underwhelming brunch service at one of their sister bars. Before partaking in the New York City No Pants Subway Ride, I stopped into Matt Torrey’s for a mid-day beer, but ended up with a $4 Bloody Mary and a free selection of bagels and toppings for a more casual (and cheaper) version of Sunday brunch.
14. Video Games at Barcade, Chelsea
Beer and video games! What more does a man need? With classic arcade machines from the 80’s and 90’s, Barcade does have a tendency to draw a certain demographic. For a unique night out full of craft beer and Time Crisis (or Frogger, depending on your generation), this place hits the spot.
15. Craft Cocktails at Attaboy, Chinatown
Being a cocktail bartender myself, I have a certain affinity for this place. I was trained by certain bar legends from within this family of bars, and no matter how many other bars I visit, Attaboy is the one I always return to. The atmosphere, the service, the attention to detail, and the incredible drinks are almost what I would call perfect.
16. Craft Beer at Cooper’s Craft and Kitchen, East Village
There ones thing I always come back to Cooper’s for—the bartenders. They are consistently the warmest, friendliest, most attentive bartenders I come across, and they have a killer rotating beer list, to boot. That being said, don’t skip their bar food, because you’d be missing out.
17. Rooftop Garden Bar at Gallow Green, Chelsea
New York City is the land of rooftops, and the McKittrick Hotel has one of the best. Gallow Green, the hotel’s rooftop garden bar, is a beautiful garden bar serving beer and cocktails with a well-lit view of that famous New York skyline.
18. Hookahs and Dancing at Mehanata Bulgarian Bar, East Village
It’s part nightclub, part dive bar, part hookah bar, part ice bar, and part Bulgarian bar. The music can only be described as a strange mix of Eastern European music and house, and, well, you’ll just have to experience Mehanata for yourself.
19. Beer Cheese, Bourbon and Bocce at Floyd NY, Brooklyn Heights
Don’t expect much from Floyd NY, except Kentucky beer cheese, bourbon, and bocce. Yes, they have a bocce court inside the bar. And they serve beer cheese. And bourbon. Plenty of bourbon.
20. Bad Atmosphere and Terrible Service at KGB Bar, East Village
KGB Bar could very well be the worst bar I’ve ever been to, and that’s exactly why I like it. It’s dark and damp, serves cheap beer, and has Russian propaganda smeared across the walls. In a world where every bar feels exactly the same, KGB definitely stands out.
Where You’ll Find Me Caffeinating
The first thing I do when I get to a new city is scope out the coffee scene. Not only do I love good coffee (I’m a one-or-two-cups-a-day kind of guy), but coffee shops are the best place to meet a friend or spend an entire day blogging. I always rotate the location of my office, and I can often be found at one of these cafes.
21. Little Skips, Bushwick
Perhaps one of the most hipster coffee shops in all of New York, Little Skips was my home base for more than a month, and I always return. Serving Counter Culture coffee from Asheville, North Carolina, the baristas here might be some of the best in the city. I’m always guaranteed a killer cup of coffee, and it’s a laid back type of place to get some work done.
22. Two Hands, Chinatown
Transport yourself to Melbourne, Australia, the city most renowned for having the best coffee in the world. Yes, they’re coffee snobs, and they know it. Not enough foam in your latte? Send it back. Would you prefer a cortado? They know what that is. With perhaps the greatest throwback to my barista days in Melbourne, Two Hands is an Australian-run coffee shop, and they know the deal.
23. The Chipped Cup, Hamilton Heights
The Chipped Cup is another haven for a relaxed cup of coffee. Nestle into the comfy couches, hang out in the courtyard or squeeze yourself in at one of the tables. Wifi is good for two hours (blasphemous), but you can go back and grab another code.
24. Lenox Coffee, West Harlem
Options are limited when it comes to good coffee shops this far north in Manhattan. I was lucky enough to stumble into Lenox Coffee one winter day, where the temperature is warm and the service is even warmer. Not only are they one of the only options in the area, but they genuinely make a great cup of coffee. There are plenty of tables and barstools for a catch-up with an old friend or a solid day of work.
25. Little Collins, Midtown
Like Two Hands, Little Collins is another one of New York City’s Melbourne coffee shops. Though it doesn’t quite feel like Australia, they still serve that same great Melbourne coffee, and their avocado on toast is like nothing you’ve ever had before.
26. Bluebird Coffee Shop, East Village
A quaint little coffee shop on the Lower East Side, Bluebird is the ideal place to post up on warm summer day. With huge open windows and an open-air design, drinking a coffee at Bluebird is a quintessential NYC experience.
27. Grounded, West Village
This West Village favorite is tucked away in small alleyway on Jane Street. One of the most comfortable coffee shops in New York, there is always something tasty on order at Grounded, whether it’s a cup of drip coffee, a perfectly crafted latte, or a pastry or doughnut. It gets really busy, though, so you might have to fight for a chair.
My Favorite Things to Do in New York City
28. Sofar Sounds
Short for “Sounds from a Room,” Sofar Sounds is an international music collective in which an assemblage of musical talent comes together to perform to an intently listening audience. Everybody sits on the floor (usually), and during the show, nobody is allowed to speak or use their cell phones. It’s a provocative and engaging musical experience for artists and musical lovers alike. I’ve seen everything from folk to hip-hop, and, as an added bonus: it’s BYOB!
29. Movie Night in Bryant Park, Midtown
One of New York’s most iconic summer activities, there is an open air theater playing outdoor movies every Monday night from 5-11pm in Bryant Park. Make sure you arrive early to claim your spot on the grass, and bring pillows, blankets, snacks, and wine.
30. Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, Chelsea
This NYC landmark has been featured on Comedy Central and is famous for their vast lineup of comedy, every night of the week. If you’re looking for classic New York comedy, the Upright Citizen’s Brigade has it.
31. Batsu! at JeBon Sushi, East Village
Batsu! (Japanese for “punishment”) is an interactive Japanese-style game show which thrives on improvisation, audience participation, and humiliation (with a touch of masochism). This was one of the wackiest nights I’ve ever had, drinking sake and beer towers, eating sushi, and watching improv actors playing hilarious elimination games. Their punishment for losing? Belittlement.
32. Eastville Comedy Club, East Village
New York is famous for their stand-up comedy, and the Eastville Comedy Club is one of the best venues in the city. It’s an intimate and run-down venue and they always have famous acts coming through, like Judah Friedlander, Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry, and more.
33. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is the signature performance of the Neo-Futurists. It’s an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. One of the most unique shows I’ve ever seen, each short performance is acted out from a perspective of complete and brutal honesty, ranging from comedic acts to terrifyingly gruesome and disturbed ones.
Have you been to New York City? What’s your favorite place to eat or drink in the city? Let us know in the comments below.
Some of these pictures aren’t mine! A big thank you to Anna from The Legendary Adventures of Anna for the use of her photos.