We just came back from a week in New York City. We had a fabulous time, and I wanted to share some hotel, dining, shopping and activity tips with you.
First and foremost, you are going to New York City, do not eat at, or stay in any chains. You can take a Marriot Vacation in any strip mall in America. Embrace the city, and stay in a boutique hotel, and eat like a local.
We stayed at the Roger Smith. This is my second visit, and I’ve been delighted both times. The rates are reasonable, and they’re on twitter at @rshotel. They have good rates posted online, but I found that if you call and say that you’d like the twitter discount, another 10% will fall off your bill.
My family needs space, and the Roger Smith was good for this. We like to have a one bedroom suite, and we like the living room to be over sized. Our room was large enough that when a queen sofa bed was pulled out, and a twin rollaway bed was present, there was still room to walk around, sit in one of the four club chairs, or at the tiny dining room table. There is also a kitchenette. Essentially a closet with a refrigerator, sink and microwave (sorry New York, I like my kitchens bigger), this is as much as you’ll get out of any hotel in the city, and it’s all you need. When we showed up a blizzard was on it’s way, so I grabbed a few bags of milk, juice, fruit, and cereal. With a week of eating in restaurants there were plenty of leftovers to fill the mini fridge.
Oh also, free wifi and free movie rentals. One of the reasons I returned to the Roger Smith is that you don’t feel taken advantage of once you’re there. The price is the price is the price is the price. This is good, and I wish it was the norm.
Lily’s is the hotel restaurant. They make a spectacular breakfast, and the bar snacks are good too, but beware that they close at 10. Sharp. If you want late night snacks you’ll be on your own, it’s a good thing we had the mini fridge.
The Food (in order of consumption)
If you’re staying at the Roger Smith the first thing you’ll want to do is head to the Morton Williams Supermarket down on 2nd Avenue, between 48th and 49th streets. You can get your organic milk, organic produce, cheese, crackers, yogurt, whatever you need to stock the mini fridge is there waiting for you. I was there every two days to replenish, I have a son that eats his weight in fruit and veggies every day.
Lily’s: The breakfasts are quite good and reasonably priced. I loved that they served perfectly poached eggs. The bar food is good too, the cheese plate is generous and attractive. 501 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017-2008 (212) 838-0844
Ess-a Bagel: These are bagels as bagels were meant to be. No more hockey pucks from the freezer section. Something special is in the New York water, because the line is long, and the spreads are fattening, but I dutifully waited in line each morning for bagels. If you ask for a bagel with butter or with cream cheese you have to specify that you’d like it toasted, otherwise they just slice the fucker in half and give it to you. Not good. Also, if you want bagels by the dozen you can skip the lines and head to the back of the store. You don’t want bagels by the dozen, because you don’t have a toaster. Plus, you don’t want day old bagels. Wait in the line, trust me. 831 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10022, Phone: 212-980-1010
PJ Clark’s: If you wonder where Don Draper took his three martini lunches, I’m thinking PJ Clark’s is the place. We had an okay lunch here, the food is very hearty, very oily (I sent my salad back as it was swimming in oil), but the ambiance is really what you’re looking for. Wood paneled walls and a homey bar draw you in on a cold day. The kids had burgers, they were good, but we’re spoiled with the Laurel Tavern (best burgers in Los Angeles), so pleasing us it a tough job. After sending my salad back, I got a cup of clam chowder, it was pretty good. 915 3rd Ave, New York, NY, 10022
Chin Chin: This is an upscale Chinese restaurant with impeccible service. I didn’t love the dumplings (very doughy), but my husband did. The Szechuan Chicken was the best I’ve ever had in my life, the ginger lobster was light and flavorful all at once. Do yourself a favor and have dinner there. The portions are huge. Two appetizers, and two main dishes fed four of us, plus we had left overs. It is not related to Chin Chin in Los Angeles, not even close.216 East 49th Street, New York, NY 10017, (212) 888-4555
Pasta Lover’s Cafe: I don’t even know how we got here, but it was good. Alexander and I were in the mood for mussels in white wine sauce, and they didn’t have it on the menu, but they made it for us anyhow. The clams casino were small but, according to Mr. G, delicious.142 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020, (212) 819-1155
Katz’ Delicatessen: I love the pastrami sandwiches. I’ve coming to Katz’ since I was in diapers. I was shocked to find out that some people don’t love it. There’s a wait, and a hustle to get to the counter, but don’t worry, because what appears to be chaos is actually quite organized. We played a little game called Spot the Goyim. When you go to Katz’ and see someone sipping Pepsi and eating french fries, congratulations you’ve found a goy.205 E Houston St, New York, 10002, (212) 254-2246
Peter Luger Steak House: If you plan your entire trip around a visit to Peter Luger’s you won’t be disappointed. It’s the best steak I’ve ever had in my entire life, bar none. It’s a cash only place, and it fills up a month to six weeks in advance. We ended up with a reservation for a 2.45 “lunch” on a Wednesday afternoon and the place was packed. We ordered steak for three (the kids eat more than I do these days and there were four of us), as well as a side of tomatoes, and of hash browns. As I recall the tab was about $250, and I swear to all that is holy, I’d give up every lunch out to be able to afford Peter Luger’s more often. Do Not Miss This. 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (718) 387-7400
Wild Ginger: This is a local New York chain. I had the Thai Coconut Curry with tofu. It was good, but I was a little disappointed that the tofu was fried, and nothing is “spicy”. Jane had the grilled Sesame Salmon, it was delicious. 48 Great Neck Road, Great Neck, NY 11021-3305, (516) 487-8288
The Cafe At the Bergdorf’s Men’s Store: On the top floor of the Bergdorf’s Men’s store there’s a cafe. Lunch is standard fare, but done very nicely. The hamburgers are juicy, the chicken salad has just the right amount of curry, and the corn chowder is a sweet pick me up on a cold day. What’s most extraordinary is the view. Watching the chic shoppers is certainly fun, but the cafe looks out onto the Plaza Hotel right across the street and an iconic entrance to Central Park. I cannot recommend this enough for lunch. Oh, skip the hot cocoa for the kids, it’s powdered and served lumpy. It wasn’t a particularly expensive lunch. Yay! 754 5th Avenue, New York (212) 753-7300
Glass House Tavern: This the the perfect pre-theater dinner. The food is light and fresh. The cavatelli pasta was divine, as were the Mussels. The wait staff was friendly and attentive, and one of the first questions they asked was, “Are you seeing a show tonight? At what time?” They’re clearly in the business of fresh and fast food. Pricey, but absolutely worth every penny. 252 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036, (212) 730-4800